Critical Questions to Ask Your Potential Employer

Koushik Shaw, MD


July 12, 2019

Editor's Note:
This article was adapted and updated from the Physician Business Academy course "Finding the Right Physician Job," by Koushik Shaw, MD. Additional reporting was provided by Gail G. Weiss.

Preparing for Your Next Job Interview

Job interviews are a two-way street. Each side is trying to evaluate the other, and this can make the interview a complicated dance. Although you need to provide the information employers want, you also need to get information from them so that you can decide whether the job is right for you.

You do have to anticipate employers' questions and make a positive impression, but you shouldn't be so focused on ingratiating yourself that you forget to play detective and ferret out key information that employers may not want to reveal.

The Preliminary Phone Call

Start your first phone call to an in-house recruiter with simple questions, such as "Can you tell me more about the job?" and "When do you plan to fill the job?"

During subsequent phone conversations—with the in-house recruiter, doctors, and others in the organization—you will have a chance to refine your line of inquiry. Answers will lead to new questions that could produce better insights about the job.

"It's very important that the applicant be real," says Kenneth T. Hertz, FACMPA, a principal consultant with the Medical Group Management Association Health Care Consulting Group. He continues, "In order to answer a question, you have to hear it, process it, and understand it. All too often, the candidate is more focused on how to impress the caller and what to say next that he/she is not listening to the question. Listen and learn. Ask questions. Be honest. Be sincere. Watch your sense of humor. This is someone you haven't met."

A recruiter or practice manager may call you once or twice—or even Skype you—before deciding to invite you to an on-site interview. Indeed, there may be several of these conversations before a decision is made to meet in person.

Many candidates make the mistake of not taking the preliminary talks seriously. Keep in mind that the employer representative is evaluating you. Any misstep on your part could put you out of the running.

Preinterview Investigation 

In addition to asking questions, the preinterview phase involves some research. Start by checking out employers' websites and reading online news reports about the organization. On the company's website, look for basic information, such as when the company was founded and how many people work there.

"Internet search engines can be wonderful tools," says Tony Stajduhar, president of Jackson Physician Search, a national physician recruitment firm with offices in Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, and St Louis. "Find out everything you can about the company, culture, and background and the people you will meet with, both personally and professionally. Also, read up on the community. See whether it has everything you and your family will need to be happy there. Then, ask your recruiter to make sure you'll have the time and opportunity to explore those things."

Most employers are willing to answer preinterview questions and supply the documents you request. They have a stake in showing potential employees that they can be transparent and cooperative.

Study the documents you get. Your initial questions about them will probably focus on interpreting the dense prose. In subsequent conversations, you'll be able to ask the employer more substantive questions about how these documents might shape your work life.

Study Up on the Business of Medicine and Healthcare

Asking the right questions requires getting acquainted with the business side of medicine, which includes practice finances, compensation models, malpractice coverage, and health insurance payments.


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