Seven top physician job interview mistakes

All of us have or will encounter a job interview during our careers, either as the applicant or the employer.  How we fare in these stressful situations often correlates with the number of prior interviews we’ve participated in, but some of us seem to make the same mistakes no matter how many situations we’ve encountered.  We’re all capable of learning from experience, but unless you’re a professional job seeker (or interviewer) you don’t have that many opportunities to improve your interview game.

Sometimes you can be in over your head without knowing it!

Ironically the name of the game is to avoid having to go through so many interviews in our careers.  You want to find a job and hold onto it until you retire.  After all, with every new start comes additional stress, disruption of a routine, and financial strain.  Clinical medicine is different from the business administration realm where everyone is expected to move on after a few years.  
With the job hunt in mind, the following are some of the more common mistakes that we see with applicants:

Asking about income on the first interview — Even though income is the most obvious criterion for most people, discussing this appears to violate societal norms.  This formality applies to all other industries as well.  You don’t discuss salary until you get an offer.  Some recruitment personnel also seem to break with convention by asking applicants how much they are willing to accept—that’s also against convention.  Do not give a recruiter your income expectation if asked. Remember, any job is about the fit.  It is your job to assess all of the non-income aspects of the job during your interview.  There is a different and more appropriate time to discuss financials.  It is also a moot point to inquire about salary as it conveys to the employer that they would offer you the job even though they haven’t.

Asking questions to the wrong people — I often see applicants ask physicians details about the benefits or other questions more pertinent for human resources.  There is nothing wrong with doing so, but realize that the physician may not necessarily be attuned to all of the details.  Likewise, if you are interviewing with the CEO of a practice it’s important to realize what is a useful and appropriate question to ask.  

Not identifying what they can bring to the table — The interview provides an opportunity for the applicant to display her strengths that aren’t perceived on paper.  There is obviously a delicate balance so that you don’t appear to be a braggart.  How you can highlight your strengths is an art form, but this is an important aspect about the interview process especially if the position you are seeking is in a competitive market.

Accepting a contract as a final offer — Most physicians are going to have a contract reviewer or lawyer review the contract.  Many large institutions and hospitals, however, have boilerplate contracts that they would rather not pay their legal team to revise.  The take-home for the applicant is that everything is negotiable, but it has to be within reason.  You can’t just ask for minutiae changes just because you’d don’t like the wording.  If your employer really thinks that you’re a good fit, they will likely try to work with you.

Not willing to compromise — Just as how you shouldn’t settle on things that are dealbreakers, one of the most annoying things is to act like you’re doing a favor to a potential employer by letting them hire you.  It is important to know your value, but also realize that there are financial and logistical constraints to a new hire, no matter how valuable that person may be to the organization.  

Appearing to lack interest — We have all gone through interviews and know that being interested in the job goes a long way.  These interview days are often long, tiring, and repetitive.  Sometimes there’s simply nothing exciting about a potential job.  Even though you might not be interested, you should still pay attention out of courtesy.  All of the parties involved in your interview have volunteered their time.  An uninterested applicant simply conveys a lack of respect to others. Don’t make that mistake. 

Asking for feedback — We are all going to apply for jobs where we don’t receive offers for.  Rejection is never fun, and we want to improve so that we don’t make the same mistakes in the future.  I’ve seen advisors recommend applicants ask the employer for interview feedback. Don’t do this.  Only your closest friends are willing to tell you the truth.  A potential employer is not going to be able to tell you exactly why they decided not to make you an offer.  Don’t try to put them in an awkward situation.  This is why corporate folks simply say that an applicant “wasn’t a good fit”.  

Interviewees, please take notes of these scenarios and think about the last times you’ve gone in for a job and what instances could have been changed to improve the outcome for both parties.

What other interview mistakes have you seen?

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