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By Nisha Mehta, MD, a physician leader whose work focuses on physician empowerment, community building, and career longevity in medicine

Finally! You’ve done countless interviews at this point, but for many of you, this is the first one where you are interviewing for a “real job.” Some of the same rules apply, but others are very different.

To start, the dynamic in this interview is much different than others. You are likely interviewing with people who will be your colleagues, and your impression of them counts just as much as their impression of you. Depending on the job market in your field, there’s a distinct possibility that they may even need you more than you need them.

Additionally, in an ideal scenario, you are picking a job that will last longer than a set time period of training. You are designing what potentially decades of life could look like for you and your family. Since this isn’t just a stepping-stone to the next thing, your approach will need to be more all-inclusive. Also, unlike residencies and fellowships, where a similar core set of responsibilities and expectations are already outlined, there is a lot of variability between jobs, even within the same city and specialty. It’s important you are able to leave the interview with a 360-degree view of the position and the life you will build around it.

Keeping all of that in mind, here are some of my core tips for preparing for an interview:

  1. Do your research about a job ahead of time. Not doing this is one of the biggest mistakes I see applicants making. Showing up to a job and asking basic questions whose answers can easily be found online will cause interviewers to question why you’re at the interview and how serious you are about the job. You want to come in knowing how the group is structured from a management perspective, what its patient population looks like, who the referral base may be, and what areas within your field the group specializes in, as well as some areas or topics where you may be able to add value. Look at the group’s website and the members and see if there are any connections that you might have where you might be able to find common ground. Call the people you know who may be familiar with the group and ask them for insights. Find out if people have left the group recently, as it may raise some red flags. This will all lead to more sophisticated questions that you can ask, and more valuable information to consider when you are making your decision. It will also tell group members you are serious about the opportunity, which will help your chances as they decide whether to extend a job offer. Time and resources are precious in this process, and many won’t want to waste their time if they feel they are 1 of 100 possibilities.
  2. Try and allot time to get to know the city you are interviewing in. For those of you who are trying to return to a known place, this may be less of an issue, but nonetheless, training somewhere or growing up somewhere is different from living there as an adult and potentially raising a family in that location. Make sure the place offers outlets to foster your interests outside of work, as it will play into your happiness and burnout. Tour neighborhoods you may want to live in, and if you have educational preferences for your children, take some time to explore your options. If applicable, bring your significant other with you so that you’re on the same page about pros and cons of living there.
  3. When interviewing with potential future colleagues, don’t be afraid to be yourself. It’s important that the fit feels natural and that there is a mutual desire to work together. As the saying goes, you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. Similarly, you can choose colleagues that you are confident will contribute to your happiness at the job, whether it be via friendships, accommodating emergencies when they arise, splitting work in a way that feels equitable, and being respected. You should see yourself fitting into the culture of the group’s members and in line with the standards, ethics, and practice patterns that they embrace.
  4. In a similar vein, take note of how colleagues are interacting with each other. As the landscape of healthcare delivery gets more challenging and complicated, it’s important that you feel that the group is cohesive and supports each other. If there are obvious tensions within the group, it may be a sign that there is more beneath the surface that’s resulting in conflict, whether it’s RVU (relative value unit) structures, partnership issues, different beliefs about the direction the company is taking, etc.
  5. Talk about money and opportunities for growth. After all, this is a job. Put some effort into figuring out how revenue is generated, when you get to share in those profits, and what the plans of the group are in terms of expansion. If the compensation structure is complicated, ask for details. You don’t have to take up your entire interview time talking about it, but get a basic sense and then ask the interviewer to send you a summary with details later. Understand the benefits. If the group’s members do something a lot different from other groups you’ve interviewed with or your colleagues are interviewing with, ask them why they chose to structure things in that way.
  6. If possible, spend some time shadowing someone whose job is similar to the one you’re interviewing for. Make sure you can see yourself happy in his or her shoes, and if there are obvious pain points or dealbreakers, take note of it. You may not be able to do this on the day of the interview day, but if you have doubts about whether you’d enjoy the particular setting ahead of time, see if an interviewer can incorporate this on a later date. Again, it’s in everybody’s best interest to ensure a job is a good fit for you.

I could go on, but your goal on your interview day is to confirm the job is one you can see yourself enjoying for years to come. You’re really picking more than a job — you’re picking a lifestyle and a vision for your future, and you want to make sure you are keeping a keen eye out for pros, cons, and red flags.