Jun 29, 2016
You’re interviewing for a great position at a fantastic practice or institution. Your suit is perfectly pressed. You brought plenty of copies of your stellar CV. You gave insightful responses to the interviewer’s questions.
As the interview wraps up, you are asked, “So, do you have any questions for me?”
You’ve reached a crucial point. Asking smart questions that hit the mark will allow both the interviewee and the interviewer to see if the job is the right fit. To get a sense of which questions to ask during an interview—for example, whether it’s okay to bring up questions about work-life balance and how much online research to do before your onsite interview—ASCO Connection interviewed Stephanie Hutchens, a Physician Recruiter at Valley Health Plan/ Sentara RMH Medical Center, a 238-bed facility in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
AC: Recruits know that before arriving at an interview, they should conduct in-depth, self-directed online research to get a strong understanding of the practice and to generate questions. At the interview, what questions do you definitely want to hear to indicate that the interviewee is adequately prepared?
SH: There are several areas of questions you should be asking about during the interview—and which we as recruiters want to hear.
The specific practice type is one of the most important elements to understand. There are so many different models and affiliations out there—for example, there are independent practices, single-specialty and multispecialty clinics, and hospital-owned groups. There are hybrid practices that are independent but affiliated with the health system or hospital. We want to hear that you’re trying to gain a solid understanding of the specific practice type.
You also want to ask about the professional affiliations the practice has with the hospital. For example, in our local community in Harrisonburg, we don’t have any immediate competition, so having privileges at only one facility is an attractive quality if candidates are seeking a balanced work-life schedule.
In communities where practices require their physicians to obtain privileges at multiple hospitals or outpatient centers, I would suggest they ask many questions about schedules and travel times to be sure to understand exactly what they are committing themselves to.
Work and Call Schedule
Equally important to practice type and hospital affiliation is the work schedule and call schedule—everybody is looking for that work-life balance. Call schedules are often more detailed than they appear, so be prepared to discuss these very specifically. For example, you may hear, “It’s a one in four call schedule,” but what does that really mean? Is that during the weekday? Does that include evenings? Are weekends incorporated or separate? What about when other providers take time off or are at professional conferences— will the call volume increase, and how often does that occur? Understanding these details is important.
Since it’s sometimes hard to verbally describe what a schedule might look like, ask if the interviewer can provide an illustration of a sample schedule.
Ask if there are mentors assigned to newcomers—that will help you know how supportive the team is likely be upon your arrival. Having that go-to person is extremely effective during the onboarding process.
Source of Referrals
You should ask where the referrals are coming from. While this question might seem more important in a busier area with more competition, it is also important in a smaller area, where it often comes down to individual personalities and the personal connection between doctors. At Sentara RMH Medical Center, we still do peer-to-peer introductions because doctors like to be able to connect the name with the face. We take all of our new hires out and introduce them to referring providers.
How Conflicts Are Handled
One question I don’t hear often enough is, “How are decisions and conflicts handled at the practice?” It seems that more and more, new recruits want to provide input and feedback in their practice. If that’s important to you, but you’re walking into a practice where only the senior partners are making the decisions, that might not be the best fit.
AC: Is it okay for a recruit to ask to speak to recent hires to find out about the work culture?
SH: Absolutely. I often encourage people to do so. In fact, when I’m walking around the hospital, I try to introduce recruits to many different staff members, even those outside of the interview’s agenda. If I come across a provider that recently joined us, I’ll say, “Dr. Smith here just joined us last year.” Then the interviewee can ask questions such as, “How do you like working here? What was important to you when you joined the practice? Why did you choose this location or area? Are there things you were told during the hiring process that maybe the group hasn’t delivered on, and is there anything I should be concerned about?” Most people want to feel like they’re part of a team, so asking another new hire if they feel the group is collegial and team-oriented is very appropriate.
AC: As you said, work-life balance is on everybody’s mind. What questions should an interviewee ask about work-life balance or work-family balance?
SH: There’s never a bad question to ask about work-life/family balance. There are definitely personal questions that as recruiters we can’t ask the candidates, but if they open the door and want to talk about topics such as lifestyle, culture, family needs, religious services, etc., more often than not we’re happy to answer any questions they may have. Again, it’s about the fit. If a candidate wants to be in a larger city with access to certain amenities because it’s better for their family needs and we can’t provide that opportunity, then we probably wouldn’t have brought them in for an interview to start with. Ultimately you want to confirm that the location and the practice are a good fit for you and your family.
The more time and effort you invest in planning and asking questions surrounding your needs, the more revealing the answers will be.