HealthMarch 09, 2020

Phone interview tips for physicians navigating an online world

By: Megan D. Williams

Phone interviews hold a unique place in a world of 24/7 digital communication, and the start of the physician recruiting process is a perfect time for residents to review tried, tested and new phone interview tips.

Phone interviews are often the first step a practice or hospital takes in evaluating whether new physicians are a good fit for their organization. Hiring is an expensive and labor-intensive process, so the phone interview allows recruiting physicians to get a feel for you, your career goals and your work preferences before investing additional time or requiring travel. You can expect at least one, and possibly even two or more, phone interviews with various staff, from recruiting directors to potential future colleagues.

Of course, thanks to social media and the internet, there’s a good chance that both you and your interviewer have already done a bit of research on each other. Because of this, your phone interview isn’t necessarily the place you’re making a first impression but is instead where you’re making your first real-time connection. This makes the phone interview in some ways more challenging, but also an ideal opportunity to focus on establishing a solid rapport and deepening your connection before meeting face to face. Here’s how.

Do your research

While often less formal, a phone interview is still an interview.

Research the location, hospital, practice or group and any affiliated hospitals before you hop on a call. Also be sure to have some questions of your own ready. It’s good to let the conversation flow organically, but since phone interviews are a two-way interaction and a chance for you to evaluate the potential position before investing more of your time, consider asking about:

  • Practice or hospital philosophy
  • Anticipated responsibilities or a typical working day
  • Staff turnover, including why physicians have stayed at or may have recently left the organization

That said, Clinical Nuclear Medicine recommends going in with a positive attitude, so be sure to frame any potentially sensitive questions carefully. The journal also suggests sticking with neutral, open-ended questions as a way to glean information.

Finally, a phone interview probably isn’t the best time to bring up physician compensation. Be prepared to have the conversation and ask questions if it comes up, but don’t be too eager to get the ball rolling yourself.

Connect before the call

Many physician recruiters and other staff members are active on social media and other platforms. While you might not want to drop a 1,000-word comment on their last LinkedIn post or send them an email every day before the call, you can reach out casually in a way that lets them know you’re engaged and that cements you in their minds before your phone meeting.

Researching them online could also make small talk easier. Especially without visual cues, it can sometimes be hard to gauge the level of informal conversation that should take place before an interview, but knowing an interviewers’ interests or even what’s been happening recently at their organization can give you a springboard into a casual conversation that’s much more interesting and personal than talking about the weather.

Get more advice on succeeding at medical interviews from the International Journal of Surgery: Oncology.

Revamp your voice

The old customer service trick that says to smile while you’re speaking turns out to be more than a gimmick. According to Quartz, research has found that listeners can actually hear smiles—and this can cause the listener to smile themselves.

If you want to see this in action, try taking a video of yourself answering questions that are commonly asked of residents with a straight face and then with more engaged facial expressions such as smiling. Then play them back while focusing only on the audio and see how much of a difference it makes.

In addition, Toastmasters has some great tips for how to make sure your speaking voice is at its best. These include:

  • Exercises to relax your voice
  • Breathing exercises
  • Practice controlling pitch
  • Jaw, tongue and lip exercises

Also try to avoid the urge to speak too fast. Without the benefit of real-time responses of body language or facial expressions, it can be easy to rush through your answers, particularly if you’re nervous. Practice speaking at a slower, more comfortable rate to make sure that your interviewer is focused on your words, not how you’re tripping over them.

Test your tech

Neurology Today notes that medical training doesn’t tend to set physicians up with interviewing skills; the technological aspect of phone interviews only complicates things. The last thing you want to do is put all that work into improving your voice only to have a poor connection or cheap microphone destroy your chances.

Ask a friend to help you experiment with a few methods of calling and compare quality on the listener’s end. Sometimes connecting over a cellular network versus Wi-Fi or even using a headset versus a USB mic can mean the difference between you coming through crisp and clear and poor sound quality leaving your interviewer annoyed.

Remember that even if the interview will happen on a conference line, dialing in instead of connecting over a computer can make a huge difference in how you sound and how you hear the voices on the other end.

Dress the part

What’s most important is how you feel during your interview, so ask yourself if you feel more confident and open when dressed formally or in more relaxed clothing. Test out a couple of options to see which works best for you.

That said, if you think there’s a chance that an interviewer might ask for a video call at the last second—for example, if you’re conducting it over an app that offers video as an option—being presentable might be a chance to score some extra points with a recruiter or future co-worker.

Know your environment

Look for a place that’s quiet, comfortable and as free from distraction as possible where you’ll have access to all the materials you’ll need. Consider testing location options while you’re testing your tech, and no matter how skilled or experienced you might be, don’t conduct the call while driving.

Since you likely won’t be seen by the interviewer, you’ll be able to take advantage of a few options that wouldn’t be possible if you were sitting with them. You can use notes, either physical or on a computer, to go through the points you want to cover as well as a list of interesting details you might like to mention about the organization or your interviewer and, of course, any questions you’d like to ask. You can also jot down notes during the call to remind yourself to bring things up later in the interview—or in your follow-up thank-you note, which Clinical Nuclear Medicine suggests is a good place to continue making a case for yourself.

Beyond the phone interview

Most of these phone interview tips will also help you with video interviews. Phone interviews can actually be wonderful preparation for these, so make note of any issues or opportunities you run into while preparing for or conducting your conversation via voice.

Most importantly, make sure you’re approaching all interactions—no matter what form they take—as opportunities to build relationships in your growing professional career as a physician.

Megan D. Williams
Lippincott® Journals
Lippincott is a leading publisher and partner of premier medical, nursing, and health professionals and associations, publishing the most current and influential research.
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