Top 5 questions doctors should ask during a job interview


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Have you ever come out of an interview feeling like you spent an hour (or more) talking about yourself but learning absolutely nothing about your potential employer? I certainly have.

Sure, interviews are a chance for potential employers to see if you are a good fit, but after way too many one-sided interviews, I came to a realization. Interviews are also the best way to find out if this medical institution is the right place for me. For doctors, it’s critically important to use this time to find out all the information not listed on the job post (or website). Taking a job shouldn’t be just about the job or location – culture is as, if not more important, than those things.

Questions you might get asked

Of course, it’s first important to prepare for the standard questions you might be asked during an interview. These standard questions tend to fall into a few categories:

Learning more about you. “Tell me about yourself” and “Why did you go into medicine?” see who you are as a person and a doctor.

Seeing if you can do the work. “Describe your experience and skills” and “How do you react under pressure?” show if you can handle the work you’ll be responsible for.

Figuring out if you’re a good fit. “Why do you want to work here?” and “What are your goals and objectives?” help determine if your goals as a doctor align with the goals of the facility.

Behavioral questions. “Describe a time you faced a stressful situation and how you demonstrated your coping skills” and “Walk me through how you present complicated information to patients” are asked to help demonstrate that you are not just qualified on paper, but also able to communicate and empathize with patients and staff.

Questions you should be asking

Since before college, I was always told that asking questions during an interview is crucial to showing interest. But for doctors, the motivation behind the questions you ask should go deeper than that. Ask questions that allow you to get a feel for two important things: culture and performance expectations.

This connects to a huge problem in the industry: burnout. After speaking with my colleagues about what contributes to their burnout, the answer tends to be one of these reasons:

1. Bureaucratic overhead
2. Extreme hours
3. High patient load
4. Not enough income
5. Feeling like a cog in a wheel

If you boil it down, all these reasons connect to one main cause: expectations not being met. Doctors go in wanting to do one thing, but the practice wants them to do something else. This is never actually discussed between the two parties.

Avoid this by gathering as much information as possible during your interviews. Ask these questions up front to establish accurate expectations:

1. Can you tell me more specifically about this medical institution (hospital, clinic, etc.) and why you have this opening?

Most job postings are pretty general: “Looking for a hospitalist in Denver” or “Opening for EM physician in New York.” They say nothing about why this position is open in the first place.

Is someone retiring? Did someone leave? Is the facility looking to expand because it has too much volume? The motivations for bringing you on will greatly influence the responsibilities and expectations of your position.

2. What will my schedule look like? What is the volume of patients I can expect to see?

First, figure out the patient volume you’re most comfortable with. Be honest with yourself here – this will inform what you want to hear for this question.

When asking this question make sure to get specific information like:

  • What your hours will be
  • How many days you will see patients and what volume to expect
  • General size and volume of patients the entire facility sees
  • Call schedules
  • Weekend schedules

3. What are the traits of a successful doctor in this environment?

What traits and metrics make a new hire successful? Are you looking for any specific clinical skills? Knowing these answers ensures you won’t be expected to do something you don’t have experience with.

4. What are the ultimate goals for this medical institution?

First, take the time to determine what your own goals are: What drove you into medicine? Why do you enjoy being a doctor?

Then, during the interview, figure out what the facility’s goals are, if your goals align, and how you can help work towards those goals.

5. How can I specifically help this institution to meet their goals?

Every doctor has unique skills and experiences. Use this question to help figure out why you specifically seem like a good candidate to the employer.

Are they hoping that you will bring in more volume? Will you be expected to take more call? Do you have specific skills they are looking for? You should feel like you’re contributing to the facility in a unique way just as the facility is helping you to achieve your goals as a doctor.

Questions around compensation, vacation schedules, and benefits are not ones that I recommend asking during the first interview, but they are crucial to learn before accepting the offer. Ask these questions in the second interview.

Having a good understanding of what you’re getting into will help you plan ahead and balance all of the other priorities in your life.

If you feel that you aren’t getting accurate answers during the interview, don’t hesitate to reach out to other doctors working at the medical facility. Ask them what they wish they knew before starting their job. See what frustrates them the most and what they like most about their position.

The most important thing when taking a job is to have as much information as possible. This helps prevent the possibility of burnout and sets you up for a fulfilling and successful experience.

Ryan Grant is a neurosurgery resident and co-founder, Nomad Health. This article originally appeared in the Nomad Health Blog.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com


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