GUSTAVO STRINGEL, MD
According to Webster's Dictionary, a job interview is “a formal meeting in which one or more persons question, consult, or evaluate another person.” During our professional lives, we all are subjected to the interview process. It is important for the process to establish the reason for the interview. Is it for a professional purpose, or perhaps for personal, business, or other reasons? I will focus on the professional aspect of interviewing, mainly related to our careers in medicine. In this first article, I will limit the discussion to the interview process from the point of view of the candidate.
GETTING THE INTERVIEW:
Resume or Curriculum Vitae?
The key to opening the door to any potential job opportunity is one's resume or curriculum vitae (CV). The resume is generally preferred by business organizations, while the CV is more commonly used in medicine. At the same time, executive healthcare jobs often appreciate the value of the resume.
The CV is a long document that narrates the professional life of a person in significant detail, and it literally translates from Latin as “course of a life.” The CV describes almost all the most important events in the life of the person, including place of birth, marital status, family, education, past positions, qualifications, publications, presentations, awards, and social contributions.
The resume is a brief account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience. It should be short and powerful, list one's professional experiences in reverse chronological order going back 3 to 5 years, and generally not exceed a period of 10 years. The potential employer is more interested in the last few years of a job candidate's life unless there were significant achievements in other periods that are relevant and worth highlighting. It is important to include words such as leadership, teamwork, motivation, management, creativity, experience, and career goals. The general guideline is that a resume should not exceed 3 pages.
The choice of resume or CV depends on the particular situation. Both formats are important and reflect one's professional life, so these documents must be prepared well and with special care. There are professional agencies that can help to polish resumes or CVs, which are important not only for a job search but also for promotions and marketing. It is important to remember, however, that while these documents will open the door for a job seeker, resumes and CVs will not secure the job.
The Phone Interview
The telephone call is often the first interview, and a common procedure for recruiters to screen potential candidates. I, myself, dislike telephone interviews because I feel they can give the wrong impression of a candidate. The interviewer may be biased by the tone and quality of one's voice, accent, and other variables. I do poorly in telephone interviews perhaps because I am self-conscious about my foreign accent.
The reason for the interview must be clear. It makes a difference if one is being interviewed for one's technical skills, social skills, experience, management ability, etc. If a surgeon is being interviewed for his or her surgical skills, it is not so important how the job candidate sounds on the telephone. If a telephone call about an interview comes at a bad time, one should not hesitate to tell the caller that another time, such as later in the day, would be a better time to talk. However, one must be mentally ready to be interviewed at any time when actively searching for a job.
INTERVIEWING IN PERSON
The job is generally won or lost during the interviewing process. Dress for the occasion! As a general rule, men should wear a conservative suit and tie, and women should wear a conservative dress or suit. I might add that every year during the interviewing season at hospitals and medical schools it is impressive to see all the young people in dark suits-despite the fact that after they are accepted into their programs, they are never again seen wearing suits.
It is advisable to prepare a number of questions pertinent to the job. Most recruiters recommend not talking about money during the first interview. Discussion of this matter should be reserved for the negotiation period. It is important to be on time for one's interview. If the interviewers are late, do not be impatient. Be prepared for any type of interview.
There are 2 main types of interviews, the traditional interview and the behavioral interview. The traditional interview consists of general questions. Experts argue that this type of interview does not predict the future performance of the individual. The candidate can usually get away with telling the interviewer whatever he or she wants to hear, even if it does not reflect the candidate's true feelings or experience. Examples of traditional questions and request for information may be: How do you describe yourself?; What are your professional goals?; How do you describe yourself in terms of your ability to be a team player?; Give me an example of your successful accomplishments; Tell me about the salary range you are looking for.
The behavioral interview is based on the following concepts: Situation or Task, Action (taken) and Results (achieved). It is often called the STAR (or SAR) technique. Some of the areas covered by behavioral interviews include decision making and problem solving, leadership, motivation, communication skills, interpersonal skills, organizational and social skills, and behavior in a stressful situation.
The behavioral interview is preferred by many organizations and most large organizations, as it has been said that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. During the behavioral interviewing, the interviewer tries to evaluate how the candidate will respond to a particular situation.
The kinds of questions and requests for information in the behavioral interview include: Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to convince someone to see things your way; Give an example in which you were relatively quick to make a good decision; Give an example of a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty; and describe a recent unpopular decision you made and what the result was.
Examples of behavioral interviewing questions and techniques for preparation that can be found on many educational Web sites on the Internet.
It has been said that candidates who prepare well for behavioral interviews will also perform well during traditional interviews. Use of behavioral answers is well received even by inexperienced interviewers. Large organizations that invest time and resources preparing behavioral interviews attract the best candidates.
Interviews can also be categorized as structured or unstructured and be conducted in groups or on a one-to-one basis. The structured interview consists of predetermined questions. The unstructured interview is spontaneous and leaves the line of questioning to the interviewer's discretion.
Group interviews can be conducted with a large or small group. The typical large interview is conducted by a search committee. I have been interviewed by large groups and have interviewed individuals as part of a large group. I find that large groups do not conduct effective interviews. There is little room for spontaneity or little time to ask any meaningful questions. In such groups, the local candidate has the advantage, because he or she knows the players and in many occasions may have political or social ties with some of the members of the group.
As a general rule, most physician interviews are casual and unstructured. The interviewer may ask all kinds of questions about one's skills, training, and experience. The advantage of interviewing physicians is that the medical boards that grant state medical licenses have generally conducted a thorough checking of the individual and credentials are not an issue, unless a particular red flag merits further investigation. At the same time, there are many questions that an interviewer is not allowed to ask. It is illegal to discriminate based on sex, race, national origin, marital status, sexual preference (in 16 states and the District of Columbia), religion, age, or disability. It is important to remember that while being interviewed, one is also interviewing the potential employer.
Address reprint requests to: Gustavo Stringel, MD, 21 Addison St, Larchmont, NY 10538-2744, USA, Telephone: 914 493 7620, Fax: 914 594 4933, E-mail: email@example.com
Gustavo Stringel, MD, is Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at New York Medical College. He has published and often presents on laparoscopy and thoracoscopy in children. He serves on the editorial board of JSLS and sits on the SLS Board of Trustees.
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