Top 5 Questions Doctors Should Ask During an Interview

Any interview should never be a one-sided exchange. Just as much as it’s a chance for your potential employer to see if you are a good fit for the facility, it’s also the most direct chance for you to find out if this medical institution is the right place for you.

For doctors, it's critically important to use interviews - whether on the phone or in-person - as opportunities to find out all the information that wasn’t listed on the job post (or is not shared on the medical employer's website). As we mentioned in our doctor’s guide to choosing the best hospital, you should be considering all factors of the medical facility before taking an offer. Interviews specifically allow you to find out more about those “harder to navigate” factors that separate a great doctor job from an OK one.

Questions You Might Get Asked

Make sure you’re first prepared for the standard questions you might be asked during an interview for a doctor job. Standard questions you should expect fall into a few categories:

  • Learning more about you: “Tell me about yourself” and “Why did you go into medicine?” are standard questions used to see who you are as a person and a doctor.
  • Seeing if you can do the work: “Describe your experience and skills” and “How do you react under pressure?” help employers learn if you will be able to handle the work you’ll be responsible for in the facility.
  • Figuring out if you’re a good fit: “Why do you want to work here?”, “What is your interest in this facility?” and “What are your goals and objectives?” are questions that help determine if your goals as a doctor align with the goals of the facility.
  • Behavioral questions: Increasingly, employers are focused on making sure doctors are not just qualified on paper, but also able to communicate and empathize with patients and staff. Questions like “Describe a time you faced a stressful situation and how you demonstrated your coping skills” and “Walk me through how you present complicated information or instructions to patients” show the bedside manner of a candidate.

Questions You Should Be Asking

Asking questions during an interview is age-old advice to make it seem like you’re engaged and interested in the facility. But for doctors, the motivation behind the questions you ask should go deeper than that. You should be asking questions that really allow you to get a feel for the culture of the medical facility and what performance expectations you’ll be held to.

This connects to one of the biggest problems doctors face - burnout. Surveys with doctors will often find that they end up leaving their practice and feeling burned out because of a few reasons:

  • Too many bureaucratic tasks
  • Spending too many hours at work
  • Too many patient appointments in a day
  • Not enough income
  • Just feeling like a cog in a wheel

If you boil it down, all of these reasons can be connected to one main cause: expectations not being met. Doctors go in wanting to do one thing, but the practice wants them to do something else and this is never actually discussed in great detail between the two parties.

By asking these questions up front during the interview, doctors can help establish accurate expectations and create a line of communication that helps set them up for success:

1. Can you tell me more specifically about this medical institution (hospital, clinic, etc.) and why you have this opening?

Most job postings are pretty general: “Looking for a hospitalist in Denver” or “Opening for emergency medicine physician in New York” but don’t go into specifics about exactly why this position is open in the first place.

Is someone retiring? Did someone leave? Is the facility looking to expand because it has too much volume for the current staff to handle? The motivations for bringing you on will greatly influence the responsibilities of your position and what you’re expected to accomplish.

2. What will my schedule look like? What is the volume of patients I can expect to see?

Before asking this question, you should first take some time to figure out what you think the right number of patients is for you to be happy. Use your training to help you figure out what bothered you the most and what things you enjoyed the most. Be very honest with yourself - this will inform what sort of answer you want to hear for this question.

When asking this question make sure to get as specific answers as possible. Things like:

  • What your hours will be like
  • How many days you will be seeing patients
  • The volume of patients you will see
  • The general size and volume of patients the entire facility sees
  • How much call you will be asked to take and how it compares to other doctors in the facility
  • Weekend schedules

Getting a feel of your day-to-day will ensure that you are setting yourself up for success in an organizational culture that you know you will enjoy.

3. What are the traits of a successful doctor in this environment?

What sort of expectations would a new hire need to meet to be viewed as successful? What sort of traits would make someone a successful match for the facility? Knowing these can help you figure out if you feel you will able to meet these expectations or are things you want to strive towards.

Along with characteristics, you should also make sure to glean if there are any special clinical skills they are looking for to make sure you won’t be expected to do something you don’t have experience with.

4. What are the ultimate goals for this medical institution (hospital, clinic, etc.)?

The main purpose of asking this question is to make sure that your goals as a doctor align with the foundational goals that drive the facility to exist. Make sure you’ve taken the time to determine what your own goals are - what drove you into medicine? Why do you enjoy being a doctor?

Then during the interview, figure out what the facility’s ultimate goals are and how bringing you on helps to work towards those goals.

5. How can I specifically help this institution to meet their goals?

You are a unique doctor with unique skills and experiences. You shouldn’t go in as just another cog in the wheel of helping the facility see patients. Figure out why you specifically seemed like a good candidate to the employer.

Are they hoping that you will bring in more volume? Will you be expected to take more call so that more senior doctors can take less? Do you have specific skills they are looking for? You should feel like you’re contributing to the facility in a unique way just as the facility is helping you to achieve your goals as a doctor.

NOTE: Key questions around compensation, vacation schedules, and benefits are not ones that we recommend asking during the first interview, but they are crucial to learn before accepting the offer. Nomad recommends asking these questions in the second interview. Having a good understanding of what you’re getting into will help you plan ahead and balance all of the other priorities in your life.

If you feel that you aren’t getting accurate answers during the interview, reach out to and speak to the other doctors working at the medical facility to find out what they like or don't like. Ask them what they wish they knew before starting their job. See what frustrates them the most and what they like most about their position.

The most important thing when taking a job is to have as much information as possible so your expectations are accurate. This helps prevent the possibility of disappointment and burnout if you find that you don’t enjoy what you’re doing and instead, set up for a fulfilling and successful experience.

Happy job hunting!

The Nomad Team

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