The physician interview is very different from interviews for other professions. The interviewer is tasked with finding a physician who meets all the clinical skill requirements and is a good culture fit for the facility. Physician recruiters want someone who meshes well with the community, can connect with patients, and has a good bedside manner. Preparing your answers in advance to the most commonly asked questions can help you stand out from other physicians pursuing the same position. We asked several physician recruiters for the ideal answers to their top physician interview questions. Here’s what we found.
Ideal answers to frequently asked physician interview questions
- “Tell me about yourself.” This is the first question a physician will often encounter. We found that healthcare facilities want to hear about your training experience, your background (is it from well-recognized/highly accredited organizations?), and your dreams (hopefully they are in line with the position that you are interviewing for). Prepare a response that consists of a few brief sentences that will be both unique and memorable.
- “Why did you go into medicine?” Steven Jacobs, manager of physician recruitment for Einstein Healthcare Network, says, “I want to know why you became a doctor. What drew you to medicine?” He says he favors this question because it helps him understand what is most important to you in your career. Resoundingly, our clients expressed their distaste with physicians saying that they went into medicine for the pay. No employer wants to hire a money-hungry physician. Be honest about why you went into medicine but try to tie it to more altruistic motivations. One possible answer: “I want to help people and provide the best medical care that I can.”
- “What interests you about our specific organization/location?” Mark Douyard, senior physician recruiter for BayHealth, says, “I want to know why a candidate wants to come here. It’s important for me to understand, ‘Why do you want to be here? What interests you?’” Share any family or personal ties to the area. Explain why you’re interested in living there (Is it the size of the city? Cost of living? The people? Quality schools for your kids?) and why you want to work at that specific facility (Size? Renowned doctors? The culture?). This is a subjective question but try to answer succinctly and get to the point quickly.
- “What would you bring to the practice?” The interviewer isn’t going to be impressed with false promises. Highlight what you are good at without sounding overly boastful. Possible answer: “I would bring a solid work ethic to the practice, a desire to be part of the team, and the ability to provide quality care.”
- “Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?” This question is subjective, and your answer is going to be different from other physicians’ answers. We recommend that you answer honestly. If you plan on retiring in the next five to 10 years, let the interviewer know up front. It is the most fair to both parties. In some cases, it is even okay to say that you don’t know.
- “How do you react under pressure?” This is a very important question to answer. Most physician specialties require brilliance in the heat of the moment. Highlight your ability to rise to the occasion when necessary, and come prepared to offer specific examples of when you were required to perform under stressful conditions.
- “Describe your experience and skills.” Most employers are going to be impressed by institutions with names that they recognize. However, if you completed your training at a school or facility that they may not be as familiar with, highlight the accolades that it has received as well as the reasons you chose to pursue your training at that institution.
- “What are your goals and objectives?” Think of this question in terms of what the interviewer wants to hear. Try to phrase your goals and objectives to be in alignment with the position for which you are interviewing. Possible answer: “I want to build a solid practice, provide consistent quality care for my patients, and be part of the team.”
- “What kind of salary are you looking for?” At CompHealth, we coach our candidates to steer away from talking about salary in the first interview. If you say a number that’s too high for the hospital, you might be taking yourself out of the running. If you give them a number that is low, you are either leaving money on the table or you are giving the interviewer the impression that you are worth less than the next candidate. There will be opportunity to talk numbers and negotiate compensation later in the process. Possible answer: “I am looking for a competitive salary; I definitely want to receive compensation equal to what I bring to the position.”
- “What are your strengths?” This is another subjective question but try to highlight abilities that the interviewer will see as strengths. Things like work ethic, honesty, compassion, solid training, and the ability to work well with others are all things that will make you shine in the interview process.
- “What are your weaknesses?” Similar to the question above, try and answer this in a way that suggests weaknesses that may not be bad for the employer. If you say that you tend to be a workaholic or an overachiever, that tells the interviewer you are a hard worker. Or, saying you sometimes spend a little too much time with patients will tell them you are compassionate and care about people.
- “Why should I hire you?” This is one of the last questions that you might hear in the interview. If you do hear it, you are probably doing well. It is important to not over-qualify yourself with your answer to this question. Instead, try to highlight why you would be the best candidate for the position.
- “What other practice opportunities are you investigating?” Be honest with your answer to this question but highlight that the facility you are interviewing with is the most important. Possible answer: “None that compare to this clinic, because it is ________ and _________.”
Many healthcare facilities now conduct initial screenings and even second round interviews virtually. The questions you will be asked will be the same, but you should treat it just like it’s an in-person interview. Here are five tips that can help optimize a virtual interview experience.
- Test your equipment ahead of time to avoid the stress of trying to resolve technical problems that can fluster you and affect your performance.
- Make sure you choose a quiet location with an attractive background that won’t distract the interviewer from your answers.
- Dress the part. You should look like someone they would want to hire.
- Frame your head and shoulders in the picture and keep good eye contact with the interviewer throughout the interview.
- If you are taking notes, be sure to let the interviewer know what you are doing so you don’t appear distracted.
Learn more: Virtual interview tips for physicians
Looking for Emotional IQ
Employers are looking for doctors who have both strong clinical skills and high emotional intelligence that will allow them to work well with colleagues and patients. Emotional IQ is the ability to understand your own emotions as well as discern others’ emotions, and then use that information to guide your thoughts and actions.
An ideal job candidate needs to have a good bedside manner and the ability to communicate well and empathize with patients and staff. So, be prepared to answer behavioral questions that reveal how you approach difficult conversations with patients and if you excel in a team-based environment.
Behavioral interview questions
Here are some common behavioral interview questions asked in physician interviews:
- Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation and you demonstrated your coping skills.
- Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
- What do you do if you disagree with a patient?
- What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
- Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset patient or staff member.
- Describe a time when you were wrong.
- Tell me about a time when you misdiagnosed a case and how you resolved it.
- Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
- How have you handled a difficult situation with a supervisor?
- Walk me through how you present complicated information or instructions to patients.
Finding the physician job of your dreams takes more than just good clinical skills. When you come prepared to answer these physician interview questions, you’ll be more than just another candidate, you’ll be the physician they want to hire!