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The medical market is rapidly evolving and a wide variety of practice settings are available to physicians today. Now more than ever, physicians need to develop sound interviewing skills to secure the practice that is right for them.

If you are seeking a position, consider these interviewing tips:

  Distinguish wants from needs.   

Most physicians or their spouse want to live in a resort setting close to an exciting city or a “destination” community. What you really may need, however, is a stable practice setting with a solid referral network and a physician-to-population ratio that will allow you to grow your practice without cutthroat competition. If you have a family, your needs also could include favorable real estate prices, low crime rates and good schools. Like most professionals, your quality of life needs probably include reasonable access to cultural venues and recreation. Before you interview, determine what you need to be successful and content, then proceed with the commitment to get 80% of what you need, rather than 100% of what you want.

  Insist on a proper interview "set-up."  

Most of your questions about the practice and the community should be addressed prior to an actual interview. You should spend your time on the phone asking questions of recruiters and obtaining information. Don't think of the interview as an exploratory trip. Do you really have the time to interview at a location twice if it does not meet your needs?  You should have enough information before you go on the interview that the interview itself is simply for personal confirmation of previously discussed details. In short, interviewing is a serious, intense process. Don't put yourself or others through it if you are not truly interested in the practice and location.

If you are working with a search firm, make sure that the search consultant you are working with has actually been to the opportunity and has profiled it personally. Avoid firms that do not have first hand knowledge of the practice and community, or which cannot answer detailed questions about the medical community, cultural and recreational amenities, educational and other matters relating to the community and practice.  Again, your time is valuable, do you want to spend it doing the preliminary investigation of an opportunity?

  Involve your spouse.   

Hospitals, medical groups and other recruiting parties normally insist that you bring your spouse on the interview.  While you will determine if the practice is acceptable, both you and your spouse will have to agree on the location.  Recruiters should speak with the spouse extensively before the interview to provide details important to her or him, because in many cases, it is the spouse's decision that may be the most difficult part about the relocation.  

In addition, it often is useful for the spouse to have his or her own itinerary during the interview, to visit schools, churches and places of possible employment. Remember, however, that it is you being interviewed. A spouse who becomes too involved, or who speaks for the physician too frequently, can be perceived as undermining an interview.

  Write it down.  

During the interview process, it is easy to forget the things you wished to say or the questions you wanted to ask. Write them down prior to your visit. 

Questions to ask include:

Why is there a need for another physician of my specialty in the community?

What sort of payor mix (Medicare, Medicaid, HMO, PPO, fee-for-service) can I expect based on other similar practices?

Who will my patients be? White collar? Blue collar? Where will they come from?

What is the expectation of the number of patients I will be able to see?

How much of my time will be spent at the office? The hospital? Satellite locations?

What do physicians like best about practicing in the community and this hospital?

What do they like least?

Does the practice and/or hospital have the equipment necessary for me to practice at my current skill level?

Is there adequate and acceptable office space for me to practice?

What is the practice and emergency room call schedule?

What are the current partnership qualifications?  When was the last partner added to the practice?  In the last ten years, how many physicians did not make partnership? 

Clarify income/contracts on the front-end. Properly arranged, the interview is not about money, it is about meeting people.

How is income structured? Salary? Income guarantee?

What is the income amount? How does that compare with income surveys for your specialty?

How is the production bonus determined? Can you provide a real-world example?

What is the income potential in two years? Five years? Are the partners/other physicians earning this amount of income?  Are they doing anything outside a normal practice that allows them to earn this income?

Is there a signing bonus?

Is there an educational loan forgiveness option?  Over what period of time?

What costs are paid for, what costs will I have to assume?

How are other physicians compensated in the group?

Review the employment contract before the interview whenever possible. This allows for a much more relaxed interview process, in which the interviewing physician is largely confirming details, not haggling over them. In fact, we suggest that 70% of the interview be social in nature, with the remaining 30% devoted to business. Because you prepared on the front-end, the interview is mostly about meeting people, exchanging philosophies, and determining your comfort level with the practice and the community.

  Dress appropriately.  

A surprising number of physicians appear at job interviews dressed inappropriately. Generally, they are dressed too casually, in jeans or other casual clothes, or their clothes simply do not make an appropriate impression. The rule of thumb is to dress conservatively in a suit or in slacks with a blazer and tie. Women should also dress conservatively in business attire with a minimum of makeup.  Your recruiter should be able to advise you about what the norm is for the community.  First impressions do create perceptions.

  Be prepared to make a timely decision.  

The physician search process includes a variety of people, including other physicians, hospital administrators, Board members, Medical Directors, all seriously seeking a qualified candidate. Many people are waiting for your decision, so be serious about the process and prepared to make a decision.  Most groups, individual physicians and hospitals expect a decision within 10 days, or will move on to other candidates.  If you are not prepared to make a decision, or take weeks or months to make one, you should ask yourself if you are indeed serious about seeking a new practice.  

Most physicians find that the one to two days they spend interviewing are intense, yet rewarding. It is enjoyable to be courted, but remember you also are also being evaluated. Employers will assume they are seeing you at your best, so be sure to put your best foot forward.

If, after a thorough review of the practice and the community, you feel favorably toward the opportunity, say so. Your comments will give everyone an indication of your interest, and lay the foundation to complete the recruiting process. 

We recommend that you carry a notebook with you, jotting down information you wish to remember and referring to questions you have developed prior to the interview.




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