Most physicians agree that medical schools, while
supportive in many areas, are often lacking when it
comes to career counseling. As an unfortunate result,
most employers consider the interview to be many
residents’ and physicians’ biggest weakness; yet, it is
one of the
crucial elements of the hiring process.
If you followed the traditional path to medical school,
chances are your interviewing experience is nonexistent
or minimal at best. Therefore, the interviewing process
may seem much more daunting to you than to your peers in
other professions, who have already held a plethora of
The first thing to realize is that an interview is a
two-way street. While the employer has the upper hand in
many respects, you are both trying to make a positive
impression on each other in the hopes of finding a good
fit. Therefore, you shouldn’t go into an interview
feeling as though you are being put under a microscope.
It is important, however, that you understand proper
protocol. Preparation is key, and if you internalize the
information below, you will be able to present yourself
as an articulate and capable candidate for any position.
When an employer contacts you to schedule an interview,
you need to make sure that you come across as
enthusiastic and accommodating. Many physicians have a
tendency to be abrupt on the telephone. While this is
normally the result of a busy schedule, it can come
across as rude and presumptuous. You should never give
the impression that your time is more important than the
person you’re speaking to.
Also, avoid asking questions such as “What hospital is
this again?” or “I’m sorry, can you remind me of where
this practice is?” You may have applied to numerous
positions, but it is important to keep information about
these positions handy so that you can immediately
reference the caller/organization. Otherwise, the
employer will assume that you simply cast a wide net and
don’t have a genuine interest in his particular
questions you should address:
of patients seen by existing physicians
of revenue derived from managed care
and evaluations by existing physicians
of managed care plans
charged per office visit
charges for patients in service area
% of staff turnover
nepotism on staff
When it comes to scheduling the time for your interview,
there are several factors to consider. If you are a
morning person, see if you can schedule your interview
early in the day. Likewise, if you can’t put together a
coherent thought until you’ve had at least three cups of
coffee, don’t schedule your interview first thing
in the morning. You also don’t want to meet
after a 14 hour day or at the end of a grueling week.
Make sure you clear adequate time for the interview,
and that you consider the schedule of the employer. Even
if the early morning or the late evening may be more
convenient for you, it is more appropriate and
professional to schedule your interview during normal
business hours (unless the employer specifically
requests otherwise). Additionally, if you are
experiencing an unusually tight schedule on the day of
your interview, don’t let the time crunch keep you from
doing what’s important. Consider the interview an
investment in your future, and make adequate time for
Do’s and don’ts
arrive on time. Plan your schedule so that you
anticipate arriving at least 15-20 minutes early in case
traffic is bad, you get lost, or something unknown
arrive too early. While it’s good to allow an extra
cushion of time, you don’t want to throw off the
interviewer by arriving at the office more than five
minutes ahead of schedule. If you’re early, walk around
the block and grab a cup of coffee, or read the
newspaper for a few minutes at a café before making your
be courteous to everyone you meet. A receptionist who
finds you rude could have a great impact on your ability
to get a position, regardless of how smooth you come
across in the actual interview.
neglect to prepare. Ask colleagues and family members
for help with mock interviewing and practice questions.
Finally, make sure to stay current in your field so that
you can discuss any news in the field.
try on your interview clothes before you leave for your
destination if you are traveling long distance. There is
nothing worse than finding out that something doesn’t
fit right 10 minutes before your interview when you are
300 miles from your closet.
forget that interviews are an artificial situation in
which the interviewer has power. This can cause you to
feel overly pressured to act a certain way, which in
turn will seem false and forced. Anxiety will interfere
with your ability to answer questions intelligently. The
more relaxed and natural you can be, the more likely it
is that the interviewer will get a realistic impression
have a firm, solid handshake. A limp, weak handshake
never makes a good impression.
be disrespectful during the interview. Never talk down
to the interviewer. Be polite, listen carefully, and do
not argue under any circumstances.
stay calm and maintain eye contact. You don’t have to
stare, but keep consistent visual contact with the
interviewer’s general facial area. Looking at their
eyes, forehead, lips or chin is important, so that the
interviewer knows you are paying attention.
forget that interviewers are not always trained in
interviewing. You may find an interviewer rambling on
about the position and the practice without asking you
any questions about yourself. In this situation, it is
okay to exert a little control over the process by
discussing your strengths and explaining some key points
that you want to get across.
ask questions. Asking questions shows that you were
listening to and digesting the information the employer
presented. It also conveys your genuine interest in
learning more about the organization. Research the
employer (and interviewer, if possible) extensively so
that you can ask thoughtful, intelligent questions.
discuss politics and religion. These topics should be
avoided at all cost.
remember that there are two major questions that every
interviewer wants answered. Are you able to do the job
and do it well? Will you be manageable as an employee or
part of a partnership? If you can answer these questions
to the employer’s satisfaction, you will get the job.
lie or be negative. Honesty is the best policy, but if
someone asks you about a former employer with whom you
had a hostile relationship, be tactful. It’s better to
focus on strengths and positives than to give the
interviewer the impression that you are not an easy
person to work with.
establish rapport. Remember the interviewer’s name, and
use it a few times throughout the interview. Show
interest in the conversation. Ask questions, smile when
appropriate, and laugh when jokes are told (regardless
of how bad).
ask about salary unless the interviewer brings it up
first. Even if the interview does bring it up, you
shouldn’t discuss specifics. Focus instead on a salary
range and don’t reveal exactly what you made in your
last position. Detailed salary discussions should occur
an offer has been extended.
send a thank you note after your interview. It is proper
etiquette, and employers appreciate the gesture.
forget that bias still exists. For example, it is
generally regarded that an overweight applicant will
have a more difficult time in an interview than a thin
applicant. If you are overweight, you can avoid this
bias by dressing well and making sure that your clothes
fit well. During the interview, be as positive and high
energy as you can. Focus on your strong work ethic and
you should be able to overcome any stereotype of
overweight people as lazy and lacking in energy.
What is your biggest weakness?
This question has plagued jobseekers since the beginning
of time. The point of this question is to determine how
self-aware and realistic you are. Truthfully speaking,
there is no “right” answer, but we can offer some
guidance for a better answer.
Saying “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too much” is
overused and clichéd, and employers will see through it.
Rather than trying to sell a strength as a weakness, you
should discuss the steps you have taken in overcoming
For example, you can say that you have traditionally
been a shy person, but you have been actively
challenging yourself by speaking in public and that you
have made considerable progress towards alleviating it.
Another example would be to discuss your own impatience
when others fail to uphold responsibilities. You’ve had
to resist stepping in to solve the problems of your
employees, and now you’re trying to use these situations
as teaching opportunities.
The second most difficult question is: “What is your
biggest strength?” While this gives you the opportunity
to tout yourself, you want to avoid sounding
presumptuous. Try to present your answer in terms of
what your colleagues and supervisors have said about
you. This will allow you to avoid looking too
Tips for the panel interview:
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Everybody is a little
nervous or anxious, so don’t worry if you feel
When introduced, acknowledge each person. Try to
remember their names.
Listen carefully. Don’t let your mind wander. Focus
on answering each question as thoroughly as
Address your answer directly to the person who asked
Tips for the lunch interview:
While this may be a more relaxed environment, you
have to be completely “on” no matter what.
Follow the ordering cues of your host regarding
which courses you should order and price ranges.
Obviously, don’t order a dish that you can’t eat
neatly, like spaghetti or soup.
Only order a drink if you are pressed by the host to
do so. Even if you do order a drink, drink very
limited amounts, and match each sip with a sip of
Make sure your etiquette is excellent at all times.
Table manners are of the utmost importance.
Even if the food is fantastic, don’t become consumed
with eating. Focus on the interview, and on
answering and asking questions.
You may be a smart, hardworking candidate, but you are
competing against equally intelligent, motivated
candidates. Relying solely on your credentials is not
sufficient; you need to understand the interviewing
process in order to present yourself in the best light
When it comes to interviews, practice makes perfect. For
this reason, you should accept every interview you are
offered, even if you don’t feel that the position
presents the ideal fit. The more interviews you go on,
the more comfortable you will feel, and the more
exposure you will have to the types of questions asked.
Keep in mind that interviewers are as eager to find a
good fit as you are. Before you sit down to an
interview, take a deep breath and focus your attention
on all of those things that make you a good candidate.
When you are feeling confident internally, you will
portray yourself as someone worth getting to know.
Write down the interviewer's name so that you can send
him/her a "thank you" note. This is a professional
courtesy and is especially advised if you are still
interested in the job.