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Winning the interviewing game. (Career Rx).

I've recently had the disconcerting experience of watching experienced physician executives fail to receive job offers for which they were well-qualified. They were fine candidates, and yet none made the cut for positions they wanted. The sole reason was a perception that they "didn't interview well." The committees involved recommended the selection of other physician executives who were perceived as "having done well" in their interviews--sometimes, even, less-qualified people.

Interviewing for a position is not an everyday activity for most executives, It's new for many physician executives because they are late entries into management roles, often having taken them on as a second career. As a search consultant, I can see why these infrequent interviewees are prone to making easily avoided mistakes. Here are some "best practices" suggestions on doing things differently.

Winning and losing

By nature, physicians are competitive and like to win. Despite the gentility and courtly good manners that usually surround a job interview, it's actually a fierce competitive activity, offering only two grades: an A or F. You win or you lose. Those who come prepared will score and those who drop the ball will, literally, leave the field empty-handed.

Given that reality, why don't job interviews go better for well-qualified physician executives? Too often, I've seen excellent executives surprised by tough questions or too vague in their responses--but why weren't they better prepared?

Nobody should expect you to be perfect in your interviews. But there are some common mistakes that anyone can make. The good news is, they are easily fixed. They include:

No energy or enthusiasm. You have to let them know you are genuinely interested in the job. Take the risk and be excited.

Poor eye contact. People place a lot of importance on this, so get it right. Look them in the eye and be comfortable about it.

Too-long answers. Don't monopolize the conversation; remember, an interview is a dialog. Keep your answers to the point.

Non-specific answers. Don't make them wonder why you've not given more detail or leave the impression you re hiding something. Have your facts marshaled.

Interviewing: a short course

Tips

For those who want to win this interviewing game, here's a short course to prepare for them. First, it's essential that you view the interview as a sales call. Your bottom-line goal is to achieve an offer, or at least to leave with the option to return for future discussions.

The sales brochure (in this case, your resume or CV; I like both) is the piece of paper that precedes the sales call. It's designed to spark interest and get you in the door, but the interview is where the sale is closed. Like any selling situation, it's a three-step process: (1) you learn what they want; (2) you tell them how you can meet their need; and (3) you ask for their commitment to choose you. To sell yourself, you must have your facts in focus.

If you haven't been in the job market for a while, you'll be more successful if you approach the interview process through a program of action:

* Focus on your paperwork. It's best to have both your resume and CV current--you may need one or the other, or both. An aggressive move that can be effective is to rewrite your resume for a specific job. The purpose of the resume is to get you noticed and called for an interview, so do what is necessary.

* Do your research. Both the organization and its marketplace deserve your careful scrutiny. You should know about the scenario and the players before you walk in their door. And give attention to the national picture as well--the more you know about every aspect of the situation, the more you'll be able to shape your message to fit the circumstances. If you are what they're looking for, you'll need to be able to make the strongest possible case. Do your homework.

* Write your own commercial. Cue yourself from your resume and/or CV and write out a five-minute overview--who you are, what you've accomplished, what you want to do next, etc. Use bullet points and polish the language until it truly "sells" you. Then learn (not just memorize) it--internalizing it until you can deliver it in a relaxed, sincere manner. Be prepared to repeat your commercial many times whenever you are out on interviews. This is what you'll say when someone busy says, "Tell me about yourself."

It's a great way to put yourself on the radar screens of everyone you meet who may be involved in your selection, especially those who don't interview you at length. Politicians advise "staying on message"--this is your message. And don't dismiss the commercial's highlights as too brief to be meaningful. If your interviewer is interested, you can be sure there will be many follow-up questions that will expand the topics.

* Prepare to ask some questions. Give some thought to the kinds of questions that your research has suggested. You may not get to ask many, depending on the interview process, but the fact that you were prepared will count mightily.

* Role-play. Someone--your mentor, a valued colleague, your spouse--can participate in interview role-playing with you. It may seem awkward at first, but the point is that you'll be prepared to answer tough questions asked in a real interview. Also, of course, you'll receive priceless honest feedback. Listen to what your role-playing interviewers have to say and change what needs to be changed. Incidentally, the single most important interview question is: "Why should we hire you instead of someone else with your qualifications?" If they don't ask it, take the initiative-ask and answer it for them.

* Tape yourself. This could take some courage, but it's worth it. Put on your good suit and go to wherever you can be videotaped locally and deliver your "commercial" on-camera. Take the tape home and put it in the VCR, play it, and ask yourself: "Would I hire this person?" Again, correct what needs to be corrected in your posture, deportment, manner of expression, body language, etc. It will all be there for you to see.

* Relax. That advice is not as absurd as it might seem. Careful preparation means you're ready to be interviewed-what do you have to worry about? Do what works for you-take a few deep breaths, go for a run, visit an art museum, whatever you find rejuvenating- and then go into your interviews with confidence that you are prepared and in control. You will have cleared the way for your best self to shine. That's all you really want-a fair chance to let them know who you are and what you could do for them if you're given the opportunity.

RELATED ARTICLE: Interviewing

For those who want to win the interviewing game, here's a short course in preparing for them.

* Focus on your paperwork. It's best to have both your resume and CV current--you may need one or the other, or both. The purpose of the resume is to get you noticed and called for an interview.

* Do your research. Both the organization and its marketplace deserve your careful scrutiny. You should know about the scenario and the players before you walk in their door. Do your homework.

* Write your own commercial. Cue yourself from your resume and/or CV and write out a five-minute overview--who you are, what you've accomplished, what you want to do next, etc. Then practice it until you can deliver it in a relaxed, sincere manner.

* Prepare to ask some questions. Give some thought to the kinds of questions that your research has suggested. You may not get to ask many, but the fact that you were prepared will count.

* Role-play. Someone--your mentor, a valued colleague, your spouse--can participate in interview role-playing with you. Listen to what your role-playing interviewers have to say and make appropriate changes.

* Tape yourself. Put on your good suit and go to wherever you can be videotaped locally and deliver your "commercial" on-camera. Take the tape home and put it in the VCR, play it, and ask yourself: "Would I hire this person?" Make corrections as necessary in your posture, deportment, manner of expression, and body language.

Mary Frances Lyons, MD

* Relax. Careful preparation means you're ready to be interviewed--what do you have to worry about? Do what works for you--take a few deep breaths or go for a run--and then go into your interviews with confidence that you are prepared and in control.

Common

Interviewing Mistakes

Anyone can make these common mistakes during an interview. The good news is that they are all easily fixed. They include:

* No energy or enthusiasm. Let them know you are genuinely interested in the job. Take the risk and be excited,

* Poor eye contact. People place a lot of importance on this. Look them in the eye and be comfortable about it.

* Too-long answers. Don't monopolize the conversation; remember, an interview is a dialog. Keep your answers to the point.

* Non-specific answers. Don't make them wonder why you've not given more detail or leave the impression you're hiding something. Have your facts marshaled.

Mary Frances Lyons, MD

Mary Frances Lyons, MD, is a Senior Consultant at Witt/Kieffet Ford, Hadelman & Lloyd in St. Louis. She can be reached by calling 314/862-1370, via fax at 314/727-5662, or via email at mary@wittkieffer.com. Please fax or email questions that you zuuld like addressed in this column to Dr. Lyons.
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Author:Lyons, Mary Frances
Publication:Physician Executive
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2000
Words:1577
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