Fresh perspective for success in healthcare

Van Halen & Your Next Job Interview, Part 3

This is the third part of a three-part series, find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

In the previous blog articles, I described questions you should ask at your next job interview:

  • Can I see the employee handbook
  • Do you have an “offer sheet”?
  • What type of practice dashboard do you provide partners?
  • How is patient distribution handled?
  • How efficient are your billing, coding, and financial practices? Why are you hiring now?
  • How are income and expenses divided? Am I expected to buy into the practice?

These questions may “trigger” concerns about the practice with which you are interviewing, similarly to how the presence of brown M&M’S backstage triggered concerns about safety for members of the rock band, Van Halen. While the band requested that the promoter make M&M’S available backstage, the contract made it clear that no brown candies were to be present. Just as brown M&M’S triggered a serious safety check of the electrical, structural and other production components featured in a Van Halen show of the 80s, responses to the questions above may trigger concerns on your part about how the practice is run.

Is your new practice a good fit? This article focuses on several questions that will help you determine if you are compatible with the practice you are considering and if the opportunity is right for you.

Am I compatible with this practice?

I have often told students and residents “anyone can make themselves look good for a day” when interviewing for training positions. If you have a practice on your short list, consider some other ways to see if you are compatible that go beyond formal interviews.

Is it possible to moonlight, take call, spend a week in the office or otherwise step inside of the practice before joining? While anyone can put on an “interview face” for a day, longer interactions will give you a much better idea of what is really going on in the practice. This kind of real world experiment can tell you a lot about your future practice.

Ask for references. Ask them questions.

Your prospective practice is likely (and it’s a red flag if they do not) to call and ask for references about you. Why not call and ask about your new practice?

Call the medical director or chief of staff at the hospitals that your new group admits patients to. Even better, make an appointment to talk to them in person. You could additionally talk to doctors to whom your future practice makes referrals.

If you hear good things about your future practice, that is great. While it is unlikely the medical director or consulting physicians are going to openly say anything negative about your future practice, you should be able to easily identify a glowing endorsement as compared to a lukewarm response—one that should raise red flags for you.

Check physician-rating sites.

This will give you an idea of what people in the community are saying about your future practice. You may also learn if the community has any unflattering nicknames for your practice that you need to check out before joining.

Ask to speak to the last person who left the practice.

Who better to learn about a practice from other than someone who has recently left? Surprisingly to me, practices often fail to do exit interviews with physicians who are leaving (performing exit interviews is one additional sign of a well-run practice). I advise residents and faculty to ask questions of the physician leadership as to why someone left the position for which they are being considered—so that the answers given by the former employee and employer can be compared.

It is really unlikely that a practice does not have contact information for the physician who has left. It is worth pressing to find out why the relationship ended if the practice will not allow you to contact them.

Consider asking the following questions in order to get a better picture of why someone recently left a practice:

  • Tell me about your reasons for leaving the practice.
  • Of these reasons, which was your main reason for leaving?
  • What could have been done to prevent you from leaving the practice?
  • How would you describe the group’s practice philosophy?
  • What was the most satisfying part of your association with the practice?
  • What was the most frustrating part of your association with the practice?
  • Would you have been interested in staying if certain things changed? If yes what things would you have liked to see change?
  • What could you have done better or different to be more successful?
  • How was the workload?
  • Did you feel you were treated fairly by the group and leadership?
  • What would you suggest to improve conditions, production or morale.

What would I tell my best friend about joining this practice?

This may be one of the single best questions that you can ask for resolving any personal decisions. I have had residents who come to me agonizing over decisions for weeks and months only to have an answer pop out of their mouths in less than 30 seconds when I ask, “what would you tell your best friend?”

When trying to clarify a decision, it often helps to look through a different lens. Distance from a decision provides clarity. When you give advice to a friend, you easily focus on the most important factors. When we think about it for ourselves, we consider many emotional factors that tend to cloud our judgment like “what would my parents think?” Not only does this question get you focused on the factors most important to you, it takes emotionality out of the decision. Adding distance allows you to see the forest and not the trees.

Dr. Pat Bass

Dr. Pat Bass is a physician, writer, educator and scientist that cares for both adults and children. Currently an Associate Professor of Medicine & Pediatrics at Louisiana State University Health Science Center in Shreveport, he participates in an active clinical practice, medical education activities and health literacy research. View full bio on authors page

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