5 Tips for Crushing Your Next Interview
When I was applying to medical school, I mostly had great interview experiences, but an unusual stands out to me. At Texas Tech, they had just finished building an amazing new facility for the students, and we were in one of the new meeting spaces. The lights were activated by a motion sensor, and they actually turned off partway through the interview because we had just been sitting and not moving much for 10 minutes.
The interviewer went to the light switch to try to get it to turn on, and I jumped up and down and waved my arms around trying to reactivate the lights, but to no avail. We ended up conducting most of the interview in the dark. In hindsight, I’m not sure why we didn’t just go out in the hallway or something, but we sat in the dark and talked through the rest of the interview for about 20 more minutes.
Everyone has at least one crazy interview story that they remember, either because they just tanked the interview, or because it went well, or because something about it was just really unusual. My experience at Texas Tech was actually great, and I ended up ranking them pretty highly, but that interview still makes me chuckle when I think back to it. I honestly have no idea what the interviewer thought of me, but I think I handled it pretty well.
Since then, I have interviewed for dozens of jobs, committee assignments, and other engagements. The main question every interviewer wants to answer for themselves is:
“Do I want this interviewee as my doctor or business partner someday?”
When I interviewed applicants for medical school, I always wanted to figure out if that person would be someone I would want on my internal medicine inpatient team. It can be difficult as an interviewee to project that value during a short interview, but there are a few ways you can help yourself stand out.
Tip #1: Remember, it’s not about you!
The interview is about the practice you are joining and the patients you will be serving. Your future employers want to know if you are a good fit for the practice and if you will take excellent care of the patients in the practice.
- Will you enhance the practice’s reputation, or are you a major liability?
- Do you require a lot of hand-holding, or are you a self-starter?
- Are you a team player, or are you the guy who only wants to help himself?
Interviewees commonly make the mistake of focusing too much on themselves, especially in terms of asking about compensation. You have to get that information out of the interview, but it can’t be the focus of the interview. For every question you ask about the benefits you will be getting out of the job, you should be asking at least three questions about how you can bring more value to the practice. Nothing is more attractive to an employer than an applicant that wants to serve more than they are being served.
Tip #2: Research the practice
Learn about the practice before the interview to determine if you are likely to be a good fit for the group. More importantly, ask directed questions about how you will find a niche in the group’s culture which you can highlight during the interview.
- Is the group trying to expand into a new market?
- Are they looking for specialists with unique skills?
- What are the demographics of the patients they serve, and how do you relate to those patients?
One great way to do this is to make an appointment with the group’s clinic manager, head nurse, or other senior non-physician leader prior to the interview with the group. Ask them to tell you candidly what the group needs and how you can best serve those needs. You may find during this discussion that you are really not a good fit for the practice, which could save you the trouble of interviewing for a practice that’s not right for you.
You should also consider requesting a sit-down with one of the junior partners or recent hires (less than three years). Better yet, invite them to an informal meal. Ask them if you can buy them lunch and pick their brains about their experience with the practice. Ask them to tell you about the group’s culture and expectations of the new employees. You can also use the opportunity to find out if the group treats new people well. One-on-one discussions away from the group’s leaders offer an opportunity for candor that can give you powerful insight.
Tip #3: Ask intelligent questions
I always consider it a red flag when I give an interviewee an opportunity to ask me questions and they have nothing to ask. That says to me that they think they know everything there is to know about the practice, which is proof that they don’t. It suggests a lack of interest in the group.
Any time I interview for a new role, I research the role beforehand, sometimes for ten hours or more, depending on how much I already know about the role.
Come to the interview prepared with a list of questions to ask, and not just about compensation. Some questions to consider asking might include:
- What are your expectations for new employees?
- What qualities do you most value in an partner?
- What is your team’s culture? Do you have office events outside of work? Do the partners and their families spend time together on weekends?
- What kind of input would I have into the decision making process for the company?
- What is your plan for growth and expansion in the future? How do you see me fitting into that plan?
- You should also ask questions to clarify compensation packages, call schedules, annual RVU quotas, etc., but through research and the discussion during the interview, you may be able to obtain that information without having to directly ask.
Tip #4: Prepare for the basics
Most interviewers will ask you about your résumé or curriculum vitae (CV) , so make sure you are honest and that you know enough about each point to speak with authority on it.
I remember a professor in medical school telling me once that an applicant wrote on her CV that she was fluent in Spanish, so they sat her with an interviewer who conducted the interview in Spanish. Since she lied about speaking Spanish, that ended up being a very short interview.
Be ready to address areas of concern, such as a low GPA, a malpractice suit, or some kind of prior disciplinary action. You should be able to discuss how you have overcome those issues and how you can prevent such issues in the future.
You should also be ready to answer common interview questions such as “What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?” Don’t make the mistake of saying something like, “My greatest weakness is I care too much” or “I work too hard.” Interviewers see right through that. Be real when it comes to admitting weakness.
Check out this post for additional interview questions you should be prepared to answer.
Tip #5: Practice for the interview
Practice makes perfect! If you have a mentor in your training program, ask them to hold a mock interview for you so that you can get some experience, especially if you are a novice interviewer. This will really decrease your stress when it comes to the actual interview. Make note of any questions asked during the practice interview for which you need to prepare better answers.
Ask your mentor to scrutinize your CV and ask you about points on the CV that he or she see as potential red flags to a future employer. Reach out to friends and colleagues who have recently been hired and find out what questions their interviewers asked. This could be the most important few hours of your career, so take the time to address it as a professional.
You are going to be awesome!
With a dynamite CV and a well-rehearsed, well-researched, thorough interview, you are going to be wildly attractive to any future employer. Remember, be yourself. No one else can be you, and you are fantastic! You have to believe that you are an asset to any group that might be looking to hire you. If you don’t believe it about yourself, you’ll have a hard time convincing anyone else.
Please leave a comment below and share any fun or crazy interview stories, or any tips for interviewees.
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