You can treat looking for a job like a sport, so how will you play your physician job search to land your next role?
You can treat looking for a job like a sport, so how will you play your physician job search to land your next role?

Interview conversation starters


Table of Contents

These questions can help serve as interview conversation starters with your prospective employer

BEFORE YOU SIGN YOUR EMPLOYMENT AGREEMENT — whether it’s your first, tenth or somewhere in between—the job interview is an inevitable and critical part of the process.

With tongue firmly planted in cheek, I thought it would be helpful for different physician specialties to pose hypothetical questions to a prospective employer as part of the interview process. Of course, these questions are not employer or specialty specific. No matter which questions you use in your own interview, each one should be a starting point for more dialogue. Listen closely to the answers to help you determine which job is the best fit.

Family medicine: Can you tell me about the culture of the employer?

You are going to spend a lot of time with your professional family. It is critically important to understand how your colleagues treat and respect one another. You do not have to be best friends with everyone you work with, but you should trust and respect them.

Internal medicine: Please tell me about the potential advancement opportunities.

You are probably always considered one of the smartest people in the room. Your colleagues-to-be are likely equally smart and driven to succeed. Understanding the potential opportunities for

promotion and the metrics used to judge you is critical to understanding how and why you may succeed.

General surgeon: If there is one thing you would remove from the employment setting, what would it be?

An employer’s self-awareness about what could or should change is a helpful exercise that will likely improve the organization. Oftentimes, awareness is the first helpful step to realizing change should occur.

Bariatric surgeon: How good has the employer been about controlling expenses and cutting out excesses from the practice?

As important as it is to be an excellent clinician (and it is), it is just as important to be a good business person. Understanding the finances of the employer and the fiscal headwinds and revenue opportunities will help you become a more informed colleague and a valuable resource for your peers and bosses.

Dermatologist: What is going on beneath the surface

What kind of turnover has occurred? A job that seems perfect may have blemishes that can only be uncovered by doing your homework: asking questions and carefully listening to the answers.

Radiologist: What is happening behind the scenes that I can’t otherwise see?

A well-run employer often has administrative leadership that is extremely competent, professional and always looking to advance opportunities for employees. An employer that retains clinical staff for long periods of time can be a very stable place to work

Gastroenterologist: What does your gut tell you about the opportunity?

It is very important to trust your instincts. However, be mindful. A good first impression can turn sour as you gather important facts. Similarly, an ambivalent first impression can become genuine excitement as you learn more about the opportunity.

Orthopedic surgeon: What is broken about the employer?

Is the employer being hampered by inadequate third-party payer reimbursements? Is the practice’s relationship with the local hospital strained? Many potential issues you learn about can be fixed or repaired. Look elsewhere if you think they’re too deep.

Cardiologist: What is the heart of the organization’s mission?

Understanding the organization’s commitment to charity care is important. Understanding how patients may get assigned to you for care is relevant and may affect your compensation. Appreciating the reputation of your employer in the community may be important for your professional and personal self-esteem.

Nephrologist: Is there something inherently not working, making failure inevitable?

Health care is a business. To stay in business, the organization needs to have more annual revenue than annual expense. No one purposely elects to fail. But bad decisions and external pressures can make the likelihood of failure much more realistic.

Physiatrist: What kind of pain has the prospective employer endured?

How has it overcome those challenges? Understanding and appreciating the economic performance of your prospective employer through COVID, for example, is critical if you wish to be part of an organization that will survive and thrive for years to come.

Colorectal surgeon: What is the shi… err, worst part of the job?

And how does that affect your view of the best parts of the job? How often do difficult challenges rear their ugly heads, and how does the organization prevent reoccurrences?

Hospitalist: How are responsibilities shared?

No one physician can do everything. Understanding how well everyone works together is important.

Ophthalmologist: What do you see in the future for the employer

No one has a crystal ball. That’s why it’s crucial to ask questions, carefully listen to the answers and then ask the necessary and appropriate follow-up questions.

With apologies to the specialties not used for illustrative purposes for this article (and each of the puns fully intended), a physician from any specialty can use these questions with a prospective employer. 



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