The “X” Factor in Physician Hiring

My group recently went through the hiring process and recruited a new physician fresh out of training. Each new crop of candidates have CVs more impressive than their predecessors. Amazing! Despite their impressive CVs, I was surprised how many of the candidates could have improved their chances of getting a job offer if they had known about the “X” factor.

First of all, you have to figure out what is your ideal job. Perhaps it is where your skills are needed the most or where your family lives that guide your decision.

You need to have a great CV and cover letter to stand out, in order to get selected for an interview. It is almost like applying to medical school, residency or fellowship.

At the interview stage, the interviewers essentially want to know if you are normal and whether they can see themselves working with you as a colleague. I emphasize “normal”, as we all know that despite the weeding process of medical school selection, there are some people who get in who are… should I put it?…… not pleasant to be around.

The interview is one of the most important parts of the hiring process. Prepare for the interview but be yourself. Here are a few pointers:

  • Obviously, financial remuneration is an important issue in choosing where to work. However, try not to come across as being solely focused on money during the interview. My suggestion is that your first question or comment during the interview should not be about financial remuneration. There will always be an appropriate time during the interview to ask about money/vacation-related issues without appearing to be greedy, such as when the interviewer brings up the topic or after you have asked other questions about the job itself.
  • Be honest when asked about why you want to work at this particular hospital or location. Insincerity is easily detected.
  • Prepare a few questions to ask at the end of the interview to show your genuine interest and to find out more about your future colleagues. You will be spending a significant amount of your time with these people (sometimes more than your family), therefore, this is your chance to see if they will be a good fit with you.

CV and cover letter check. Interview check. 3 official references check.

Now comes the “X” factor in the hiring process, which may or may not come as a surprise to you. Your “X” factor has been in the making since you walked through the doors of medical school.

The Unofficial Reference.

Medicine in Canada is a small world. It is even smaller within your specialty and even more so within your own province. It is definitely less than six degrees of separation.

Most students can put their best foot forward for the hour-long medical school interview. However, during the years of medical school and residency, the real you (best and worst) will eventually reveal itself during this period of stress and fatigue.

Who will bear witness to this? Your eventual unofficial references.

The difficult part is you will not know who they are. They could be a supervisor, co-resident or medical school classmate. They could be a colleague from another specialty you interacted with during a rotation. Or even the support staff.

On the flip side, these people will also see your strengths and positive characteristics during this period.

My advice may be obvious and intuitive to some. Simply put, try to be a pleasant, hard-working and compassionate medical trainee. Treat patients, supervisors, fellow classmates/residents and support staff with respect. Most importantly, be kind!!! That’s it. If you feel deficient in these areas, then it is never too late to start building on these traits throughout your training, as they will help you become a better physician.

By the time you reach the job interview stage, your reputation, which has been cultivated from day 1 in medical school, precedes you. Your interviewers have probably already reached out to friends and colleagues who know you and whose opinions they value. These unofficial references may overlap with the 3 references you have chosen, but most likely not.

A bad unofficial reference can sabotage your chances of landing a job.

A great unofficial reference can easily tip the balance to your favour when competing with other equally highly-qualified candidates.

In short, I came out of the hiring process with this one piece of advice, which reminds me of the days of renting movies from Blockbuster (geez, I feel old thinking about this). Their motto was “Be Kind, Rewind”.

My #1 advice for medical trainees is to “Be Kind (to others), Remind (yourself)” . Your future unofficial references are watching.

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Dr. NetworthLoonie DoctorDr. MB Recent comment authors
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Dr. MB
Dr. MB

Hey DN,

I may exposed too much about myself by saying this… I always knew that I never wanted a real job.

I am 50 years old and I have only had a doctor “job”for 1 year. I have otherwise only been in private practice.

But yes, being a decent person is simply a great way to be.

Loonie Doctor

Hey DN, Having been involved in numerous hires over the years for a variety of positions and getting those “feeler calls”, what you say is 100% true. When I see a resident being rude to a colleague, nurse, patient, support staff, or even to me as an attending (happens more frequently than you’d think) – I almost feel bad for them. Sometimes it is because they are burnt-out, but most commonly the repeat offenders actually think really highly of themselves. They may even be really skilled. They surely get a shock when it comes to landing a job, but by… Read more »