You’ve worked part-time as a medical director, possibly completed a new masters degree and attended countless conferences produced by the American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL). You’ve sent your CV to several recruiters and now it's time for an interview.
This is a very exciting time. You want to make a great impression. If we were sitting down for a cup of coffee, here are a few suggestions I would make as you prepare for your first interviews.
1. Do Your Research
Spend some time learning about your prospective employer. Look at its website. Identify the mission, vision and values of the organization. Find a copy of its most recent annual report.
If it is a hospital or health system, look at quality data published on HospitalCompare.gov and HealthGrades. You might even check out the enterprise on Guidestar if it is a not-for-profit institution.
2. Review Major Issues
Brush up on common issues that a physician executive will need to be knowledgeable about. If the position is for a hospital VPMA or CMO, the following topics will often come up:
- Process improvement models like Toyota’s Lean Process and Six Sigma
- Medicare’s Core Measure and Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program, including HCAHPS and CG-CAHPS
- Truven Health Analytics 100 Top Hospitals (see previous blog post)
- National Quality Foundations' Endorsed Measures List
- Patient Safety Measures such as those by the Joint Commission or the AHRQ
- Sentinel Events and performing a root cause analysis
- Electronic Medical Records and Meaningful Use
- Experience with Code of Conduct and the so-called “disruptive physician”
3. Prepare for These Leadership and Management Questions
Each organization, and each interviewer will have their own pet questions. But be ready to answer some of the following.
- “Tell me about a project that you led successfully.” You might discuss opening a new unit or starting a new service line. If you are not that experienced, perhaps you have led a team to create a new set of quality guidelines. Ideally, you would have data to show the success of the project in terms of volume or quality metrics.
Interviewers are taught to go deep on a topic to verify that the applicant is not just generally knowledgeable but has specific experience in an area, to parse out those participating from those actually leading.
- “Describe your greatest weakness.” Be careful on this one. Don’t get cute by answering with false humility (“I’m sometimes too committed to the point that I spend long hours in my job.”). The best approach in your interview would be to honestly describe a weakness AND the steps you have taken to try to overcome it.
- “Why are you leaving your current job?” The object here is to focus on the positive reasons and to avoid assigning blame or complaining. Employers are looking for someone who is positive and optimistic, and avoiding applicants who are not seen as accountable.
4. Be Inquisitive During the Interview
I think the most important suggestion I could make about your interview is to be curious and honestly seek answers to these and similar questions:
- What do you see as the most important goals for a new VPMA or CMO over the first 90 days and the first year?
- What new strategic initiatives will need to be supported?
- What have been the greatest challenges for the previous CMO?
- Are there any serious medical staff/physician issues that need to be tackled?
- How would you describe the executive team? Is it well-integrated? And how will the new CMO be integrated into the team?
5. Don't Discuss Salary on the First Visit
Here are a couple of thoughts on the discussion of potential salary.
- I think it is best to postpone salary discussions until after you have had a chance to fully assess the opportunity. Even if the employer brings it up first, I would respond in this way: “I think we can have that discussion once we agree that I am a good fit for the organization. I am confident that we will come to an agreement on salary when we get to that point.”
- From a negotiating standpoint, when the time comes, I recommend you ask the employer to specify the salary range, rather than you suggesting what you want in a salary. The employer will already probably have a copy of your W-2 and know your previous income. In order to negotiate from strength, it is best to have the other party begin with an offer to which you can respond.
What other issues do you think are of top importance when preparing for an interview? Would it be useful if I provided a post devoted to negotiating your salary? I look forward to your comments.