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On-site Physician Interview Tips: Expectations and Etiquette

Neal Waters
May 9, 2023

Demand for physicians is high, and those beginning a physician job search should feel confident about their prospects. That said, physicians must still treat the physician job search with the respect it deserves, putting in the necessary research and preparation to find the employer and job for which they are best suited. As RVP of Recruiting for Jackson Physician Search’s Eastern Division, my team and I work tirelessly to help physicians understand the job search process and walk them through what is expected each step of the way. 

One aspect of the process that candidates always have questions about is the on-site interview. Candidates conducting their first physician job search may have heard stories from peers about employers rolling out the red carpet for candidates. While this can and does happen to some degree, I always stress to physicians that while yes, they are being recruited, they still have to make a good impression in order to get an offer. That said, candidates should prepare for the interview and treat the process the same as they would if the job market was not in their favor. 

When counseling candidates on the physician interview process, I emphasize the importance of setting a timeline, following basic interview etiquette, and preparing to make a decision. 

Physician Interview Timeline for Residents

For residents embarking on their first physician job search, I advise beginning 18 months to two years before the completion of training, but this is not to say the job search will take that amount of time. On the contrary, it’s not unusual for residents, especially in high-demand specialties, to accept offers with a start date a year or more into the future. So, absolutely start early, but when you are ready to begin interviewing, accept interview invitations from only those opportunities in which you are genuinely interested. On-site interviews are time-consuming for both parties and expensive for the employer, so be judicious with your acceptance. 

While residents may feel like they have endless amounts of time before they need to make a decision, once they begin on-site interviews, the resident’s job search should be nearing its end. I advise candidates to aim to schedule on-site interviews with their top three choices over a condensed time frame — ideally no more than six weeks. This allows candidates to interview with the employers they are most interested in and easily compare each to the other before making an informed decision. The candidate who interviews with one employer in November, a second in February, and a third in March will have a difficult time comparing, and worse, if they decide the November opportunity was ideal, the job is unlikely to still be available in April. 

Of course, even when interviewing over a condensed time period, there are no guarantees that an opportunity will still be available even six weeks later. So, if a candidate really connects with an employer and feels this job meets 80% of his or her criteria, my advice is to accept the offer, even if it means canceling other scheduled interviews. 

Physician Interview Etiquette for All

Once I have assisted a candidate in setting up an on-site physician interview, I will schedule a pre-interview phone call to ensure they know exactly what to expect and what is expected of them. In most cases, I have been to the facility and experienced it in much the same way the candidates will, so I can be very specific about what to expect, who they will meet, and what questions they might have. I also go over what is expected of them, from how to dress to what to bring and what not to say. Some of what I say is obvious, but based on feedback I have received from clients over the years, I have learned not to assume! 

  • Arrive on time. If you have questions about your itinerary, ask them in advance. 
  • Dress professionally. While standards for professional dress have relaxed some over the years, candidates should err on the conservative side. Absolutely no scrubs!
  • Bring printed copies of CVs and a list of references. This makes it easy for interviewers to ask questions about your education and experience and shows enthusiasm for the opportunity.
  • Ask thoughtful questions that demonstrate you have done some research on the organization and the role it serves in the community. 
  • Be respectful and kind to everyone you meet, from the C-suite to the support staff. 
  • Think before you speak. Candidates must be self-aware enough not to speak or react in ways that may insult the interviewer. For example, if the facility’s equipment is older or less impressive than what you are used to, there is no need to comment. However, you should provide that feedback to your recruiter later. 
  • Do not discuss other opportunities or offers you may have. Employers know physicians are in high demand, and they assume you have options. 
  • In social situations, take cues from your peers. If other physicians are ordering a beer or a glass of wine, it is okay to do the same. However, practice moderation and use good judgment. 

Preparing to Make a Decision Post-Physician Interview

If an employer is impressed with a candidate, they are likely to extend an offer quickly, so candidates should be prepared to make a decision. For some, accepting an offer without exploring other options will be unthinkable, and that’s okay as long as they recognize the opportunity may not wait for them. 

Still, others may feel ready to move forward, but if they want to have an attorney review the physician contract, this can slow things down considerably. Before interviews, I ask candidates if they plan to involve an attorney. If the answer is yes, I advise them to go ahead and identify who they plan to hire and gain a commitment from the attorney to review and provide feedback quickly. I also remind them that attorneys will always find something objectionable, and they must decide for themselves if it is worth challenging. 

Most importantly, I counsel candidates to prepare themselves to make decisions and avoid “paralysis by analysis.” There is no such thing as a perfect job, and candidates searching for opportunities that match 100% of their criteria will find themselves waiting for something that is unlikely to come. Physicians are trained in decision-making, and when it comes to job opportunities, they must trust their instincts and be prepared to say “yes” or “no” without hesitation or regret. 

The on-site physician interview is an intense experience designed to give both employer and candidate a chance to get to know each other and determine if there is a good fit. With our guidance, physicians will know exactly what to expect at their interview and can prepare accordingly. 

Whether you are a resident seeking your first physician job or an established physician pursuing a new challenge, the recruitment team at Jackson Physician Search can help you assess the physician job market in your target location and prepare you for the next steps. Reach out today or start your physician job search online now.

About Neal Waters

Neal’s career began in retained physician search more than 15 years ago. Early on, he recognized the strain that an entire community feels when there is a shortage of physicians to meet patient demand. Since his first successful placement, Neal’s passion for identifying the best providers for each healthcare organization with which he recruits has grown.

Neal serves as Regional Vice President of Recruiting. In his role, he serves as a mentor to a growing team of Jackson Physician Search recruiters. He also enjoys collaborating with in-house recruiters who are dedicated to optimizing their physician recruitment and candidate acquisition strategies. Likewise, Neal specializes in helping physicians — especially residents and those early in their careers — advance their professional careers by finding the right fit.

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