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Interviewing for a position.

The interview may be the barrier that stands between you and an exciting new career. It's a time when we all want to seem intelligent, charming, eloquent, and full of dazzling stories of great achievements. But, in fact, many have experienced anxiety that left them stuttering over answers or chattering aimlessly trying to calm themselves. Preparing ahead of time and practicing the interview will give you the best chance of making a good first impression on an organization.

Some people who can do a job quite well do not get it because they do poorly in the interview. In many cases, the fault is in poor preparation for the interview. You prepare ahead of time by doing research and learning all you can about your potential employer.

Prepare

* Join professional societies or trade associations, go to their meetings, and talk to physician members. Ask them about the work climate in their organizations. Here are examples of questions you might ask:

* How are physician managers regarded by nonphysician executives?

* If you are interested in a national or regional organization, find out who makes decisions. Will you have any power in the local organization, or will all final decisions be made somewhere else? Will that bother you?

* Will top management want to hear your innovative ideas?

* Does the organization have a history of frequently replacing top level managers?

* Can you advance in the organization?

* If the organization has religious ties, does it matter if you go to the church or not?

* Does the medical director have the power to make decisions or is he or she just doing tasks that the doctors in the group do not want to do?

* Read magazines that discuss the kind of management job you want. Every trade association and professional society has its own journal. Examples of publications that discuss different kinds of management jobs:

* The Group Practice Journal (American Group Practice Association)

* HMO Practice

* Hospitals (American Hospital Association)

* Modern Healthcare

* Physician Executive (American College of Physician Executives)

* American Medical News (American Medical Association)

* Call people you know in the organization. If you are interested in a management position and you know a cardiologist in a group, call him or her and ask about the role of the present physician executives. If calling people and asking them questions is difficult for you, write out everything you are going to say and have it by the phone. But talk in a voice that does not sound as if you are reading. Send a thank you note to anyone who is helpful.

* Read anything that you can find about the organization or the particular area of health care that you will be interviewing for.

* Call the public relations department and ask for the annual report and any brochures or publications that describe the organization. If it does not have a public relations department, ask the person who is scheduling the interview for any information he or she has on the organization.

* Obtain an organizational chart if you can. This will be hard to get unless you have an inside contact.

* Ask for in-house newspapers and magazines that give the good news about the organization. Read the local newspaper to see if some negative news appears.

* Look through the Serials Directory, An International Reference Book. If you look up the subject heading, Pharmaceuticals, for instance, you will find a list of magazines and journals that discuss that topic.

* Ask someone for an information interview. Using your network, find the name of someone in the organization who might describe the work, personalities, or politics of the company.

* Ask for 15-20 minutes from the person's so he or she will know that you do not plan to tie up too much time.

* Ask, "How are you?" Listen to the answer. If the person replies in a frantic way, "Busy, busy, busy," that tells you something about the organization or the work style that is needed to fill the job.

* Tell the person you have three questions you would like to ask. For instance, How is the medical director viewed by top management? How is the organization doing financially? How do doctors regard the medical director position?

* Listen carefully as the person decides what other subjects to cover.

The Interview

During the interview you need to convey:

* Knowledge of the industry (marketplace, products, personal contacts, inside and outside pressures). Example: "The contacts that I have made in my previous national organization as well as in two national professional societies have helped me to understand the competition in managed care."

* Knowledge of the potential employer's company (including its goals, challenges, history, and top management). Example: "I am aware that ABC HMO intends to be one of the largest managed care companies in the country in the next five years. I believe that my experience in development and my contacts in the industry can help you realize your goal."

* Specific examples of your achievements in previous positions, each delivered in no more than a one-minute "mini-case history (focused on results, not activity) Example: "During my last two years as director of long-range planning and development, we opened four new satellite offices and developed two new departments in the main office."

* How you can help the organization make or save money. Example: "As HMO medical director, I believe that I can help your organization reduce hospital utilization by 20 percent without sacrificing quality."

The following is a list of questions that are often asked in interviews. Take the time to write out answers to them before you go for the interview. You will not take your notes with you, but the information will be with you because you have so thoroughly thought it out.

* Tell me briefly what you've been doing since medical school.

* Why are you looking for a job?

* Why did you leave your last job?

* What were your major responsibilities in your last job?

* What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness? (Try to couch the weakness in a positive light. Example: I've been told that sometimes I'm too compassionate with subordinates.)

* What are your long- and short-term goals? (Example of long-term goal--Become CEO of a health care organization. Example of short-term goal--Develop expertise in utilization management.)

* What are the three greatest accomplishments in your career? (Example: Led organization as it changed from being a local health care provider to being a regional provider.)

* What kind of contribution can you make to our company? (Example: I believe I can organize and energize the medical staff so that its members feel more supportive of the goals of the organization.

* How do you react to criticism?

* Describe a time when you made a big mistake and how you handled it.

* Can you give me an example of how you have managed people in the past?

* How will your spouse feel about your taking this job, about relocating, about your work-related travel?

* Have you ever hired or fired someone?

* Why do you want a career in management?

* How would you deal with a physician who is not performing well?

* Describe your experience with utilization review and quality assurance.

* How might you bridge the communication gap between physicians and administrators?

* Can you describe a time when you analyzed a problem, set a goal, created strategies for solving the problem, implemented the plan, and evaluated the results?

Practice the Interview

Get a video camera, record yourself reading the answers to some of your interview preparation questions, and take a good look at yourself. If you need to change something, keep trying it in front of the camera until you are satified. Look at a video of someone you admire and notice what they do with their hands, eyes, voice, and face. Try to copy them.

An interviewer is influenced as much by what you don't say as what you do say. Facial expression communicates much more than you may realize. How do you hold your face? Do you look pleasant or grim? Relaxed or uptight? Do you have a more sarcastic sneer than you realize? A pleasant expression with an occasional smile conveys confidence.

The sound of your voice is also important. Is it too soft or too loud? Do you always sound as if you are giving orders? Do you sound as if you could never give orders? Neither extreme is effective for management jobs. You need a confident, firm voice that can get forceful but that can also be soft when appropriate. If you are serious about this, you will have to ask some people what they think. Individual coaching is often quite helpful.

Most people are nervous during an interview, especially at the beginning. You can use some of that energy to help you perform well, but if you are excessively nervous you need to practice ways to relax. Purchase a relaxation tape and do it everyday for three weeks. Your body will learn to relax and breathe slowly. If you get nervous during the actual interview, take a slow deep breath that is not noticeable, and you will find you will calm down. Expect some nervousness and use the energy it provides to make you alert and energetic.

On the day of the interview, arrive in the office 5-10 minutes early, wearing clothes appropriate for the job, the company, and the industry "culture." When in doubt, wear a conservative suite.

During the interview, remember some of the things your mother told you. Sit up straight, speak clearly, and look at the interviewer. Don't fiddle with your hair, glasses, a pen, or clothing. Don't appear arrogant or aggressive. If you argue with your interviewer, you probably will not get the job. Do not criticize former employees, bosses, or co-workers. If you do, the interviewer thinks you may do the same about him or her someday.

Be concise. Don't over explain. If in doubt, ask, "Is that what you wanted to know?" Ask questions at the appropriate time, usually near the end of the interview, about your job responsibilities, management practices, the assignments of co-workers, and performance evaluations (how often, with whom, how done). It's fine to have this list of questions written down.

Let the employer bring up the issue of salary, but have in mind the lowest amount you would consider. Find out what people in similar positions are paid in that area of the country before you go to the interview so that you will know if the employer is being reasonable. Several organizations publish surveys of salary information.

Write a thank-you letter the day after the interview. Comment on something good that happened in the interview. Mention that you would like to work for the company. Reiterate why you think you can help the organization meet its goals, or provide a new reason.

Employers want to hire enthusiastic people with good communication skills who will work hard. The interview is the place you can show the employer you have these qualities.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American College of Physician Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Career Management
Author:Linney, Barbara J.
Publication:Physician Executive
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Words:1821
Previous Article:Important points in managed care contracts.
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