Everyone has a dating story. Some stories are romantic. Some stories are funny. Some stories are sad. But this much is true no matter the turnout: We should all learn from previous dates as we consider entering into a new relationship.
Unfortunately, not all relationships last forever. You may end up back in the market again…and again.
Most physicians have less experience interviewing for jobs than they do dating. But there are many similarities between the two. At the very least, your requirements and expectations—from both a job and a potential mate—likely change as you experience new things.
With each job interview, you learn more about your expectations and understand what issues, if any, you’re willing to compromise. With each subsequent job, you become more experienced in knowing what to look for in an employer and what employers expect from physicians.
There are many analogies between dating and interviewing for a job—so we went to the dating experts at eHarmony for advice. They let us borrow their tips from their Do’s and Don’ts of Dating as inspiration (read it at ow.ly/wvrFG)—and transform them into the Do’s and Don’ts of the Physician Interview.
It’s uncanny how similar the advice can be.
Do: Be realistic about what you want
Not every job is the “right” job for a physician. As you go through the interview process with a prospective employer, you’ll get a “gut feeling” whether this potential job opportunity is appropriate.
In addition to describing your education, experience and background, your CV should also tell a story about what you want to do professionally. You may have multiple CVs: an academic one for a university position and a clinical one for a private practice.
“As a private practice physician, I am not necessarily interested in the number or type of papers published by a prospective physician hire,” says Steve Fassler, M.D., a colorectal surgeon and shareholder in Colon and Rectal Associates, a private medical practice in suburban Philadelphia.
Before you start the interview process, make sure you can clearly identify what type of job situation would make you most happy. A savvy employer will also determine what kind of candidate would be the best cultural fit—and be able to, in a relatively short period of time, determine if you’re it.
“Interviewing is just like dating,” Fassler says. “The first meeting, you find out about the person. At the second meeting, you find out if you like the person.”
As the prospective hire, you need to be transparent for there to be a possibility of a long-term relationship. To further the potential relationship, you must be able to clearly articulate your short-term and long-term goals and how you’ll add value. You also should be able to determine relatively quickly whether the opportunity is the “right” one to achieve your personal and professional goals.
The explosion of online resources has changed the dating game. It also enhances the interviewing opportunities and process for employers and employees.
“The ability to meet a prospective candidate online and learn if the physician’s interests are compatible with the practice’s are invaluable,” Fassler says. “If there is an interest in moving forward, it is easy to express and to set up the next steps in the interview process.”
In addition to online opportunities, physicians look for prospective employers at CMEs and conferences. Employers are doing the same thing at these venues. Every social setting presents an opportunity for you to market your skills to prospective employers. Even physicians who are perfectly content in their jobs should maintain contacts across their specialty to ensure flexibility should they ever consider—or be forced to consider—a new practice.
As you go on more interviews, you’ll get a better handle of the ebbs and flows of the processes. Learning from the past is critical to anticipating the future. Gary Chimes, M.D., has worked for academic medical centers and is now part of a private practice in Washington state.
“A physician should create a vision of what he or she would look for in an employer and see if that vision matches reality,” he says.
For Chimes, moving to a private practice environment in a totally different geographic setting was important in creating his personal vision. “I like the outdoors and enjoy outdoor physical activities. I wanted to work with an employer who had that same enjoyment of nature and the outdoors,” he says.
Try and try again. If the first interview does not go as planned, use that as a learning moment and work on addressing those shortcomings when you get the next opportunity. Practice your interview skills with friends. Walk through a series of questions and ask a friend to provide constructive feedback on the answers you provide and the flow of the conversation.
George Belecanech, M.D., is a shareholder in The Asthma Center, a multisite practice with offices in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
For Belecanech, working with a team player is essential. “We work in an environment that can be stressful and are often working alone in one of our offices. A physician must be confident, collegial and willing to work in a way to promote the best interests of the practice,” he says.
As you would in a dating situation, compile a mental checklist of the things you like and dislike in a prospective employer. The ideal job should include more “likes” than “dislikes.”
Don’t: Misrepresent yourself
Just as in dating, honesty is key. Be honest with prospective employers. Your CV should be accurate and current, and you should be prepared to discuss each statement that you list. If there are missing dates in your CV, a prospective employer is likely going to ask you questions to better understand the professional history and sequence of events.
The interview process is an extended conversation with a prospective employer. “Character traits like honesty and integrity are critical elements when making an evaluation of a prospective hire,” Belecanech says. “I need to know I can trust my physician colleagues. Candor and mutual respect are important skills when dealing with others, and we expect our physicians to have these traits.”
A prospective physician hire customarily meets with multiple physicians and staff during the interview process. If the physician is misrepresenting facts, this will likely be discovered when the interviewers compare notes or when checking references or doing a background check.
Don’t: Get stuck in a rut
Dating can be hard and frustrating. Finding the right job can have the same challenges. A physician who dreams of being in private practice may ultimately realize that being in an academic environment is the better fit, or vice versa.
For Chimes, the “goal is to determine how you view yourself as part of the ‘couple.’ I really enjoyed my time in an academic medical center and the opportunity to teach was invaluable. After joining a small medical practice, I really feel like I have found my professional niche.”
If you’re not satisfied in your current job setting, don’t be afraid to explore different opportunities. There is nothing wrong with looking for a new practice. Before engaging in a serious job hunt, however, understand any post-employment restrictions in your current job and revise your search accordingly.
Don’t: Be a critic
Gossiping on a date will likely result in the same outcome on a job interview: rejection. On any job interview, it is important to stay positive. Keep negative thoughts to yourself and maintain composure and professional behavior during the entire interview process. Every employer has flaws or issues a new physician hire thinks could be done better or differently. But don’t be overtly critical or condescending of the prospective employer.
Though it may be tempting to offer a prospective solution to a problem, be mindful and deliberate when communicating with a prospective employer. Being too direct or opinionated can backfire. Just like during a date, a physician candidate should be polite, respectful and courteous. If you’re hired, there will be ample time for helping to make constructive changes. The interview process is not the appropriate time to take these steps.
Don’t: Drag in excess baggage
Not every professional experience can be perfect. And dwelling on a previous negative experience doesn’t make a physician an attractive candidate to a new employer.
A prospective employer, however, will want to understand the manner in which a physician will respond to and handle an unexpected or unknown situation. Be prepared to demonstrate the maturity and lessons learned from a previous difficult experience to instill confidence in a prospective employer. Remember: Pay attention to social cues and maintain a level of professionalism at all times. Casual is not to be confused with acting cavalier.
Do: Have fun
Interviewing—and dating—should be fun. Interviewing is a wonderful opportunity you to learn about a new employment situation, potentially visit a new geographic area, meet new people and refine your interpersonal skills and communication objectives.
“A physician candidate should dress up, smile and see if the prospective employer is a good match,” Fassler says. Nerves are to be expected—and it’s OK. Employers can distinguish nervous energy from anxiety and an inability to coexist. If your personality is dynamic, engaged and energetic, make sure that comes across in your interview, too.
Your next steps
There are many similarities between dating and interviewing. If a physician is successful in either an interview or a date, there’s a high chance for a follow-up invitation.
With one notable exception, says Fassler: “If the employer likes the physician candidate, unlike dating, the employer does not have to wait three days to follow up for the next date.”
Time, in fact, may be of the essence during the interview process. Depending upon when the employer is looking to fill an opening, there may be limited time for interviews and little time for you to counter-offer or consider different opportunities. An employer may permit a physician candidate a small period of time to accept an offer before moving on to the next candidate.
The eHarmony.com article’s last two Do’s and Don’ts for Dating are: “Don’t: Look at being single as a bad thing” and “Do: Become a successful single.”
This is where the dating game and interviewing process diverge. Unless you’re prepared to hang the proverbial shingle and start your own medical practice, the interview period must end, and you will ultimately accept a job offer. At least, that is, until it’s time to enter the scene again in the search for your next job.
Bruce Armon, Esquire, (firstname.lastname@example.org) is partner in Saul Ewing LLP’s health law group and is managing partner of the firm’s Philadelphia office.