In my practice, I find that a common source of professional discontent among physicians is a less-than-clear understanding or appreciation of the nature of the employment opportunity.
By asking the appropriate questions before accepting an offer of employment, you can better discern whether an opportunity will be a good fit and as a result save yourself a good deal of frustration.
This guide was created to assist you during the process and alert you to issues you should consider, inform you of the physician interview questions to ask, and questions you should be prepared to answer.
When you research a potential employer’s website before an interview, see if you can find the answers to the following:
1. What type of population or patient mix do they serve?
2. How many providers are in the practice or department?
3. Are any of the physicians within the practice or department particularly well-regarded?
4. How long have the physicians within the practice or department been in practice?
5. How long has the practice or department been in existence?
6. Have there been any recent practice acquisitions or mergers?
7. Are there any expansion efforts underway or planned?
8. How does the practice or department as a whole rank against similar organizations?
9. What is the practice’s mission and vision?
10. Is the practice in a highly competitive geographic area?
In addition to visiting the employer’s website, you should also search online to see if the organization has been in the news lately and for what reason. Write down interesting key facts that you might want to discuss during the interview.
Get in the interview mindset
Always keep in mind that you are not the only one being interviewed. All parties are both interviewer and interviewee. At the end of the day, what matters most is whether the opportunity comfortably reconciles with your values and preferred lifestyle.
Remember to offer positive feedback. It is best to assume that there are other candidates being interviewed for the position you are contemplating.
If two equally qualified candidates are being considered, an organization will virtually always make its offer to the one who shows the most interest in the position and who seems most likely to accept.
Make your positive feelings known, particularly those that speak to long-term prospects, and be specific with respect to what aspects of the practice you like.
Objective interview questions to ask
The structure of your interviews and, in turn, the opportunity to ask questions can vary considerably. Though there are dozens of physician interview questions to ask, you should have a list of your top 10 so that if you have a limited window, you will always remember to pose the most important questions.
Below are suggested questions, listed in order of importance:
1. What is the average payment type and ratio (Medicaid/Medicare versus private insurance plans)?
2. How does the practice assign patients?
3. How many hours per week will I be expected to spend seeing patients in the office and in the hospital?
4. How many patients will I be expected to see in the office per day? Per week?
5. What kind of physician would be a perfect fit?
6. Will I have to go to satellite locations? If yes, how often?
7. What is the anticipated call schedule?
8. What is the typical age, education and socio-economic level of the patients I will see?
9. What percentage of physicians hired in the past five years are still under your em0ploy? If less than 80 percent, why do you believe this is the case?
10. How long has the position been vacant, and to what do you attribute this period?
11. What support services are offered by the medical practice (assigned nurses, medical lab techs, secretary, transcriptionists)?
12. If recruited to fill a perceived need, what is the evidence that the area needs another doctor with my particular talents and skills?
13. What is the average number of new patients seen per year?
14. Are doctors here expected to dedicate personal time to practice development? If yes, how much?
15. What percentage of a physician’s time in this practice typically is spent on paperwork versus seeing patients?
16. What types of medical procedures are routinely performed?
17. What options exist, if any, for becoming a shareholder in the practice?
18. What are the conditions precedent to becoming a shareholder?
19. Historically, on average, how long does it take to become a shareholder? Who is the most junior shareholder?
20. What percentage of practice revenue is dedicated to overhead expenses?
21. What is the likelihood the practice will be acquired by a hospital in the foreseeable future?
22. Does the employment contract include a non-compete clause? If yes, what are its terms?
23. Are productivity incentives or bonuses included in the physician job contract? If yes, please describe.
24. What benefits are offered (health insurance, vision, dental insurance, license fees, professional dues)?
25. Does the employer pay for tail coverage?
26. How much dedicated continuing medical education (CME) time and expense reimbursement does the employer provide?
27. Exclusive of CME, how many weeks of paid vacation are offered annually?
28. Is relocation expense reimbursement offered?
Subjective interview questions to ask
1. What do you like best about working here?
2. What bothers you most about working here?
3. Are your aforementioned views shared by your colleagues? If yes, please elaborate.
4. If you were the sole decision maker in the practice, what would be different and why?
Your appearance matters
The physicians, and particularly the administrators interviewing you, will draw conclusions about your clinical competence and ability to fit into the organization based upon your appearance.
Men should wear dark gray or blue suits, or navy blazers and gray slacks. Shirts should be white, and ties should be silk and can be colorful with a conservative pattern. Socks should be dark and long enough to cover your calves when you cross your legs. Shoes should be black (and polished).
Women should wear conservative business attire, and makeup should be muted. If your jewelry is particularly impressive (such as a very large engagement ring), consider wearing only your band so as not to distract the interviewer (or worse, frustrate the ability to negotiate successfully for higher compensation based on a perception that you are well off).
Ask to bring your spouse
A major reason newly hired physicians ultimately leave is spousal dissatisfaction with the location of the practice. Bringing your spouse shows the prospective employer that you are thoughtfully considering the opportunity and are wise enough to know that more goes into the decision of where you will practice than your own comfort.
In fact, employers recognize that relocating to another part of the country is a family decision and may request that your spouse accompany you to dine with decision makers so everyone can collectively assess whether it would be a good fit.
Your spouse, however, should avoid taking charge of the interview or becoming an overly aggressive advocate.
Questions you should be prepared to answer
Before an interview, give thought to how you’ll answer some common interview questions:
1. Tell me about yourself.
2. Why did you choose to go into medicine?
3. What are you looking for in your next practice?
4. Why are you changing jobs?
5. Why did you choose our practice location?
6. What level of compensation do you require?
7. What are your long-term professional goals?
8. Why do you want to work with us?
9. What do you feel you can bring to the group?
10. Can you describe your approach to medicine and practice philosophy?
11. Ideally, how many patients would you see in the office daily?
12. On average, how long do you spend with each patient in the office?
13. What are your strongest clinical areas? Why are you of that opinion?
14. What do your patients like most about you?
15. What do your patients like least about you?
16. What do you feel are the most important contributions you have made to your former or current practice or hospital?
17. Have you ever come before any committee of a hospital or peer review group for review or had privileges revoked or suspended?
18. Have you ever had any disciplinary actions or problems of professional competence?
19. Are you aware of any past or present claims or investigations against you?
20. Have you had any malpractice suits?
Undoubtedly, your journey to this point in your career has not been short or easy, and you owe it to yourself to ensure that your next employment situation is one that suits you well, rewards your efforts, affords professional growth and development, and allows you to spend quality time with the people who mean the most to you.