And How to Avoid Them

This week, we revisit the 8 mistakes that will derail a job search from Episode 180.

You can find the show notes for the original episode HERE.

8 Mistakes

#1 – Tunnel vision and not keeping an open mind.

You probably aren't aware of many nonclinical positions.

Medicine is the ultimate stack of skills: physiology, anatomy, biochemistry, other scientific disciplines, communication, how to use technology, and how to think logically. Not to mention all the attitudes and characteristics you've accumulated over time: dependability, responsibility, focus, intensity, resilience, and leadership.

You shouldn't be in a rush to start and complete this process. Take your time, contemplate, and consider the kind of circumstance you want to be in one to five years from now. Start your research and explore a variety of nonclinical jobs before narrowing your search.

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#2 – Being intimidated by a job description.

Looking at job postings in a variety of industries is a good way to begin. But the second of 8 mistakes is becoming intimidated by them. That long list of experiences and credentials includes many “nice to have” items. It is a rare candidate who meets all of them.

Early in the process, the primary reason to review job postings is to understand the expectations of the job, and the jargon that is used by those in that industry. That will help you to decide whether to pursue it and identify actions to take now to enhance your chances of landing it later.

#3 – Preparing a CV rather than a resumé.

A CV (curriculum vitae) is a long list of publications, presentations, educational experiences, and degrees obtained. When searching for a nonclinical position, most employers expect to receive a resumé that highlights your accomplishments and skills. 

Those accomplishments typically describe quantifiable results. That enables an employer to imagine how you will deliver results and solve a problem for them.

You should limit the length of your resume to two pages. And a one-page resumé may be sufficient for younger candidates just getting started.

#4 – Using the same cover letter and resume for different jobs or different industries.

Each job has unique requirements. Your resumé and cover letter should demonstrate why you meet the requirements for each specific posting being sought.

A generic cover letter and resumé imply that you don't know in which job you are most interested and for which you are best suited.

#5 – Depending too much on online applications and not leveraging networks.

Sending your resumé to a specific recipient is preferable to submitting it blindly to an anonymous online destination. It is best to identify someone to send it to such as a recruiter or someone in the human resources (HR) department.

Sometimes you will need to network to find such a contact. Reconnecting with old medical school classmates, former co-residents, and people you've practiced with can be helpful.

And, you can use Doximity, LinkedIn, or other social media sites to nurture relationships with those employed at one of your prospective employers.

#6 – Not learning the jargon of the field we’re pursuing

Every field has, in a sense, its own language. The 6th of the 8 mistakes is not learning to speak that language when applying for and interviewing for a job. Learn the jargon by reviewing job descriptions, reading industry publications, and attending meetings for industry insiders. 

#7 – Not taking the interview seriously

There are several common mistakes that demonstrate a lack of experience and preparation for live interviews, including

  • not bringing extra copies of your resumé,
  • dressing inappropriately,
  • arriving early, and,
  • talking too much, and listening too little.

#8 – Not preparing sufficiently

Read and reread the job description so that you can respond intelligently to questions about your suitability for the job. Thoroughly research the company, and its mission, vision, and values. Understand its financial situation.

If the company is a nonprofit organization, look up its 990 Form on Review stock reports if the company is publicly traded. And read its past 3 years of annual reports if available.

BONUS Mistakes to AVOID:

#1 – Failure to prepare a COMPLETE LinkedIn Profile. Many employers look at your LinkedIn profile. You will improve your chances of being invited for an interview by filling in the gaps in your profile.

#2 – After the interview, but before accepting the offer, not investigating the employer with other employees, customers, and physicians to determine if it will be a good fit for you.


There is no perfect applicant for any job. Your mission is to demonstrate to your potential employer that you have sufficient skills, knowledge, and attitudes to meet its needs and help advance the mission of the organization.

Applying for a job and performing well during interviews is a set of skills that improve with practice. Don't be discouraged because it takes time and repetition to improve. By avoiding the above errors, you will improve your chances of landing that new job more quickly.

NOTE: Look below for a transcript of today's episode. 

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Transcription - PNC Episode 270

Podcast Blast From the Past: 8 Mistakes That Derail a Job Search

I recently joined Michelle Mudge-Riley and her free webinars to talk about mistakes that will derail a job search. We listed the major ones that we have witnessed and took questions from the audience. So, I thought I would spend some time talking about those today and summarize what we discussed.

I had to narrow it down to just eight today because there are just numerous mistakes that can be made. Now having said that, I do want to say again that I was on a call with Michelle Mudge-Riley. We were answering questions and going through many of these. So, I stole one or two from her. But she gave me her permission to further acknowledge what Michelle is doing by the way. Her next conference is starting in two months. I think it's on March 5th, 5th through 9th. She's going to be talking about a lot of these topics at her conference.

Her company is Physicians Helping Physicians and you can just look it up and you'll find out about her conference. But again, I want to thank her for inviting me on her webinar. And I know she's going to have a great conference in March and then there'll be a second one later in the year. I think it's in November. So, she had three last year and they were fantastic. So, with that, let's move into today's content.

Now I'm going to try and go through and even bring up examples as I go, because I've seen all of these and I've made a few of these mistakes myself. I think these are kind of the bigger mistakes that I've seen.

If you make a mistake in the process, it's not going to be the end of the world. You're still going to get that nonclinical job, but the fewer mistakes you make and the more prepared you are going in, the quicker this job transition will occur.

So, here are the mistakes that will derail a job search.

Number one: tunnel vision and not keeping an open mind. Most of us really don't even know what kind of jobs are out there. I mean, sure. We can look for another clinical job, similar to what we're doing. We can look for a better company to work for, or join a partnership that's run by doctors, that's more fun to work with.

But if we've made the decision to explore nonclinical jobs, the thing is, there are so many out there that you probably know nothing about. Now, if you've already done a little research, okay, great. But the thing is, if you narrow your focus too early, you're really shutting a lot of doors that might have otherwise eventually led to a much better outcome. I think you need to keep an open mind. You need to remain curious and you need to give yourself a chance to look around.

Now, as every coach has told me that I've interviewed and talked to, you shouldn't be in a big hurry to start and accomplish this whole process. You need to take your time, reflect, think about the kind of situation you'd like to find yourself in, in one to five years from now. And then start doing some research and expose yourself to different nonclinical jobs if that's the route you're going.

Usually, you come to a decision where it's like, "I just don't want to deal with patients because I can't avoid the liability if I'm still dealing with patients. I can't avoid the call. I can't avoid the constant pressure of feeling like I'm dealing with someone's life".

So, once you've made that decision, just step back and start looking. There are lots of resources out there, but you should really dig into what are the possible jobs. You should keep an open mind about how you will find a job. So, you think of, "Well, there's only one way to do it. The way I've done it in the past." No, keep open about the possible jobs, the possible industries and the jobs within those industries. The process for getting the job may not be as obvious as you think.

And also keep an open mind about your capabilities. I have people that say all the time, "Well, all I know is medicine" and I've addressed this before, but medicine is not one thing. Medicine is like the ultimate stack of skills - Physiology, anatomy, biochemistry, all the other sciences, communication, presentations, how to use technology and how to think. Not to mention all these attitudes and characteristics you've accumulated over time - The dependability, the responsibility and the ability to lead teams and all that. So, keep an open mind. Don't tunnel, don't get tunnel vision. That's number one.

Number two: being intimidated by a job description. So, let's say you're just exploring because you don't have to wait until you've narrowed the job to just one field in one industry. In fact, looking at job descriptions can be a way to do your research. So, look at job descriptions in a hospital work, look at job descriptions in pharma, look at job descriptions in insurance, health insurance, UM jobs, disability insurance, medical director, and health insurance.

Look at other things. Part-time gigs perhaps about expert witness work or blogs and podcasts about jobs in other industries, such as medical writing or consulting. But anyway, if you're going to actually apply for a job, ultimately you feel like you're going to work for a large corporation, which would be pharma or insurance or hospital systems.

Then even early in the process, look at the job descriptions, but don't get intimidated by them. I mean, think about it. Let's say you were running a big corporation or just your practice for that matter and you're going to hire somebody. What are you going to put in the job description" You're going to put everything in there you could possibly want and hope that somebody that has at least 80% - 90% of those skills applies. So, nobody that's applies is going to be perfect for any job.

And similarly, when a big pharma company or a hospital is putting out a job description, it's going to put everything in there that it wants. But the recruiting manager, the HR people, they know they're not going to get everything that they want. So, you can start by looking and seeing the words "preferred" versus "mandatory". So, if they say a medical degree is mandatory, well, probably a medical degree is mandatory, but if they say five years, experience is preferred. Well, that means if they get 10 candidates with five or more years experience, and you only have one, they're probably going to pick somebody from that list.

On the other hand, if nobody with five years of experience is applying and you've got three years of experience and everything else on your resume looks awesome, then you're going to get to job. So, we hear this a lot. MSLs a lot of times you're looking for someone with experience as an MSL - Medical Science Liaison, but guess what" They sometimes just have to take someone who has all the other attributes and has no experience in. I've definitely heard that from my guests who have told me it said that they wanted this, they wanted some background board certification, whatever, and yet they still were hired despite of not having every last bullet point on that job description.

Number three: preparing a CV rather than a resume. So, most of you know the difference I hope, but if not, basically it boils down to the fact that the CV is what someone who is teaching or an academics uses. And it's a list of all the education, publications, presentations. I mean, sometimes these CVs can be like 5, 6, 10 pages long, especially for an academic position.

But once you get away from applying for an academic position, it's a little different. They're looking more for a resume, which again, the definition there would be something that starts with a personal profile or a projected plan - What is it you're looking for in a few sentences and then a list of accomplishments. And those accomplishments generally indicate some measurable outcomes attached to them.

And then down the rest later on is going to be your education, your previous positions. But what's important is what you've done in those positions not so much what the position was. Because saying that you were the medical director or saying that you were the chair of a committee or whatever, it doesn't tell you really what you did. But at the same time in a resume, you want to keep it to two pages. For younger people that are just getting started, one page resume might be fine. There's no sense filling it with nonsense. But for someone who's a little more experienced, try to keep it to two pages because number one, they're not usually going to read it, but what they're going to be looking for is on the first page is, what are you looking for" And a job in X doing Y and what are the accomplishments that demonstrate that you've done the things that they're looking for as maybe outlined in the job description that's posted, or maybe someone has actually talked to you about what they're looking for.

So, if you can say, let's say rather than like "I managed this department for four years", it would be better to say "As a manager for the quality department, my team under my direction was able to reduce the complication rate following surgery, let's say total hip surgery by 20%, or reduce the costs in this service line by X percent". You get the idea.

That is what's in a resume. So, don't just throw the CV that you may have used in the past when you were looking for your residency. So, you had a CV for your history in medical school and undergrad and things you did in between, different jobs and different academic things you've done. But no, you want to put on the resume, that what you've accomplished with measurable outcomes, that they can translate into things that would be applicable to the job you're applying for now.

This one is actually one of the more important of these eight, because it's very common to have someone who has been sending out a cover letter and a resume for months and months. And after simply hiring a coach or spending a little time, doing a little more research and customizing the resume to the job they're applying for that they get that job. And it's all because of what's in that resume.

Now, I've heard recently that some companies are using a form of AI to screen their resumes, meaning they're basically looking for keywords. These are companies that are getting a lot of applications for the same position. So, this would be probably more common in a position as more of an entry level, like a UM physician advisor role, or in a big company, or maybe an MSL role. So, these jobs are very popular, starting jobs for nonclinical careers, for physicians. And it's possible that they're doing some kind of a machine screening, I guess, is what I would call it where no one's actually looking at the resume. They're just looking for the keywords that you mentioned.

So, again, I would say that when you're doing a resume, do a little research, how to structure it, there's a lot more to it than what I've mentioned. You definitely want to include keywords in your resume that tie back to the written job description and then the accomplishments and measurable outcomes. That that'll get you started. Again, there are resume coaches out there, those that are physicians and non-physicians who specialize in helping people prepare a professional resume. Because resumes are so important, let's talk about another resume mistake.

Number four: using the same cover letter and resume for different jobs or different industries. I definitely have seen resumes that seem rather generic. Even so far as in the position statement or the summary at the top saying something like "Looking for a position in leadership role in health insurance or pharma industry." That would be such a big red flag right there, because someone in pharma is going to look at that and go, "Well, I guess they don't really want to be in pharma." I mean, if they're okay with being in health insurance, that's not the same as pharma and vice versa. That's a big one right there.

The other thing is that each employer has its own needs. In my case, for example, I was put over the medical group as it was growing, as a VPMA and then Chief Medical Officer. I never did have responsibility for the medical group for like the first 10 years I worked at the hospital. I was focused on quality and utilization and clinical documentation improvement of pharmacy, the lab, so on and so forth.

There came a point when I was over the medical group, but I couldn't do it myself so I needed to have a VP for the medical group. I'm not even sure what we called that position. It may be a little different than that, but anyway and I wanted the VP to help us manage the 30 physicians that were in the group and help us grow the group as we began, not only to hire new physicians, but actually recruit local physicians who were in practice and mostly small practices.

But you can imagine if you were applying for that job, as opposed to applying for a job in a mature multi-specialty group with over a hundred physicians run by the hospital across town, that's focusing less on recruitment and less on buying practices and more on adding service lines and different products - that would be a completely different resume and cover letter. You want to customize those specifically to each and every employer.

Now, you can have a kind of a template that has 90% of the same information. If you're applying to, let's say, multiple hospitals for a director, medical director, or even a CMO role, yeah, 90% can be the same. But if you know specifics about the particular organization, which should be clear in the job description or based on your research, then you should customize the resume and the cover letter to that information and that organization. By the way, you should be sending this to a person, which I'll talk about a little bit in the next, but that goes into also customizing that cover letter.

Number five: depending too much on electronic applications and not leveraging networking. So, it kind of ties back to the resume and the cover letter. It's always better to send those to some person specifically that you've been able to identify if possible. And this also ties back to how you find the person in the first place or get the job or find the job in the first place.

I remember one time I was interviewing one of my guests who just suddenly felt anxious to leave her job. I don't actually remember why at this moment, but she was a very good clinician and she had enjoyed it for years and then she had to leave. I think maybe because she was moving or something happened to the organization she was working for. So, rather than just start looking through wide ends, so to speak and job boards, she started talking to some of her former medical school classmates. And I think maybe her residents had programs that she had attended when she did a residency, the people that were with her there.

Lo and behold, she found that some of them had nonclinical jobs. And one of them said that the company he or she was working for, needed a medical director for the company, which was a life insurance company, which are not easy jobs to come by. But she just happened to be in the right place at the right time. She applied, she landed the job and she loves the job. She's been there. I think more than 10 years at this point.

Now how likely is at the happen" Not that likely that the first person gives you some advice, you're going to take the job and you're going to love it, but you just never know. But I tell you in a way, getting a job referral, because that person knows you, they know what you're like. They know perhaps your strengths and weaknesses. They're going to tell you about jobs that they think you're going fit in with.

Definitely, I've had many guests on my podcast tell me that sending resumes into a link on a website or on a job board, or let's say through indeed or something, they think it's a waste of time. Literally for the MSL position, I've had people tell me that, that did not work. And then when they had someone they could actually reach out to or refer to from a friend or something, they did much better.

Networking is a foreign concept to many of us because we're introverts. We were competitive in medical school and we worked out on our own and we accomplished what we accomplished. But we have a twisted concept of networking. It's standing around at a reception at the end of an all-day conference, handing out business cards. And really that kind of networking probably doesn't help either.

I would say the networking that you do, if it's reconnecting with old medical school classmates, former co-residents, people you've practiced with. And you could do it directly if you have their email, their phone number, or you can go on Doximity or LinkedIn, reconnect with these people, ask them what they're up to. And then you can get a little bit into the less direct knowledge group of people.

In other words, you can just start looking for keywords in LinkedIn, for example, and say, "Okay, well, who's on LinkedIn that is a medical science liaison" And maybe I can find out how they were able to transition." Or I'm looking for someone who is working in a disability company as a medical director. Or maybe I can network through a group like the American Association for Physician Leadership if I want to be a Hospital Executive or I can network through the American Medical Writers Association if I learn about becoming a medical writer, where to apply. Or maybe I can go to The American Academy of Insurance Medicine and find out how those people are getting jobs.

Networking in that sense is probably much more effective. And if you can get the name of someone and send them your cover letter and resume and possibly even call them before you send it, they're going to be looking for it and they're going to take a much closer look at it.

Number six: not learning the jargon of the field you're pursuing. Every field has as its own vernacular, so to speak. So, the terms we use in hospital management are different if we're focused just on quality improvement, although there's a lot of overlap there. But you get into clinical documentation improvement. It has its own utilization management. It has its own jargon expert witnesses, use different jargon, a lot of legalese. Pharma jobs have specific terms.

If you're an MSL and someone told me about this, that they went to apply for a job as a medical science liaison. Someone asked them about a KOL and they really didn't know what it was. They kind of answered the question, but even though I think they use the term Key Opinion Leader, but really that's what an MSL does is deal with key opinion leaders and influencers. And they use that term all the time. And if you don't know what that term is, and haven't done enough research to figure that out going in, then you really haven't done your homework. You shouldn't go into these jobs, not really knowing what you're getting into.

If you want to be sincere about becoming a medical director for a particular company, then you need to know what a medical director for that company does and the jargon that they use. And you can learn that just by joining one of these societies or just going online and Googling around and find out what MSLs talk about and find out what medical monitors talk about. If you're in pharma, you're going to want to know phase one, two, three, what is pharmacovigilance, and so on and so forth.

And then to go back to something we talked about earlier, you want to use those terms in the cover letter and the resume and during your interviews to show that you at least understand the language. You may not have experience applying those terms, or actually interacting, let's say with a key opinion leader, but you know what the term means.

Number seven: not taking the interview seriously. Now that's a vague mistake, but it's because I wanted to put multiple issues in here. So basically, it's a bunch of things that you can do wrong during the interview, because you haven't really thought through how you're going to approach the interview, but includes things like not bringing a copy of your resume. Oddly enough, people that are interviewing you might not actually have a copy. They may have had a copy. They may have looked at a copy two or three weeks ago. Now when they're doing the interview it would be nice for you to bring one, just in case they don't have it.

Maybe you are really concerned about how you dress, but you should dress professionally. It wouldn't matter if you were overdressed compared to everybody. Let's say you're working in some small clinic and everyone is semi-casual when they're working. It doesn't mean you shouldn't go in a suit. Of course, you should. You should dress up. You can always dress down when you're working, but you can't go in there sloppy and then everyone's in a suit and tie. You're not going to feel like you fit in at all and they're not going to think you are either.

If you fail to arrive early so that you can anticipate any problems, you got to give yourself time to walk around and look around. Get a feel for the organization. Go to the reception desk where you're checking in at least 10 minutes early.

Other things like you should listen more than you talk. You're not there to give them a lecture on how wonderful you are. First you have to listen from them because each person that's doing an interview has their own particular pet peeves and interests for this person moving into this job. The CEO will have a different perspective than someone that you're working alongside, or in the hospital setting, for example, the CEO, the COO, the CFO, they're all going to have different perspectives on why you should be hired or not.

And so, you need to listen to what they are interested in. If they say, "Well, here's a problem we've had..." and now you can tell them how you can address that problem. But if you just go into some long litany about why you're the greatest thing since sliced bread, it's not even going to align with the things they're looking for because you're going to be off on some tangent.

So, listen more than you talk and ask questions. Some people have said you should really only do 20% of the talking. Mostly you should be listening. So, prepare for the interview and go into it professionally. That's one mistake that I see made not infrequently. And again, it ties into mistake number eight.

Number eight: not preparing sufficiently. So, when I talked about some of the things in the previous parts, a lot of it has to do with not preparing. Not looking through the job description in detail.

Now, granted I've had this happen many times where my HR department put out a job description and I looked at it and I said, "Well, that's not really what I'm looking for" and this person is reporting to me. So, there can be a disconnect, which is why you have to ask once you're there. But you should look at it, look at the keywords they're using, look at the "must haves" and the "would like to haves" and see how you can convince them that you have similar experience. It might not be the exact experience they put in the job description or the posting. So, think about that.

And actually, do research on the position beyond that and on the organization. Now in the hospital setting, it can be quite easy because hospitals are ranked and they're measured and they're rated. And if they're a nonprofit, you can go to and look them up. You can look at their financials. If they're a publicly traded company, you can look at stock reports. Again, if it's a hospital, either there's rating agencies and you can get a pretty good feel about the nature of the organization, but you have to spend an hour or so, just getting their background and not walk in as though you have no idea who these people are.

Now, it can be hard. If you're applying in the large UM company, they're going to be interviewing a ton of people who are going to be doing only probably telephone or video interviews who are going to be shorter. They're not going to care if you know how well the company is doing from a basic financial standpoint, but when you get it into a smaller medical communications company or a hospital, it's going to help to know really what's going on. And that includes looking at their annual reports if they have one and looking at news in that county or that town in terms of what's going on at the company, if they're big enough to make it into the news.

So those are the main things that I wanted to mention today. So, to summarize here are the mistakes that will derail a job search.

Number 1 - Going in with tunnel vision and not keeping an open mind.

Number 2 - Being intimidated by the job description.

Number 3 - Preparing a CV rather than a resume.

Number 4 - Using the same cover letter and resume for different jobs or even different industries.

Number 5 - Depending too much on the online applications and not leveraging networks and networking as much as you should.

Number 6 - Not learning the jargon of the field that you're pursuing.

Number 7 - Not taking the interview seriously.

Number 8 - Not preparing sufficiently.

So those are the big eight. I know I'm a little over, but I do have two bonus mistakes to avoid.

One is the failure to prepare a complete LinkedIn profile. That's going to come in handy. You can get jobs by people finding your LinkedIn profile. We didn't talk about that, but let me just say quickly that you should have a recent photo in there. You might have a background picture and the whole thing should be complete. You should have a description with keywords in it. Everything you've done job wise, everything you've done education wise, anything you've published. It's very, very complete. It would be much longer than your written resume. And so, you can put a lot more in there, including all the things you volunteered for that are pertinent.

The other bonus mistake to avoid really comes afterwards and it's really not about landing the job, but it's about whether you should take the job. Let me just say this: Would you marry someone or accept or even ask for someone to marry you if you hadn't gone to more than one or two dates" Most of us wouldn't.

So, you should do some digging and learn more about the employer after the interview is done in terms of what it's like to work there. You can do that beforehand to some extent, but don't just jump into a job that you might be at for 10 or 15 years if it works out. You don't want to be stuck in that thing and be back where you're starting now. So, talk to other employees, talk to customers, talk to other physicians.

Check and see if there is physician leadership in the organization. The more physician leadership, the less likely you're going to work where there's a lot of burnout. Because physicians managing physicians generally do a better job and there's usually more engagement, less burnout.

Like I say, most of us don't make or accept a marriage proposal after one or two dates. And those that do are often disappointed. So, the same thing applies to most jobs. You'll be married to this new employer potentially for decades. So, do more research work, walk the halls. If there are nurses involved in what you're doing, ask them because they know all the doctors, they know all these things that are going on, especially in a clinical situation. But talk to someone similar to a nurse position if you're looking at a MSL job or UM job too.

Okay, that's it. I am going too long now. I want you to go get that new job, avoid all these mistakes that I mentioned today. Thanks for listening. I do appreciate you. The links for today's show can be found at


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