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Physician Job Interview: 6 Questions Every Candidate Should Ask Before Accepting an Offer

Jackson Physician Search
December 8, 2021

The physician shortage may give candidates an advantage in the physician job search, but that doesn’t mean you can sail through the process without some preparation. As you get ready for your physician job interview, you’ll think through topics such as why you got into medicine, the details of your training and skills, your strengths and weaknesses, what’s important to you in a practice setting, and more. No doubt, you will have your answers ready, but make sure you also prepare questions to ask throughout the physician interview process.

The physician interview should be a conversation with both parties asking and answering questions. Yes, the potential employer is evaluating you as a candidate, but you must also evaluate them as an employer. Approximately half of physicians leave their first jobs in less than five years, and half of those leave in the first two years. No matter what stage of their career, physicians often say yes to a lucrative job offer without fully investigating whether the job – and the employer – is a good fit.

To ensure you know enough to make an informed decision, consider asking the following questions:

  1. What programs are in place to address physician burnout and promote wellness?

Recent studies show between 44% and 65% of physicians report feelings of physician burnout, however, in a 2020 survey by Jackson Physician Search, documented in the White Paper: On the Verge of a Physician Turnover Epidemic, 28% of physicians said there were no programs in place at their organizations to deal with the problem. For those who did report programs addressing burnout, 41% said their employer offered a wellness program and 33% said they had access to a mental health program.

While these programs may be useful in dealing with the negative effects of burnout, they do little to prevent it. In a recent interview, the American Medical Association’s VP of Professional Satisfaction, Christine Sinksy, MD, noted that burnout is a syndrome caused by external work circumstances. Thus, one concludes the best way to prevent burnout is to address the circumstances at the root of the problem. For many physicians, this means lessening administrative burden and obtaining a healthy work-life balance.

Ask follow-up questions, if necessary, to ensure the potential employer is actively taking steps to prevent burnout, as well as combat its negative effects.

  1. What is the average tenure of physicians at the organization?

Organizations that value physicians design physician retention programs to promote job satisfaction and motivate physicians to stay with the group. So, if the answer to this question suggests physicians don’t stay with the organization for more than a few years, this is a red flag that you’ll want to investigate further. Why did these physicians leave? What is being done to improve physician job satisfaction?

On the other hand, if all physicians have been there five years or more, this too requires follow-up. Do these more tenured physicians still take call? If not, how many physicians share the responsibility? Are there other duties expected only of new hires? Ask follow-up questions to learn more about the levels of physician job satisfaction in the organization, as well as expectations of new hires.

  1. Does the organization have an individualized physician onboarding process?

Ask your interviewer about the physician onboarding process to glean how much support you will have in your early days on the job. A thorough physician onboarding process is critical for performance and retention, and yet, in the aforementioned survey from JPS, one in three physicians said they received no formal orientation upon starting a new job, and 39% merely received a general orientation.

An effective physician onboarding process sets new physicians up for success by introducing them to people and processes, acclimating them to the organization, and setting expectations in the workplace. And speaking of expectations, this is also a great time to ask about productivity expectations in the first 30, 60, and 90 days, as well as how the employer supports new physicians in reaching those goals. How are new patients assigned and departing physicians’ patients distributed? Find out from your interviewer what the onboarding process entails and ask about other ways the organization supports new physicians.

  1. What percentage of physicians in the group meet their productivity goals?

Physician compensation packages are often tied, in part, to productivity. Promises of big bonuses can convince a candidate to look past areas of concern, but if the goals are unrealistic, they’ll never see that additional compensation. Discover how attainable the organization’s productivity goals are by asking what percentage of physicians regularly achieve them.

  1. Does the organization offer a physician mentor or leadership development program?

A new report from MGMA and Jackson Physician Search, Getting Ahead of Physician Turnover in Medical Practices, reveals the findings of a survey covering topics such as physician recruitment, engagement, retention, and succession planning. Administrators who took the survey expressed concerns about replacing retiring physician leaders, and yet, less than half reported having a mentor or leadership program designed to develop physician leaders within the organization. If your physician career goals include a leadership role, asking this question of potential employers is a must. And even if you don’t have CMO dreams, a mentor could make all the difference in helping you succeed in your new physician job.

  1. How are physicians involved in decision making?

It’s no secret that those managing the business of patient care don’t always understand the realities of providing patient care. For this reason, clear and consistent communication between physicians and administrators is critical. Ask questions to find out if and how leadership at the organization solicits input from physicians. Does leadership have regular one-on-one meetings with physicians? Does a physician have a seat on the board? Are physicians represented in other ways? Ask enough questions to gauge if the organization values physician input and considers it when making decisions.

The physician job interview is not only a chance to impress as a candidate; it is also your opportunity to learn about the organization and evaluate them as a potential employer. These six questions, and the suggested follow-ups, will help you investigate and ultimately reveal if the organization shares your values and will be a good long-term fit for your physician career.

A great physician recruiter will not only help you identify physician jobs but also assist you in evaluating potential employers. Search physician jobs now, or contact a recruiter directly to see how we can help.

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