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Navigating the Physician Interview Landscape: Unique Perspectives Early-Career Physicians Bring

Helen Falkner
January 22, 2024

In the world of physician recruitment, the spotlight often falls on experienced practitioners and their seasoned insights. However, as a new generation of healthcare professionals enters the profession, the landscape is shifting as they bring their fresh perspectives and expectations to healthcare positions, and in particular, to the interview process.

The physician market today consists of Millennials, Gen Z, and Baby Boomer candidates, and each generation is nuanced in terms of what they are looking for, if for no other reason than the fact that a person’s life changes so much throughout their career.

A Fresh Lens on Opportunity

Early-career physicians, typically in their first or second job, approach the interview experience with a unique set of expectations. Unlike their more seasoned counterparts, they may not yet have a clear blueprint of what they seek in a long-term position. This lack of entrenched preferences opens the door to a broader exploration of opportunities, making the interview process a crucial period of self-discovery for the candidate. Understanding this can be an advantage to the recruiting organization.

The platform for exploration is different in that this demographic casts a wider net, exploring various positions and organizational cultures to better understand their professional and personal priorities. It’s possible they are more likely than their older counterparts to expect work/life balance as a young professional and are concerned about the potential for burnout, even at a relatively young age. The interview can become a space for dialogue, where these physicians seek not only a job but an environment that aligns with their evolving career aspirations. For the hiring organization, it will be more important than ever to provide candidates with a sense of your organization’s culture and any programs or services you offer that are designed to help younger clinicians create a personally and professionally fulfilling career.

Open Communication Channels

The communication styles of early-career physicians differ from those of their more experienced counterparts. They are more likely to express their needs, preferences, and concerns openly. Thus, fostering an environment of open communication throughout the interview process is crucial for creating a positive candidate experience.

Flexibility and Agility

Given the fast-paced nature of the contemporary job market, early-career physicians are actively seeking positions where the recruitment process moves swiftly. Organizations that demonstrate flexibility and agility in scheduling virtual interviews, onsite visits, and decision-making stand a better chance of securing top-tier talent who are actively exploring new opportunities.

Onsite Visits Give Recruiters an Advantage

Onsite visits are not just important for candidates; they are vital for recruiter partners who are much better able to bring qualified and appropriate candidates to the table if they’ve had the chance to see and experience the facility and the organization themselves. Looking through the lens of who they know to be in the candidate pool, a recruiter can use the onsite visit to gather additional insights about your organization and also to advise you on how best to structure a candidate site visit – including where candidates should stay, how their visit should unfold, who should be included in tours and social outings, and what about the local community will be of interest and appealing to a candidate and his or her family.

Online vs Onsite Physician Interview

In today’s world of recruiting, it’s typical for candidates to participate in multiple virtual interviews as they progress through the process. The preference for virtual interviews vs. phone-based conversations is strong on behalf of both the candidates and the hiring organization, as seeing one another allows for a more personal and dynamic connection. However, virtual doesn’t replace in-person interviews; it’s just a step in the progression.

By the time a candidate gets to the onsite physician interview, we expect to be past the vetting stage, but the candidate may still be actively interviewing with others and using the onsite visit to confirm what their instincts are telling them. It’s also the first chance a spouse may have to get a sense of the hiring facility’s culture, so it continues to be a way that first impressions are confirmed.

Roll Out the Red Carpet

What does it mean to roll out the red carpet for candidates who opt for the in-person visit? Ideally, the hiring organization will:

  • Create and share the itinerary ahead of time to allow candidates to plan accordingly.
  • Structure a visit that is 60-70% social and 30-40% professional.
  • Include a facility tour that touches the whole campus if applicable – hospital, clinics, a review of blueprints, or a hard hat tour of new facilities.
  • Organize a lunch that encompasses every provider and administrator that person would work with 1:1. 
  • Always include the C-suite! Savvy young candidates know that’s where an organization’s culture starts, and they’ll expect 15-20 minutes 1:1 with the chief medical officer or the equivalent.
  • Cover the travel costs for the spouse and children and include the family in a dinner that’s appropriate for the group.
  • Lean into your recruiter to coordinate a well-tailored community tour with a local realtor who should be prepared to give a good overview of both the community and the housing market.

During the site visit, you should be able to feel the compatibility and connection, and both the candidate and the hiring organization should leave without any unanswered questions about the position, the organization, and the fit for the role.

Immediate Compensation vs. Long-Term Potential

No interview process is complete without a salary discussion. While the immediate compensation package holds significant weight for early-career physicians, we know that focus on short-term gains can be shortsighted, so it’s up to hiring organizations and recruiters to guide these physicians to consider the long-term potential of a position. Suppose you are recruiting for a small practice or rural opportunity. How do you compete with the bigger healthcare systems?

According to the most recent Medscape Compensation Report, self-employed physicians earn approximately 9% more than those employed by a hospital or health system. If, for example, partnership is an eventual option for a new hire, this path should be clearly laid out for them. The same is true for productivity and/or quality bonuses. Physicians may need help understanding how the lower starting offer can eventually lead to more money, and it is up to you to shed light on this matter.

During the interview process, take advantage of the opportunity to talk a candidate through compensation and career track in such a way that you’re painting a picture of the near and more distant future. Emphasizing the importance of assessing opportunities through a 3-5-10 year lens can help an early-career physician align their career choices with broader professional goals.

Creating a Lasting Impression

Understanding the unique perspectives of early-career physicians is not only about giving a nod to the increasing diversity within the medical field but also a strategic approach to attracting and retaining talent that will shape the future of healthcare. The interview, viewed through the lens of these emerging professionals, becomes a collaborative exploration, setting the stage for mutually beneficial partnerships.

If your organization is hiring physicians, physician executives, or advanced practice providers, the team at Jackson Physician Search can expertly guide you through every step of the recruitment process. Reach out today to learn more.

About Helen Falkner

As the daughter of a physician and an Iowa native, Helen has witnessed firsthand the impact a great physician can have on a community. She joined Jackson Physician Search at the company’s headquarters in Alpharetta, GA, as an entry-level Research Consultant in 2012. Through her consistent success as an individual contributor and manager, Falkner progressed quickly to Partner in 2018 and assumed her role as Regional Vice President of Recruiting for Jackson Physician Search’s Western Division in October 2020. In January 2021, she relocated to the firm’s Denver office, where she leads a team of successful physician recruiters while actively continuing to recruit for her clients.


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