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Physician interview questions and answers

The physician interview is very different from other professions. The interviewer is tasked with finding someone who not only fits all the technical skill requirements, but who is a cultural fit to a facility; someone who meshes well within the community, can connect with patients and have appropriate bedside manner — especially when dealing with life-and-death situations.

Ideal answers to frequently asked questions

We asked some of our clients who have extensive experience interviewing for physician positions what their ideal answers would be to the most frequently asked interview questions. Below are our findings:

  1. “Tell me about yourself.” This is a question that you as a physician will very likely encounter. We found that healthcare facilities want to hear about your training experience, your background (is it from well-recognized/highly accredited firms?), your dreams (hopefully they are in line with the position that you are interviewing for) and any ties to the facility or the location in which you are trying to apply. Try to convey your message in a few brief sentences.
  2. “Why did you go into medicine?” 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. One possible answer: “I want to help people and provide the best medical care that I can.”
  3. “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.”
  4. “Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?” This question is subjective. If you are a locum tenens physician, your answer is going to be different from other physicians’ answers. We recommend that you answer honestly. If you plan on entering retirement in the next five to 10 years, tell the interviewer. It is the most fair to both parties. In some cases, it is even okay to say that you don’t know.
  5. “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 it is necessary.
  6. “Describe your experience and skills.” Most employers are going to be impressed by institutions with names that they recognize. However, if you did not get your training from a highly recognized school or facility, highlight the accolades that it has as well as why you chose to pursue that institution.
  7. “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.”
  8. “What kind of salary are you looking for?” At CompHealth, we try to coach our candidates to steer away from talking about salary in an interview. If you say a number that is too high for the hospital, you might be taking yourself out of the race. 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. Possible answer: “I am looking for at least a competitive salary; I definitely want to receive compensation equal to the effort put forth.”
  9. “Why are you interested in this position?” This is likely one of the first questions a candidate might be asked. Most candidates see success when they highlight the facility and the surrounding area. Talk about why you want to be in that city (Is it the size of the city? Cost of living? The people? Quality schools for your kids? No income tax?) and what is unique about the facility (Size? Renowned doctors? The facility culture?). This is a subjective question, but try to answer succinctly and get to the point quickly.
  10. “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.
  11. “What are your weaknesses?” Similar to the question above, try and answer this in a way that suggests weaknesses to you may not be so bad to the employer. If you appear to be a workaholic or an overachiever, that may not be a big red flag to the interviewer.
  12. “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 overqualify yourself with your answer to this question. Try to highlight why you would be the only candidate who would fit the position.
  13. “What other practices 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 _________.”

Looking for Emotional IQ

Employers and patients are looking for doctors who have both strong clinical skills and high emotional intelligence. 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 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.

Here are some common behavioral interview questions asked in physician interviews:

  1. Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation and you demonstrated your coping skills.
  2. Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  3. What do you do if you disagree with a patient?
  4. What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
  5. Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset patient or staff member.
  6. Describe a time when you were wrong.
  7. Tell me about a time when you misdiagnosed a case and how you resolved it.
  8. Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
  9. How have you handled a difficult situation with a supervisor?
  10. Walk me through how you present complicated information or instructions to patients.

For more interview tips, click here. Or if you’re ready to nail that interview, take a look at our physician job board for open positions today.

Looking for more answers? Check out our locum tenens FAQs.


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