Critical Questions to Ask Your Potential Employer

Koushik Shaw, MD

Disclosures

July 12, 2019

The Internet contains numerous resources about the business of medicine, including Medscape Business of Medicine; Medscape Physician Business Academy; and the websites of your specialty or subspecialty society, your state medical society, and the American Medical Association.

You might want to ask someone with a business background to review financial documents you get from the employer, or ask a lawyer who is expert in physician contracts to review the boilerplate contract. You will definitely need the lawyer to review the final contract offer.

To determine what to ask, consult lists of potential questions, many of which are included below. Keep in mind that you'll need to understand the answers and ask meaningful follow-up questions.

Preliminary Phone Call Tips

Even during a preinterview call, it's wise to show that you've done some preparation. For starters, get basic questions out of the way.

Have a clear idea of the job. Don't take the call unless you have researched the organization and the particulars of the job. Prepare a list of questions you'd like to ask, as well as answers to possible questions from the employer.

Postpone if you're not ready. If you haven't prepared for the interview or are overwhelmed with work when the call comes in, ask whether you could talk later. Pick a time when you can be at your best.

Keep the exchange simple. Don't feel you need to delve deeply into issues. This conversation rarely lasts longer than 15-20 minutes. Employers have seen your CV, so the main aim of calling you is to assess your personality and determine whether you're a good fit for the organization.

Ask for financial data, beginning with the organization's operating and capital budgets. Make sure there's no excessive spending. Also ask what the practice's overhead is; overhead rates of 50% or more are considered extreme. And make sure the practice's debt is not over the top.

"Before interviewing, ask your recruiter how the organization is doing," says Stajduhar. "Are they adding new equipment, recruiting more doctors, or adding new product lines? Maybe tell them you have seen how tough profits are to come by, with higher prices and lower reimbursements. Then ask them how that has affected them and whether the organization has a hard time staying in the black. If the interviewer is reluctant to give you those data, you might reintroduce the subject during the in-person interview, when your prospect of working for that employer is further along."

Ask for the boilerplate contract. Even though the final version of the contract will be slightly revised for your position, the boilerplate can tell you a lot about the job. Ask the in-house recruiter for this document. If you don't have an attorney to review the boilerplate, read it several times to discern what it says.

Get an estimate of compensation. Ask about the base salary and the methodology used to calculate bonuses. The latter can be based on reimbursements, productivity, or quality. Also, try to get a clear understanding of the work schedule and on-call requirements.

Work with your recruiter before the interview to know whether or not their comp is in line with your family's needs.

Stajduhar says, "Work with your recruiter before the interview to know whether or not their comp is in line with your family's needs. Also try to determine such variables as bonuses and benefits to ascertain whether your family will be able to live comfortably and build something for the future."

Contact current or former employees on social media. Check LinkedIn or other social media to find people who have worked in the organization. Ask for candid assessments from those people and from physicians on Internet discussion forums.

See whether you can contact doctors who have left. Before the interview, ask the employer for the names of doctors who have left the organization during the past year or two, and get in touch with them. In some cases, you may be able to get this information, but often, you won't. The organization's willingness to provide this information will depend on the relationship it has with some former employees.

Ask about the doctor you're replacing. If you are replacing a physician, ask why he or she left. Then ask about the doctor's productivity over 12 months, which could be measured in work relative value units (wRVUs). You can consult Medical Group Management Association benchmark data to see whether the wRVUs were set too high.

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