Several years ago, while director of human resources for a small Midwestern hospital, I led our search for a new anesthesiologist. One of the candidates who agreed to interview with us was a physician from Missouri whose general anesthetic and epidural background made him an ideal match for our surgery department. After a series of initial conversations by phone, he and his wife agreed to an in-person visit to further assess the opportunity.
Over the course of their two-day visit I found myself deeply impressed with their depth of preparation in terms of evaluating the opportunity. It was clear that they had given a great deal of thought regarding their professional and lifestyle desires and were determined to leave no stone unturned. In the end, we offered him the job.
These days, on the backdrop of changing economic conditions as well as an uncertain reimbursement future tied to Obamacare, interviewing for new physician practice opportunities have now reached a deeper level of complexity. Moreover, medical model shifts have led to a mass exodus of physicians from private practice to hospital employment opportunities, leading to an even more ominous job search environment.
Here are five key essentials for physicians seeking to boost their candidacy for new opportunities.
1. Be clear in your intent.
As a physician, you know about the importance of clarity and focus. In fact, it was likely a key factor in terms of your successfully completing medical school. But sometimes we unknowingly lose site of the importance of this in pursuing professional opportunities that will represent a good match.
Clarity about your direction in an interview may be the most important key to your success in landing your desired opportunity. What this involves is asking critical questions, which allow you to better define your “ideal picture” end result. Here are among the questions to ask as a part of this process.
• What are the physician call arrangements? Does this impact my personal lifestyle desires?
• What is my preferred geographic location? Am I more comfortable in an urban, suburban or rural setting?
• What variables are important to my family and I in terms of cost of living, diversity, recreational and sports opportunities, and raising a family?
• Will the work offer meaning and fulfillment as well as a sustainable compensation package?
• Is my preferred option a hospital/medical center, private physician practice or community health center?
• What is the state malpractice environment like?
Getting clear about what you really want will prevent both you and potential employers from wasting valuable time engaging in interview discussions that have no chance of gaining traction.
2. Research and prepare well.
Achieving extraordinary results in an interview process requires a thoughtful assessment of the practice opportunity. Therefore it is vital that you never walk into an interview without having done your homework.
In preparing for your interview, there are a number of key pieces of information that you ideally should have researched. Included here is a thorough understanding of the mission, vision and financial performance of the hospital or physician practice for which you are seeking to work. This information is particularly important because it allows you to gauge the extent to which your purpose and future direction are aligned with this potential employer.
The internet is obviously an invaluable tool in terms of your pre-interview research. But beyond online research, don’t discount the importance of reviewing written collateral materials such as annual reports and brochures that may offer you an in-depth perspective on the current culture and future of the organization. Also ask to speak with other physicians in the interview discussion or off the record to get their take on the professional climate.
3. Maximize your value positioning.
Conveying your professional value in an interview is paramount for a successful outcome. This is where you articulate what you can bring to the table with factors such as care quality, productivity and financial returns. Your ability to successfully demonstrate your return on investment proposition can give you a huge competitive advantage in the job market. The ideal value proposition is clear, concise and resonates to those with the highest levels of decision-making influence.
Let’s return briefly to the physician scenario at the beginning of this article. What made this doctor such an attractive candidate for our hospital was that his value proposition was clearly aligned with the anesthesiology needs of our rural hospital. In particular, willingness to share call with our existing nurse anesthetist was a huge plus. And his experience with epidurals resolved a major issue we were facing in terms of patient demands for this procedure.
What all of this suggests is the importance of being able to summarize key points with respect to those competencies of yours that speak to the added value you can offer. At the end of the day, interviewers are seeking to determine whether what you have to offer addresses any and all value gaps necessary for the delivery of cost-effective patient care.
4. Pay attention to credentialing.
As a physician, you are well aware of the process called “credentialing,” which hospitals and medical practice undertake to verify the employment history, educational qualifications, licensure and references of medical providers. This process is designed to protect patient safety, reduce medical mistakes and enhance the quality of delivered services.
In an interview situation, the importance of being upfront about any potential credentialing-related issues is paramount to your success. Make sure that you also have up-to-date records of your licensure and certification, for this will help speed up the credentialing process if you are offered employment. Most importantly, resist the temptation to gloss over or cover up information that may come up in an interview discussion. With tools like the National Practitioner Data Bank, health care employers have easy access to your records and history.
5. Follow up.
In many respects, this final stage of the recruitment interview process may be the most important because it represents the final opportunity to cement a deal if the opportunity interests you. Unfortunately this is where the post-interview fog often sets in—a factor that can cloud your efforts at following through the finish line tape.
If you are fortunate enough to have been selected as a final candidate for a position and have an interest in pursuing the position further, don’t overlook the importance of formally stating your interest in the position and that you look forward to communicating with them in the immediate days ahead regarding next steps.
Nothing creates a more positive impression in follow-up to a final interview than a personalized, handwritten thank-you note.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, every new job opportunity that you engage can represent an important step in your physician career. So take your interviews seriously. If the opportunity appears to be a good match, then be sure to confidently act as though the position is yours. You never know—it just might be just the right prescription for your long-term success.
Michael Scott is a Denver-based health care futurist, speaker and writer.