Nail Your Post-Residency Interviews
One doctor shares what they wish they knew.
Dr. Sun remembers the post-residency nerves like it was 2020 — because for him, it was.
Let’s be honest, as physicians, we are a logical bunch and a busy one too. We don’t have time for fluff. As a person who was not too long ago in your shoes, I’m going to break down everything I wish I knew as quickly and pragmatically as I can. Expect a breakdown in five sections: timing, process overview, what they’ll ask, what you’d be naive not to ask — and a final note on your brave, bold future?
Timing is Everything
In your third year, specifically around July, all of a sudden you start feeling the pressure to look for jobs. August through October of your third year is prime time for reaching out to potential employers to figure out where openings are emerging and who they can connect you with. If you sign before the end of the year, you’re early. Once you’ve interviewed, most roles start anywhere from July to December after residency.
Schedule interviews in clusters: stack two or three in the same week. Most employers only give you a limited time to decide once you interview with them. Now, how would you know if this was the right role and environment for you? By stacking interviews, the employer deadlines will be similar so you can compare your offers and choose the best fit for you.
What to Expect During the Process
At each facility, you’ll typically have a meet and greet with the Medical Director, Clinic or Practice Manager, Nursing Quality Supervisor and ideally some physicians. The Clinic Manager will take you on a tour with ample time to ask questions. You can and should ask to speak with some of the on-site Attendings on your interview trail.
During these meetings and tours, you will find that various staff will ask specific medical questions. Please understand that they are not doing this to test you, but to see how you communicate with colleagues about medical topics. This often happens in informal, unstructured settings while casually chatting.
For the formal interview itself, know that the experience will feel much different from in the past. Pre-residency interviews can feel more like a panel asking you a barrage of questions. These experiences will feel more collegial, more like a free-flowing conversation, more of an interview than an inquisition.
If you find yourself on the fence when you’re trying to make a decision, you can ask to do a non-interview look or a second look where you shadow someone in the clinic or practice to see how the day to day feels.
Once each interview is over, prompt follow-up is really important. Express your interest in their program or clinic, be specific about whether or not you feel it’s a good fit. Tell them you’re open for other questions. Your follow-up emails should be short and sweet, as long as they cover those bases.
Preparing for the Interview
These interviews are all about fit. Whatever you do, do not walk in thinking, “I’m interviewing to get into your practice, can you please take me?” Your value is significantly higher than the last time you did something like this. Now, it’s a two-way street. You’ll need to look for certain things — go beyond what you believe will make you look prepared, and get into what will truly inform your decision. Don’t go through the motions or be generic. Enthusiasm and specificity will be the tools you use to make a stand-out impression and discern the best fit for your future.
Questions Interviewers Tend to Ask:
For the warmup, you can anticipate these softball questions:
- Why do you want to come to our program/clinic/practice?
- Why did you get into [specialty]?
- (When relocating) Why [this city]?
Getting to the good stuff:
- What do you envision your practice will look like in 5-10 years? Here they are looking for clues as to what patient population you desire.
- Give me an example of a time where you had a conflict or difficult situation with a colleague. How did you resolve that? What was the outcome? They say you don’t have to be friends with coworkers. To an extent that’s true, but you do have to know how to get through conflicts professionally.
- Tell me about a time in residency you had an interesting patient. Everyone loves personal anecdotes — just make sure you directly answer the question and don’t get carried away with the details of the story.
- What are your specific interests? I see that you have experience with x and y procedures, here we perform a great deal of z… are you open to bridging the gap on these procedures? They want to understand what you are motivated to dig into and anticipate how that overlaps with the skillsets in their group. Be honest about your interests and what you are ready to dive deeper into.
Key Questions You Need to Ask:
When your interviewers ask what questions you have, you’ll need to hone in on the differences between your residency experience and this next step. Your Residency Advisor, Program Director and Attendings from your current workplace are great resources — don’t forget to set aside time with them and ask what they recommend you inquire about; use their expertise to ask better questions. You will need to fine-tune your list so it applies to your desired path, but here is an overview of the topics you should investigate:
A great marker for the quality of a team is how they report on satisfaction — from providers to clerical staff and patient representatives. How the team fares as a whole matters; people are interconnected and responses from each group indicate the health of the practice.
- What is your turnover rate? For providers? Line and clerical staff?
- If turnover is high, ask why.
- Ask this question of two people separately, such as the Clinic Manager during the tour and the Medical Director during your interview. If their answers are different, that’s something to note.
In residency, you don’t think about logistics — it’s all handed to you. The key here is to never assume. Think about the basics of how you operate in residency and what ancillary services and tech is available to you. Be sure to clarify what elements may change.
How many patients am I expected to see in a day?
What ancillary services are readily available?
What procedure capabilities do we have here in this clinic/unit?
What technology do we have reliable access to? If you have a specific interest in procedures or using advanced tech, make sure to enquire about them — this helps you know if its a good fit for you and also shines a light on what engages your interest. i.e. a specific interest in procedures or use of things like point of care ultrasound, colposcopy machines.
What are my call schedule expectations? Can same day appointments be built into my schedule?
Do I get scheduled admin time?
How does inbox coverage work when I’m not in the clinic? Some rely on Advanced Practice Clinicians (APCs) in your absence.
Am I expected to cover someone else’s inbox when they’re out?
What am I expected to cover on call? Some places require you to cover providers in your practice, some its every doctor in the area.
How do you work out paid time off?
Think about who you want to serve, whether that means pediatric patients or complex surgical patients. Think of the continuum of care in line with the patient population you want to serve. Are there partnerships in place to keep a steady stream of these patients coming?
- How many patients of x population do you see in a given month? Year?
- What is groups or clinics are preferred for referrals for this patient segment?
Once You’ve Prepared, Relax.
In the New Year, residents start worrying if they don’t have a job. Even the most logical among us will fear unemployment. You will find one — don’t rush it. Take the time to consider what you want and make sure you get it. Lift the pressure from yourself, too. Your first role isn’t your only opportunity. You’ll use it for experience to learn what you want and what you don’t.
I can promise you one thing: your first job outside of residency will transform you. When you are seeing a patient you have no fail safe — you are it. You can’t go ask someone, you better figure it out. You will experience so much growth in your clinical knowledge and capacity to respond in tough situations. When you doubt yourself, remember that promise.
Let Us Help You
Looking for support as you prepare for a job interview? Provider Solutions & Development offers complimentary resources, including one-on-one career coaching, toolkits, seminars and training.