Lessons NOT Taught in Residency: Interview Tips

So, I definitely don’t really have an authority to write about this – to be fair, i’m not even sure who does -but, of course, it seems like a good thing to write about as I’ve been asked by multiple people for my thoughts and advice on interviews. Experientially, I’ve faired generally well with interviews but won’t tout my own horn too much, especially given this will generally be privy to future interviewers and, one of my biggest recommendations as below is to… Well, not be cocky. Still, i’ve made it this far and have to take Phone Interviews constantly (i’ve had around 5 or 6 in the last 12 months) as a Locum Tenens Provider, so I figured I’d share the things that have seemingly worked for me to this point.

Basically: Authenticity, punctuality, poise and transparency.

  • Do you know what you are ACTUALLY interviewing for? It seems like a simple question, but it needs to be something you really think about from multiple angles. In medicine, i’m no longer just interviewing for jobs to practice medicine; but, I have to take into account the business structure, my non-medical roles and how I will affect or can contribute to a hospital, practice or community. Think about what you’re interviewing for much beyond your technical skill set, which is still important but not superior nor inferior to everything else that comes with a job.
  • Look for a good FIT more than anything. Most interviews are looking for good FITs. There may be 20 people that are experienced and skilled for the same job and if all of that seems equitable, it’s more of a subtextual interest in finding someone that the job can get along with and that you won’t hate either. Just like you don’t want to get yourself into something you’re going to dread doing or going to everyday, most employers want someone they enjoy working with and have compatible interests with. Professionalism and courtesy are obvious factors but can make a difference in the longevity of a contract and beyond. Relationships and bridges that form are important, but they are less likely to occur if there’s not a good FIT.
  • Reciprocal interviewing, is a thing. To go along with the above, the best interviewees take the time to research the job they’re interested in. For medical training, in particular, FIT can largely be drawn from doing some basic research on the job. I remember interviewing for a particular job that stuck out to be because of the demographic of the area, the population of uninsured patients I would see and for training purposes, I’ve started evaluating the research interests to see what matches me. This not only extends the concept of a good FIT but shows interest in a job that can set you apart from the cliche questions.
  • Don’t ask a question JUST to ask a question. This can be extrapolated to ANY job, knowing what you’re getting yourself into can help structure targeted questions at the interview. Speaking of that, do NOT just ask questions that can be answered with your basic research on a Company/Job website or in the job description; don’t ask a question just to ask a question.
  • Don’t ACT interested, BE interested. I remember so many times interviewing for Residency in which I went to programs that I immediately knew weren’t great FITs for me. To show true passion for a job, you have to have it, you can’t materialize it from nothing. Having genuine interest and sincerity is much more valuable than putting on a facade; people can tell when you are feigning interest because you ‘have’ to.
  • You’re Good, but not that Great. I have ONE interview years ago that always sticks out in my mind about this one. I consciously remember reviewing it in my head and thinking about how arrogant I had come off. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance and I certainly blurred it at the time. Employers want someone that is confident and shows motivation and drive; but, there is a slippery slope to become very arrogant and it is easily spotted.
  • Don’t think about the Competition, think about what YOU can contribute? What sets YOU apart? This is probably one of the pinnacle differentiators when it comes to competition for a job. It can be difficult to really hone in on what these characteristics or skill sets are but finding a personal niche can have profitable dividends if you invest enough time into introspective soul-searching. For example, have learned overtime that I enjoy Quality Improvement, designing Protocols and Patient Satisfaction as well as working with Spanish speaking populations, so these are things I try to discuss if given the opportunity. I can not say that I am a better Clinician than another, nor that I am smarter or more experienced, but I am honest about myself and hopefully that’s enough to be impactful and memorable – who knows. I read something that said to “be prepared with examples of your work”; yeah, that’s probably a good idea.
  • Don’t lie, be Sincere. This seems super obvious and simple but for me, the biggest issue, besides the moral and ethical points, with not following authenticity is that you will put yourself in a situation where the FIT is completely unmatched. I’ve fought for jobs before for the sake of having a job, but I refrain from trying to oversell myself for something I am NOT FIT for. As a Locums provider I have had to continually remind some of my recruiters that I am NOT trained sufficiently to provide Pediatric ICU care – there is the obvious reason to be honest about this in Life and Death, but in most fields Honestly is ALWAYS the best policy.
  • Do NOT speak negatively about previous employers. This can be very hard, I’m definitely not exempt from having these situations arise. But being able to problem solve and showing respect for where you’ve been is important. It’s like a new relationship, nobody wants to date someone that just trash talks their Ex.
  • Obvious Tidbits.
    • Be on time.
    • Dress professionally and be respectful.
    • Bring extra CV/Resumes
    • Introduce yourself and talk like a NORMAL HUMAN.
    • And, because this made me mess up on being on time once, these days its important to check if it’s a Phone, Zoom or In-Person interview. Waiting around for a phone call while you’re interviewer is on a Zoom session awkwardly waiting for you for 10 minutes is usually a recoverable but not preferable way to start your relationship.
  • Things I Don’t Do that Others Do. These don’t feel natural to me, so I don’t do them. They counteract my goals to be sincere and it’s easier for me to Think on the Spot; if that’s NOT you, these may help.
    • Practice answers to standardly asked questions (What are 3 words to describe yourself? What’s your spirit animal? I dunno, google it.)
    • Practice with a friend (I would actually advocate you practice with random strangers at a coffee shop instead, just wear a Mask)

At the end of the day, the problem with interviewing is that there is NO formula. Every interviewee and interviewer, ever worker and employer and every teacher and student have a perfect match out there. Obviously then, not all of them will be good matches. Seeking a honest fit and evaluating whether or not you have similar goals permits for the best longevity. Focus NOT on the interview, focus on the Job.

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