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Lives of Doctor Wives: The Inside Scoop on Interviewing

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Inside Scoop on Interviewing

I still remember the first interviews my husband had when he finished residency. I remember discussing which states were acceptable and then rating them first choice to last. When my husband went on his first interview, it was a real eye opener. I wasn’t invited to come along, but that didn’t stop me. My husband spent the entire day in interviews (even over lunch) and I was left to fend for myself. As I walked around the hospital block over and over, I began to notice drug deals taking place outside the building. That one observation taught me that a second pair of eyes is always good when considering a new job.

Now I’m on the other end. My husband is the one who hires and fires physicians. When he’s recruiting a new surgeon or radiologist, I come along to meet the spouse. I can learn a lot by talking with her (and sometimes him), and I can share things about the community that she should know. My husband and I believe that if a community isn’t right for a physician’s family, it’s best to find that out BEFORE the contract is signed. A recruiter may disagree with that statement, but my husband doesn’t want to invest his time in filling a position twice.

Mark has worked for several hospitals, each with a different set of strengths and weaknesses. Some employed their physicians. Others had cordial relationships with practices. In nearly all cases, my husband and I were a part of the interview dance. While he spent the day meeting with the physician, I took the wife to lunch to answer questions about the community. My first goal was to establish if she was interested or reluctant to move to the community. Then I would find out if her interests matched up with what the community had to offer. I also loved to ask the question, “so how did you and your husband meet?” Not only was it fun to hear the answer, but the way in which the story was told said a lot about their relationship. Mark always avoided the strained relationship that could become a distraction. (Ladies, if you get asked this question, realize that you’re being interviewed and think before you speak. Sharing that you started out having an affair is NOT a good answer.)

Realtors usually worked with administration, too. Oftentimes, a realtor would be asked to give a physician’s wife a tour of the city. A few neighborhoods would also be in the plans. This was a great way to see what kind of lifestyle the wife was expecting. If she only looked at the very top end homes, it could be an indication that the salary range wasn’t a match. The realtor also had an opportunity to find out some things about the candidate and his family. That information was usually passed on to me in preparation for the next day’s luncheon. (If you’re offered a realtor, accept the offer. If you aren’t, ask for one. Ask to see a wide variety of prices and styles, and use her as another resource to find out about schools, sports, and local politics.)

Sometimes there were existing physicians who liked to ruffle feathers when a “new kid” came to town to interview. It was their way of sabotaging the practice’s expansion, or in some cases just causing trouble. To avoid an undesired encounter, preemptive meetings were sometimes scheduled so only some of the practice physicians attended. At a minimum, the disruptive physician was never left alone with the candidate. (Wives, make sure your husband goes to the practice and talks with every physician on staff. If they’re not available, phone calls are a smart alternative.)

Some candidates only wanted to come if certain promises were met (a new building, a new procedure, better benefits). As much as my husband wanted to guarantee something, his promise was only as good as the current hospital budget. (Tell your husband if a condition is a deal breaker; don’t take a job where it’s not already in place.)

My husband’s worst nightmare was the physician who thought he was smart by getting an attorney involved with a contract. In most cases, the stall tactics and nitpicking of the attorney made the candidate seem less desirable. Sometimes, the attorney would fight for something that was illegal and Mark would have to give an ultimatum and prepare to offer the job to another candidate. By the time negotiations were over, the relationship was damaged. The best negotiations were hammered out over a few meetings and phone calls and put to paper in a civil fashion. Notes of the agreements were then drawn up in final contract language and reviewed by an attorney. (Ladies, having a final contract reviewed is smart, but warn your husband about getting an attorney involved in the actual negotiations. They’re just going to drag it out to rack up your bill.)

So there you have it… the inside scoop from a CMO’s wife. I hope these tips help you as your family looks for the next opportunity. There are more specific tips on how you can influence an interview on my blog.

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Blogger Alexandra said...

Thank you for sharing! Those are some wonderful points and I'm so thankful that you let us know about how things work ahead of time!

April 20, 2009 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger MW said...

Great tips! We're quite a few years away from the 'real world' interviews, but I'm sure some of the same advice applies to residency interviews which are coming up in a few months. :)


April 25, 2009 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger Kathi Browne said...

Glad you're finding the article helpful.

These tips apply to interviews leading up to match day and after. You should not only check out the area, people, and hospital, but early interviews provide good practice for you to figure out how you can help your spouse during an interview. I stumbled a lot in the early years and that's how I was able to be affective later one.

April 25, 2009 at 10:50 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I agree with everything Kathi said. I was able to go to only one of my husband's initial interviews for a practicing position. While he interviewed, the recruiter took me and my son to the local library to check out it's programs and early childhood offerings. We had lunch, and I was able to meet one of the other wives. Then, a realtor took us around the town to check out neighborhoods and the community in general. It was a great way for us to see the practice and hospital and community together. It turned out NOT to be the place for us.
Where B's practicing now, he went to the initial interview by himself. However, they were so interested in having him, they almost immediately offered him a "second interview", which was really more of a get together with most of the doctors and their families. V and I were invited to go along, and it was such a nice way to be introduced to the practice and the people involved. They were so welcoming from the start, which made it very easy for us to decide it was the place for us. Also, we stayed at our hotel for the weekend (we had a wedding in the area to attend, anyway), so we spent some time driving around the community to get an idea of what it's like. One of the doctors recommended a realtor to us after B accepted the position, and she was very helpful in finding a neighborhood and house that suited us (in fact, she lives just down the road from us!). I think one thing that's helpful is to see the office and meet the staff before your husband starts working there. I think it's the staff that really makes the office (I used to work in medical offices, so I kind of know what it's like on that side of the desk). The staff in B's office are so great and nice (receptionists, nurses, managers, etc), and they're always happy to see V and I when we visit. That's one way to know if it's a good place for your husband. If the staff members like their jobs and their bosses (read: your husbands), then it should be a great place for your husband to work! I think that's why B chose where he's practicing now, and why he's so happy there!

April 26, 2009 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Great insight, Kathi! I would also suggest a lunch/dinner/informal meeting with the doctor's wives. They can be a huge help and give you a realistic picture about the practice and what will be expected, plus insight on neighborhoods, schools, etc.

I wanted to add one thing about attorneys and contract negotiations. What you will need (as far as legal advice and help with negotiations) will greatly depend on what kind of practice he will join. If he is going into academics or a large practice, there will not be much room for negotiation. He will likely get the same contract as the last 15 doctors they hired. However, if he is looking at a smaller private practice, there is much more room for negotiation, and you absolutely should hire a consultant and/or attorney ***who specializes in medical contracts***. In either case (large or small practice) have someone ***who specializes in medical contracts*** look it over before you sign anything. You can't afford not to! You really, really, really do not want to get locked into a contract and a miserable practice situation with no way out of it. (I think we could do an entire week on contract negotiations!)

Thanks for sharing, Kathi!

April 27, 2009 at 11:12 AM  
Blogger --Leann-- said...

I hate to go against the flow here ladies, but is it, or is it not illegal to make hiring decisions based on marital status?

To ask questions intending to get information on the strength of a marriage and then to use that information in determining whether or not to hire is, to my knowledge, illegal.

At the least, to interview a wife without her knowing that what she says/does can be used in determining her husbands eligibility for employment is backhanded.

What this post says to me is that if I am offered the chance to tour with a physician's wife or a realtor hired by the company... decline!! What if you do not get along with the physician's wife? What if she thinks that you dont *fit* with the community? What if you dont overflow with emotion when asked 'how did you meet' and the wife thinks that you dont have a strong relationship?

not good. dont do it.

April 27, 2009 at 9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually don't see anything wrong with hiring an attorney to review the contract. I actually think there's something wrong if you DONT hire an attorney

April 28, 2009 at 2:45 AM  
Blogger Kathi Browne said...

My husband never made decisions based on marital status and I'm certain there was no marital prerequisite. But if they offered that they were married and their wife was willing to participate, it was certainly welcomed because wives can reveal a lot about their husbands.

If a wife indicates that she doesn't have a say in the job change, that is a pretty good indication of future strife in the home. Likewise, if a wife seems to really be happy, it was safe to assume that the harmony in the home will reflect well on his performance. The marital status itself isn't important, it's the interaction of any relationship that has potential to positively or negatively affect a person't performance. don't you agree, anonymous

The lesson here is to watch that your bad day doesn't result in saying something that gives the wrong impression. If you're excited about the possible move, don't be afraid to say so.

April 28, 2009 at 11:20 AM  
Blogger Alexandra said...

Those are some interesting points. I would feel more comfortable hiring an attorney, just to be on the safe side, we would have no clue what was normal or strange in a contract.

And about the interviewing of the wife for a hubby's position, I guess from the practice's standpoint, it would be nice for them to know if you were on board with the move and all, but it seems really dishonest to me or kind of sneaky. Leann brought up some good points. To have the realtor do "the dirty work" seems very strange to me.

Tom makes all the decisions for our home and I trust him and the Lord to take us where we need to be. I think it would be crazy not to hire someone just because they weren't gushing about how they met their hubby. We have a great meeting story,(met working on a drug bust at college), but not everyone has tons of exciting things to say.

But again, I do see how home life would affect his work and the entire practice. I guess it just depends which side you are on, the hire-er or the hire-y, heheh!

April 30, 2009 at 8:25 PM  

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