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The power of the first impression: Delivering a winning physician interview

Insight Article - August 17, 2020

Recruitment & Hiring

Compensation & Benefits

Culture & Engagement

Tony Stajduhar
The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping healthcare in nearly every conceivable way, and that includes how physicians are being recruited. But the enduring challenge in the recruitment and hiring process is in mastering the interview, whether onsite or virtually, to deliver the first-time wow experience for the right candidate.

Why is it so important to nail the first interview? It comes down to the power of the first impression. It may seem counterintuitive, but follow-up interviews do not necessarily increase the candidate’s feelings of confidence about the job and the likelihood that an offer will be accepted. Plus, multiple interviews have additional negative aspects. They drive up your cost per hire, prolong your time-to-fill and negatively affect your interview-to-hire ratio, ultimately impacting your ability to meet patient demand and revenue goals for your practice.

To uncover the specific elements of the interview process that are most important to the physicians you want to recruit, Jackson Physician Search recently commissioned the 2020 Physician Interview Experience Survey

Through our research, we learned that the salient aspects of the interview experience for candidates who decided to accept a position after the first interview reflect the fulfillment of their needs on three levels: informational, emotional well-being and alignment of values. Specifically, we found that the majority of candidates who decided to accept their jobs felt: 
  • Welcomed and excited about the organization and community 
  • Assured they had all information in hand and all their questions answered
  • Aligned closely with the organization’s mission and values

Create a welcoming interview experience

A community tour tailored to appeal to candidates and family members is critical to helping them imagine living in your community and reducing any anxiety that comes with being the “new people in town.” Learn as much as possible about the candidate’s background, family situation, interests and lifestyle to create an experience that makes them feel welcomed and excited.

Even if travel is not possible during the pandemic, an organized "virtual" agenda for spouses or significant others is an essential aspect of the interview experience. Take the time to understand what they may be looking for in a career and offer to arrange networking opportunities.

Just before the interview, send a gift basket of items that represent their interests and what your community has to offer. Share a video highlighting your organization, local culture and popular attractions. Your realtor can arrange virtual home tours and provide a curated list of desirable neighborhoods and schools, popular restaurants and relevant community activities. 

All of these gestures demonstrate that the whole family is important to your organization. With the help of technology and creative ingenuity, you can spark excitement about your practice opportunity and a sense of being welcomed to the community.

Plan the interview for greatest impact

Physicians are attracted to organizations that have well-planned, efficiently delivered recruiting and hiring processes. Responses to the survey make it clear that you can differentiate your organization and positively influence candidates’ decisions when you structure a comprehensive, well-organized interview that leaves no questions unanswered. 

This is your best opportunity to demonstrate what it will be like to work there. Interview participants who appear distracted, or who show up late or not at all, represent a red flag to candidates. Instead, include stakeholders with high emotional intelligence who can pick up on – and help resolve – any feelings of anxiety, frustration or doubt. Gather feedback from candidates by inviting them to complete a post-interview survey.

Most physicians favor a structure that allows them to keep moving forward; they are easily frustrated by the appearance of wasted time and energy. If the interview is virtual, be sure the technology is buttoned-up and that you have a back-up plan ready.

Keep the process moving by quickly producing an offer of employment so it can be accepted before the candidate receives competing offers. It works: The survey reported that 61% of the candidates who accepted right away had received a written offer within seven days of the interview.

Tap your A-players to demonstrate alignment

As physicians have more choices in practice opportunities, they are more often inclined to seek out organizations that are culturally aligned with their values. This is borne out overwhelmingly in the survey responses from candidates who accepted immediately after their first interview.  These physicians ranked the alignment of an organization’s mission and values with their own as 9.2, with 10 being perfectly aligned.

To achieve this level of alignment, put your “A-players” on your interview team. Include senior leaders who can sell the vision and demonstrate by their presence that they place a high priority on physician recruitment and retention. Also, include peers who embody the organization’s mission and values by offering examples of how these are reflected in their practice and daily work. This will help candidates recognize their own level of alignment. In fact, everyone on the interview team must be at the top of their game to make them feel welcome as partners and assure their support in the family’s transition.

In summary, candidates want to feel welcomed, excited, well-informed and closely aligned with your organization’s values. The first interview is the make-or-break moment to engender these feelings with a best-in-class experience that results in the physician accepting your position immediately after the first interview.

Download the 2020 Physician Interview Experience Survey today

About the Author

Tony Stajduhar
Tony Stajduhar
President Jackson Physician Search


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