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May 24, 2021

Meet, greet, repeat

 

Andrew Ordon, M.D.

"Interviews can help determine career success and happiness," says Andrew Ordon, M.D. "You want to show that you are prepared." - Photo by Jeff Ellingson Photography

It may seem like a bewildering whirlwind at first, but a site visit is one of the best ways to get clarity about a position. There’s no substitute for face-to-face meetings with potential coworkers and supervisors, tours of the facility or people-watching sessions in the cafeteria. Ideally, you’ll return home armed with enough information to decide if an opportunity gets the green light.

Here’s a spotlight on four of the key players you’ll meet - and how to make the most of each encounter.

Before you go

"Do your due diligence," advises Andrew Ordon, M.D., with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California and Ordon Chopra Plastic Surgery. "Interviews can help determine career success and happiness. You want to show that you are prepared."

Before your visit, read as much as you can about the hospital or practice group. Start with their website and marketing materials, then explore social media sites, job postings, periodicals and local newspapers.

You can also research people you’ll be meeting with. Your agenda should include their names. "Get information on the people you’ll meet, their background, where they went to med school and did training," suggests Ordon. "Make sure you know about any articles he or she has written." Remember to stick to professional information. Don’t mention any personal details you come across.

For more insights, try to find a contact with ties to the organization who can chat with you by phone or email. Tap into your professional and personal networks, and dig deep if you have to. Even if you don’t have a direct connection, you may know someone who knows someone.

Ordon says talking to people proved invaluable as he prepared to interview at UC Irvine early in his career. "I found out that a professor I’d be meeting with, in addition to the usual medical questions, might ask us to draw with a non-dominant hand and to carve an ear out of soap. If I hadn’t asked around, this might have sent me into a panic on interview day, but I had practiced. I felt prepared and probably seemed more confident," he recalls.

Finally, familiarize yourself with the area. Read up on the community, the crime rate, the cost of living, local resources and more. This is time well spent, as it will also help you determine if you’d be happy in this area.

A partner in the process: the in-house recruiter

You may already have met the in-house recruiter by phone or email. The site visit will allow you to sit down and talk in person.

Unlike a third-party recruiter who earns commissions for placing candidates, an in-house recruiter receives a regular salary from the employer that’s interviewing you. They aren’t just trying to fill positions; they want to recruit the right match - especially because they tend to have local ties. The individuals they hire benefit their community, from providing routine care to steering everyone through a pandemic.

Because of this vested interest in finding a good fit, an in-house recruiter is a good person to ask for a general description of the workplace, culture and dynamics. "The recruiter can provide a more realistic perspective on the day-to-day business," says Sunny Jha, M.D., an anesthesiologist at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

How to approach this meeting

Think of the recruiter as a partner in your job search. "Ask your questions. It’s better to find out early than after you are on board," says Jha.

Of course, recruiters do have influence in the hiring process, so always maintain your professional demeanor. But you’ll benefit from taking an amicable, open approach to this relationship.

What to expect

Bring your lists and questions with you. Most recruiters welcome this. In fact, they’re an excellent initial contact for any and all topics. If you’re not sure who to ask about something - or you hesitate to bring up special accommodations or concerns - start with the recruiter.

Try to get inside information about the job you’re applying for. Why is it open? How long have they been interviewing? What is the overall turnover like? Also inquire about the company’s organizational structure, management style and company culture.

The in-house recruiter wants to hire lasting employees, so be open regarding your goals, priorities and career direction. They may also be able to help if your spouse or partner is looking for a job in the area or if you have questions about local schools. Take advantage of this opportunity if you’re interested, but remember: You’re under no obligation to answer questions about your marital status or plans for children.

Key areas to discuss

The in-house recruiter is your go-to person. If they can’t answer your question, they know who can. Consider bringing up these topics:

  • Background of the position
  • Company culture
  • Company benefits and insurance coverage
  • Unique concerns to your situation
  • Family interests
  • Management structure and company organization
  • Community interaction
  • Questions from your spouse/partner

Also consider:

  • Are you comfortable talking with this recruiter?
  • Do they provide satisfactory answers to your questions? Do they appropriately follow up regarding any questions they couldn’t initially answer?
  • Does this recruiter seem like they care about you and your family?

The team players: colleagues and coworkers

Expect interviews with one or several potential colleagues. These future coworkers will be trying to assess not only your skills but also your personality. They want to know how well you’ll fit into the group, both socially and professionally.

The structure of these visits varies. Your agenda may include sessions with individual coworkers or small groups. Depending on the size of the organization, you may meet everyone at a meet and greet or luncheon.

For Jaclyn Tomsic, M.D., at Ohio’s Center for Oral, Facial and Implant Surgery, this part of the interview process was key. She was able to talk with other surgeons and hear about their experiences. "The ability to get firsthand information and experience from someone in the exact position was invaluable," she says.

How to approach this meeting

Camaraderie with coworkers is a big part of job satisfaction. That’s why it’s important to be as genuine as possible. You’ll learn more by asking questions and actively engaging. Ahead of the meeting, reflect on your background and past experiences, so you can bring up details that show who you are and what you care about.

"Depending on how transparent they are willing to be, colleagues can provide insight on the inner workings of things that the higher-ups may not be able to provide," Tomsic says. "You may discover hidden perks or a more realistic expectation of what is to come, [making you] ready to hit the ground running on day one."

Your pre-interview research will be useful for these sessions, so be sure to review your notes about your coworkers: mutual connections, their published research and other professional points of interest.

What to expect

Start the discussion by focusing on the job itself. Try to get an idea of a typical day of work, the organizational culture and any other relevant issues. Once you’ve established a good rapport, feel free to raise some topics outside of the 9 to 5, such as how much the group socializes, community involvement or questions about the area.

"Your [potential longevity] has a lot to do with your life outside of work. A great day at the office will never cancel out an unhappy family or a dismal or non-existent social life," Tomsic says. You might even ask what they do for fun. "What are their favorite restaurants, parks or stores? Remember, doctors are people too, and happy doctors are often better doctors."

Don’t be dismayed if one or two potential colleagues seem unhelpful, aloof or pretentious at first. There may be other factors at play, such as a tiring shift or difficult patient encounter. And even if you discover these people aren’t ones you’d enjoy working with, you’ve still learned useful information.

These meetings will be some of the more revealing sessions you encounter, and they’re packed with information. It’s normal to have follow-up questions. Try to get business cards from your new contacts or ask your in-house recruiter for their contact information. Sometimes a casual conversation by phone or email after the interview yields a very different perspective.

Key areas to discuss

Your potential colleagues know a lot about this job and the organization. Use these meetings to ask about these areas:

  • Workday expectations
  • Relationships with supervisors and upper management
  • Organizational culture, mood and morale
  • Enrichment opportunities
  • Best and worst parts of the job
  • Any obstacles or barriers you may encounter
  • Social interactions outside of work
  • Family involvement and expectations
  • Workload, call expectations and paperwork

Also consider:

  • Did people provide similar or conflicting answers? Were they direct or evasive?
  • Do most of these potential colleagues seem like folks you could work with?
  • Did everyone seem knowledgeable and well-trained?
Jaclyn Tomsic, M.D.

Getting to know your future coworkers is an important piece of your site visit, says Jaclyn Tomsic, M.D. "The ability to get firsthand information and experience from someone in the exact position was invaluable." - Photo by T & S Hughes Photography

Bonus: a colleague’s spouse or partner

You may also meet a colleague’s spouse or partner at a dinner or social event. Their third-party view of the organization can be valuable, so do your best to learn from them. Introduce yourself with small talk to see if they’re up for conversation.

Pay attention to their body language. If they don’t seem to be warming up, thank them and move along. But if they are interested in talking, ask questions and listen attentively. Try to gauge their levels of satisfaction and involvement with the organization.

A local expert: the real estate agent

It might seem too soon to meet with a real estate agent. After all, you don’t even know if you want this job. But if accepting an offer will require relocation, you need to know if you’d be happy to call this area home. This is where an agent fits in. As an expert in the region, they can bring you up to speed on the community, as well as the best neighborhoods for your needs.

"Having moved to many cities throughout my career, I can testify that a Realtor is beyond helpful," Tomsic says. "For example, before I moved to St. Louis, I knew nothing about this city. [My agent] provided so much perspective regarding the history of the city, where to go for basic needs, culture and entertainment options, and just an overall feel for the community."

How to approach this meeting

Amid a slew of professional meetings, an hour or two with a local real estate agent can be a refreshing break. Set aside your doctor’s coat and think about life outside of work. If your spouse or partner is with you, bring them along. If things go well, they may spend additional time with the agent after you return to interviews.

You and your loved ones have probably thought through some important questions when it comes to your new home: Do you want to live in an urban or suburban area? What length and type of commute are you OK with? What religious organizations, schools or recreational activities do you want to be near?

If you haven’t already done so, write these details down and share them with your real estate agent, along with a description of your ideal home. To plan an efficient visit, they’ll need to know if you’re buying or renting, how many bedrooms you’re looking for and your price range. Don’t forget to take cost-of-living adjustments into account.

If the employer doesn’t refer you to a local agent, ask your network. Ordon did just that to find a Chicago agent with a solid reputation when his son got matched to a hospital there. He says, "They found out what was important to my son and got him an apartment four blocks from the hospital with a gym and common area - just what he wanted."

What to expect

Ultimately, a real estate agent wants to get you into the perfect house or rental. But at this early stage, they’re just trying to build the relationship. Tell them ahead of time what you’d like: from sitting down to discuss communities to neighborhood driving tours or actually visiting a few properties in your price range.

A guided tour is always beneficial. As they drive you around, snap photos, take notes and pick up copies of local publications. Anything to trigger your memory or follow up with later is helpful. This is particularly important if you’re juggling more than one job prospect.

Your agent can also help point out community resources. If your children enjoy certain sports or activities or your spouse needs a new job, mention it. You may learn valuable information about local organizations or businesses. You should walk away from this meeting feeling like you have a resource for getting situated in a new place.

Key areas to discuss

There’s a wide range of topics your real estate agent can cover. Feel free to bring up any of the following subjects:

  • Neighborhoods that might be a good fit
  • Community resources for family members
  • Local schools and colleges
  • Religious organizations
  • Youth sports and activities
  • Recreation, nightlife and culture
  • Networking options for your spouse/partner
  • State of the housing market
  • Commute and walkability
  • Crime rate and safety

Also consider:

  • Does this real estate agent seem genuine or overly focused on sales?
  • Do they seem like someone you could spend a few more afternoons with?
  • Did they provide helpful answers to your questions?

A view from the top: the CEO

Sometimes a site visit will include a meeting with the CEO, but it isn’t always part of the agenda. Don’t be concerned either way. This isn’t a reflection on you as a candidate. It simply has to do with the type of organization, their hiring policies and how busy the CEO is on any given day.

"It’s more a question of the type of position you are vying for and, more specifically, the setting," Tomsic explains.

If you do meet the CEO, the encounter could be anything from a formal sit-down interview to a casual coffee meeting or an impromptu handshake in the hallway. So even if a meeting isn’t listed on your schedule, it’s important to give some thought to how you’ll present yourself. As you do, keep in mind that a CEO is highly focused on their organization’s vision, strategy and community role. They want everyone who gets hired to be on board with their plan.

How to approach this meeting

Meeting the CEO is likely to drum up some jitters, but doing your homework should make you more confident. Be sure you understand the hospital’s mission, strategies, interests and patient population. Pay particular attention to current developments, especially any of the CEO’s new initiatives. You should also be up to speed on industry knowledge, both in your own specialty and anything related to this organization.

"Bring up professional commonalities, a mutual friend or colleague, things to break the ice," suggests Ordon. "This shows you care and are committed."

Sometimes, a mutual connection can pave the way for making a good impression with a CEO. That’s exactly what happened when Jha was interviewing for jobs.

"This person had gone to a leadership program with the CEO, and I had gone to a [different] leadership program with this friend," explains Jha. "The meeting went great. We shared our experiences at the different leadership seminars." This connection helped him leave a lasting, positive impression with the CEO.

While your professional behavior is key with any high-level manager, remember to be true to yourself. A genuine smile, thoughtful responses and honest questions will make you a more appealing candidate than robotic nods and platitudes will.

What to expect

Conversations with the CEO are less about specific details and more about you as a player in the organization’s future. Be ready to show why you’re the best candidate for the job.

"Why should they bring you on board, versus someone else or an NP?" Jha says. "For anesthesia, for example, that means showing you know more than being able to put people to sleep. What is your value proposition?"

Look for any openings to bring up information from your research, particularly if it’s relevant to your interests. For example, you might bring up a recent breakthrough from their cardiology department or a paper you read by one of their staff members. This not only shows you’ve done your homework but also steers the conversation toward good topics.

Your goal in this meeting is understanding the CEO’s views, the upper management structure and the overall philosophy of this organization. After all, you’re trying to decide if you’d be happy to become a part of it.

Key areas to discuss

You’ll feel more at ease with any high-level manager if you’ve envisioned the conversation ahead of time. Gather some ideas around these topics:

  • Opportunities for growth and leadership
  • Community events and initiatives
  • Company culture
  • Upper management’s background and leadership style
  • Doctors’ roles in decision-making
  • The organization’s five-year plan

Also consider:

  • Did you feel comfortable with this person?
  • Do they seem like someone you would respect and enjoy working for?
  • Could they answer your questions adequately?

Wrapping up

After a long day of talking, listening and touring, you’ll likely head home weary and brimming with details. Take the time to organize this information while it’s fresh in your mind. Make notes, checklists, voice recordings or pro/con lists - whatever works best for you. Talk about your trip with a trusted companion. Sometimes conversations help you develop clearer opinions. Make a list of any new questions that arise.

After you’ve had a chance to digest, decide what you need to do next. Make a follow-up phone call, write an email with unanswered questions or ask for help making new connections in the community. Let your in-house recruiter know how they can assist.

As you sort out the details, pay attention to your own instincts. If you sensed you’d especially like or dislike working with someone, if something didn’t sit right with you or if it all just seemed too good to be true - that little voice inside your head is usually worth listening to.

Job hunting is never simple. But a site visit will help you decide if a job is a good fit. Plan for the best outcome by preparing your questions, answers and expectations. An organized approach will help you return home informed and ready to make the best decision.



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