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Top interview questions for hiring physicians


This face-to-face encounter enables physicians and other staff to get to know a candidate in ways that go beyond a resume on a desk and letters of recommendation.

hiring interview | © Jacob Lund - stock.adobe.com

© Jacob Lund - stock.adobe.com

The interview lies at the heart of the hiring process. This face-to-face encounter enables physicians and other staff to get to know a candidate in ways that go beyond a resume on a desk and letters of recommendation.

“A critical step when hiring a physician is to do your homework to understand what’s important to your own practice and what is the culture of the medical group,” says Jack Chou, MD, physician-in-charge at Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park, part of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group in Baldwin Park, Calif.

Once clarified, bring those criteria into the interview, he adds.

Here are five questions that can help a practice ascertain if a physician candidate will indeed meet those criteria.

“Tell me about your background.”

This open-ended question is an important starting point, although the practice already has information about background, credentials, and experience from the candidate’s resume.

“I like to hear individuals describe their own background to hear how they communicate, since communication skills are a critical part of being a good physician,” says Rick Kellerman, MD, professor and chair for family and community medicine at the Kansas University School of Medicine-Wichita.

Don’t be too specific at the beginning, he advises. A practice will want to know if the person’s self-report matches their resume and how he or she accounts for gaps in employment or other issues that might stand out. Then ask clarifying questions, he says.

“Why did you choose this profession?”

Chou notes that healthcare is a “service industry”and providing service goes beyond “talent and quality.”

Since the reasons for choosing a medical career reflect the candidate’s values and goals, they will highlight the candidate’s ability to provide service that transcends clinical skills. “So you want to find out why your candidate chose this particular profession,” Kellerman advises.

“Why are you interested in our practice?”

Understanding the motivations of a candidate is crucial in determining if he or she is a good fit.

Ask, for example, “Are there geographical motivations, perhaps nearby family?”

Interviewers should inquire how much a prospective candidate knows about the practice, which gives a sense of how much due diligence they have done and how thorough they are.

“Can you recall a disruptive patient?”

One way to ascertain whether a candidate is a good fit is to see how he or she relates to the nonclinical challenges patients often pose.

Chou’s group engages prospective physician associates in behavior interviewing, but their questions do not entail creating hypothetical “what-if” scenarios.

Instead, Chou asks open-ended questions such as, “Can you recall a patient who was disruptive and how you handled it?”

“A red flag would go up in my mind when a candidate is having difficulty coming up with situations that he or she dealt with or is trying to make up hypothetical answers,” he says.

“Do you have any questions for me?”

An equally important component of the interview is hearing what questions the candidate asks.

“Candidates who have no questions show a lack of interest in your group,” Kellerman warns.

And the types of questions candidates ask can help ascertain what their real interests. If they ask primarily about the salary and other financial arrangements, he notes that their major interest is monetary.

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