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Physician Job Search Tips: Six Red Flags to Watch Out for During the Interview

Jackson Physician Search
June 8, 2021

Dr. T shook the hospital administrator’s hand at the end of the interview. It went well, she thought. She spoke eloquently, gave thorough answers, and asked good questions too. However, something felt off. Her interviewer revealed that the opening was a result of a physician departure – after only six months in the job.

She’d been assured the situation was unusual, however, when she asked about the longest-tenured physician in the department, her interviewer had appeared almost embarrassed to admit the most senior member had been there just three years. It was a little concerning, and yet, the location and compensation were exactly what she was hoping for coming out of residency. And, the people she met spoke positively about the organization, giving her the impression that she would fit well with the organizational culture. Still, she said thank you once more and left the office, trying to shake off the nagging feeling in her stomach.

Should Dr. T take the job? Possibly. After all, what is a red flag to one candidate may look like an opportunity to another. However, if she’s working with a good physician recruitment firm, her recruiter will advise her to explore that nagging feeling. Perhaps there is a reasonable explanation for the turnover in the department, but she should seek to find out more through a series of open-ended questions before accepting an offer and signing a contract.

Most assume the high demand for physicians gives them the upper hand in the physician job market, and in some circumstances, it does. However, all too often, physicians excitedly accept positions without taking time to fully understand the red flags indicating the position may not be an ideal fit for their unique professional and personal goals.

As a result, approximately half of physicians coming out of residency spend less than five years in their first job, and half of those walk away in just two years. These physicians either change their minds about what they wanted, find themselves in a job that didn’t turn out as expected, or simply realize that they aren’t a match with the culture. While the former scenario is tougher to plan for, the latter two can often be avoided if physician candidates pay attention to the following red flags during the physician interview process.

1. High Turnover

If no one in the department or at the practice has been in the job for more than a few years, you need to find out why. High turnover may be a sign of a less-than-ideal work environment possibly due to weaknesses in the culture, little work-life balance, or a poor compensation model. Ask questions of other physicians in the group. Be direct about your desire to understand the limited tenure. Perhaps the productivity model was restructured in a way that benefited newer physicians, and the older physicians chose to leave rather than adapt. Maybe the environment in the department was toxic, and the newer physicians are a result of hospital leadership hitting the reset button. There could be several reasonable explanations for the limited tenure. Ask enough questions to fully understand.

2. Negativity

How do the interviewers talk about other physicians in the group? What is their tone when referring to office support staff and the patient population? While every practice or department will have its issues, if your interviewer overtly complains about colleagues or discusses challenges in a way that places the blame on other physicians (past or current), you should take pause.

3. Productivity Imbalances

For most physicians, some part of their compensation is based on productivity, so what does productivity look like in the practice or group you are considering? Dr. Eve Shvidler, writing for KevinMD, says that if one or two physicians stand out as top producers in a large practice, it could be a sign that new patients and referrals aren’t distributed fairly.

4. Insufficient Technology

Does the group own or have access to the latest technology? The American Medical Association emphasizes the importance of technology in measuring and improving quality and cost performance. From Electronic Medical Record systems to telehealth tech to IT support, if your employer cannot provide access, it could be that much harder for you to succeed in an increasingly digital world.

5. Unclear Terms

Whatever the issue at hand – from on-call coverage to partner buy-in terms to the non-compete clause – if the terms in the contract are unclear (or not addressed), you should be concerned that the gray area does not benefit you. Keep asking questions until you have a clear understanding of the contract. A reputable physician recruitment firm can assist you.

6. Vague Answers

Many of the red flags we’ve listed here aren’t necessarily signs to stop the process altogether, however, they do indicate that you should ask more questions. In some cases, there will be extenuating circumstances to consider or some other explanation you can accept. However, if your questions are consistently passed over, or you receive vague answers, it may be time to pursue other opportunities that more closely align with your goals.

While some of these red flags are more obvious than others, in most cases, physicians will sense something is off, even if they can’t pinpoint exactly which “flag” it is. In our opening scenario, Dr. T knew the answers she received regarding department turnover weren’t ideal, but instead of exploring the issue with others in the department, she waived away the feeling of uncertainty and focused on the positives.

However, if she was working with a good physician recruitment firm, her recruiter would make sure she had all the facts before making a decision. One of the most important objectives of a physician recruiter is to facilitate a long-term, cultural match between a candidate and an employer, so recruiters will be eager to help you find the right fit.

A physician recruiter can make all the difference in your physician job search. Top physician recruitment firms like Jackson Physician Search not only have access to physician jobs nationwide, but they also have inside information on the employers they work with, so they can help you find answers while guiding you through the physician interview process. Contact us today or search open physician jobs now.

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