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9 Physician Interview Questions: Do They Really Need You?

Whether you're a new physician or seasoned professional, when it comes time to find a new assignment, mastering the physician interview process is an important step to controlling your career prospects. When you find yourself seeking a new position, there are a number of important physician interview questions to be asked — and all of them should have one purpose in mind: Determining whether you're actually needed by the employer and its community.

To put it another way — how can you tell if you're truly needed in a particular practice setting, or a community? Wherever you decide to pursue a career as a physician, you'll want to make sure that you'll have enough patients to sustain a viable practice — now, and in the future.

This isn't simply a matter of securing a viable practice. The federal government has various regulations regarding the types of recruiting incentives that can be offered to physicians, and also regarding the types of incentives physicians are actually able to accept. In lots of cases, hospitals have to demonstrate that they're recruiting to fill a true community need for a physician, rather than merely competing with the hospital down the street. Physicians should be aware of this, and should feel confident that they're being recruited in a manner consistent with this law.

There are also the political implications of being needed by an employer, and by the community. You'll be joining an established medical community, and whether or not you are accepted may depend on the extent to which a new physician in your specialty is needed. Rarely are established physicians unanimous in their support of recruitment; in some cases, of course, they're more supportive than others. Regardless, it's good to know where you stand.

9 Physician Interview Questions: Do They Really Need You?

So, how can you tell where you stand? How can you tell if there's actually a need in the community for your specific services? How will you know whether the hospital is following federal physician recruitment guidelines, and whether the physicians already established there are likely to welcome and support you? There's no easy answer to these questions, but there are hints. Consider asking whomever is recruiting you these questions at your next job interview:

1. Why Are You Hiring for This Position? Is it because the hospital down the street just recruited for a similar role, and you want to keep up? Or is it because there's a real, demonstrated need in the community for the specific services you'll be offering? Don't assume that hospitals or medical groups are recruiting for reasons that are fundamentally altruistic. Obviously, they want patients, but that doesn't mean the recruitment efforts coincide with the needs of the community.

2. Why Do You Believe that There's a Need for a New Physician in this Specialty, and in this Community? This is where answers can get vague — and it's also where you may need to press for further information. The fact is, many hospital and group administrators may not know how many physicians are needed by the community they serve. Complicating the matter, determining the community need for physicians isn't an exact science. Even when you do the research, it can be a shot in the dark. The hospital or group seeking to hire you should be able to provide some data showing that a need exists for your specialty. And this data won't necessarily be offered voluntarily; you may need to dig.

3. How Large Is Your Service Area? How Many Doctors in My Specialty Does It Currently Include? There are a variety of ratios that suggest how many physicians in different specialties are needed by a given population. The hospital or healthcare facility seeking to hire you should be able to offer one (or more) of these ratios to demonstrate the specific need for your services. And in doing so, it's important that all physicians in the community are cited — not just those on the hospital's staff. After all, a need on the staff doesn't necessarily translate to a need within that community — the real litmus test.

4. Have You Conducted a Physician Needs Assessment? More and more hospitals are carrying out formal physician needs assessment plans that marshal a variety of data to determine specific physician need within a region. These plans can help keep hospitals compliant with recruitment laws, and they can also serve as effective recruitment tools. If a hospital does have a plan in place, you should ask to review it — or at least the data that applies to your specialty.

5. How Familiar Are You with Federal Physician Recruitment Regulations? Hospital administrators should be pleased to be asked this question — it demonstrates, after all, that you really want to be a part of a good-faith effort to bring needed services to a community. It also shows that you have the hospital's best interests in mind. Your contact should be ready to show an awareness of these regulations, and a commitment to abide by them.

6. How Do Current Staff Physicians Feel about My Recruitment? Hospitals are becoming increasingly aware of the need to gain support among current staff when recruiting new physicians. If possible, it's ideal to meet with as many staff physicians as you can during the interview process to gauge their level of acceptance to the idea of your joining their team. Some hospitals conduct medical staff surveys asking staff members to indicate what physician specialties are needed in the community. Again, established physicians can be reluctant to support recruitment; therefore, if more than 30 percent of physicians surveyed see a need for a particular specialty, chances are good that a need really exists.

7. What Are New Patient Wait Times for My Specialty? It's not unusual for primary care physicians or specialists to be booked two weeks in advance. In some communities, thanks to the ongoing rural physician shortage, new patient wait times can be even longer. You may want to test this yourself by calling some medical offices in the area and asking to book an appointment.

8. What's the Disease Incidence in My Specialty? Some service populations are healthier than others. Can your prospective employer show you what the disease incidence rates are in your specialty, relative to national averages? This data will have a good deal to do with how old the service population is, which leads to the next question ...

9. Who Are My Patients, and Where Will They Come From? Your prospective employer should also be able to provide you with demographic statistics about the service area. This should reveal where most patients reside, where physician offices are located, and what patient income and education levels are.

Remember, a typical physician interview lasts from 24 to 48 hours, and it can be among the most intense time of your professional life. You'll likely meet with a number of people, and the topics on the table will range from equipment, to compensation, to schools, to recreation, to the availability of piano lessons for your children, and beyond. In all the excitement and pressure, fundamental questions can be overlooked Are you really needed? When it comes down to it, this is the question that you can't afford not to ask.

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Adapted from an article originally published on

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