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Career Source: Doctors Behaving Badly

Katz, Barbara

doi: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000396899.09750.79
Career Source


“I know it's a big market right now, but what's up with these docs who fly in on my dime, let me wine and dine them, say they want the job, and then disappear?” a physician asked recently.

“Attitude! Lots and lots of really amazing attitude!” was the response I got from another director asked to describe the physicians he has interviewed this season. Once again, graduating residents seem to comprise the lion's share of the bad behavior, and it's just getting worse. Most of the 2011 graduates are committed to new jobs by now, and the class of 2012 is getting ready to hit the search trail.

Yes, the market is ripe, and all you talented physicians are in demand. But that's no reason to throw out professionalism, ethics, and good manners. Here is what's been going on this season.

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Promising Them Anything, but Giving Them the Shaft

“This is the job for me, absolutely, no question about it, when can I start, just send me the contract. … Please leave your name and number at the beep.”

It appears that some graduates were trying to have their cake and eat it, too. The bad news: You can only accept one job, and you have to stick with it or get branded. It's a tough market out there with lots of jobs, but less than 20 percent are terrific jobs. You don't want to start your career with a reputation for bad behavior and poor business ethics. If you aren't sure you want a job, be honest.

They will continue to interview for as long as you continue to interview. If, on the other hand, you are really afraid of losing the offer, accept it and stick with it. Only say yes when you mean it.

Countless job candidates are showing up on site interviews with big travel and meal expenses, and then disappearing into the night with nary a thank you or word of feedback. Accepting an employer's invitation to a site interview at their expense obligates you to show up, be professional, provide references, send a thank you note, and provide feedback in a timely manner. If you are issued an offer, you must respond with courtesy and tact by the deadline.

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Agreeing to a Job, but Demanding the Moon

Any candidate who goes on an interview with detailed, prior knowledge of the employer's compensation package, but thinks he has the ability to demand more is living in fantasyland. Nearly everything is negotiable, but if you have no practical experience, what are you negotiating with? If an employer has doctors earning a certain hourly level or an RVU percentage, why would they ruffle all those experienced feathers just for you?

If the income isn't in your desired range on the page, don't spend their money on a site interview thinking you can dazzle them enough to pay you more than they are paying their boarded, experienced docs. It is understood that you have school loans, but you can't expect to pay it all back in two years. Do some research on what the market will bear in your geographic area of preference. When you conduct the initial phone interview with the hiring authority, make it clear what kind of income level you require. If they can't match it, they'll say so, and no one is out the price of a plane ticket. Not doing initial phone interviews with the top doc? Shame on you!

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Don't Call Us; We'll Call You

Repeat after me: I will return the phone calls and emails of prospective employers I have contacted and recruiters I have engaged in a prompt and timely fashion. It's good manners, and demonstrates a level of professionalism that might make the difference between getting an offer or not.

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No Cherry on Top?

The inflated sense of entitlement of the class of 2011 is a thing of amazement. I have heard from employers all over the country reporting incredible demands above even generous sign-on bonuses. My favorite, was, “Of course, you'll buy my house so I can move, right?” Physicians of the emergency medicine persuasion, please understand that the money well has a bottom, and needy doesn't mean desperate.

If it's a good job, other candidates are lined up behind you waiting to jump on it without ridiculous demands. There are some interesting perks being offered out there, but don't make outrageous demands right out of the gate. Think about proving your worth first, then asking for a boost.

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Frankly, My Dear, I'd Rather Be in Chicago

If you or your spouse will only consider living in Chicago, why are you interviewing in Cleveland? One can turn down offers for all sorts of reasons, but general location is not one of them. The candidate who responds to an offer with “my wife won't move to (insert city here),” sounds weak, and makes a poor impression. I encourage every graduate to look outside his limited site box to consider other geographic locations to fulfill his lifestyle wish list. But if you're pretty sure you can't live there, don't interview there.

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All's Fair in Love and Job Searching

If you accept a job verbally, you have made a commitment. That means you stop interviewing, and they stop interviewing. It means you enter contract negotiations with the intention of coming to an agreement, the particulars of which should have been discussed already. It doesn't mean that you can stall signing the contract, and keep looking so you can use the job as a backup.

If you say yes, mean it. When you do, the employer tells all other candidates the job is filled. If you renege, they have to start over. You've made an enemy, and burned a bridge, not the best way to start a career. Certainly, if a big surprise shows up in the contract that can't be ironed out, then you have every right to back out, but that's the only acceptable reason. If you are offered another position, you have only one ethical response: “Thanks for thinking of me, but I have already accepted another position.”

I know there is a lot going on out there. I know some employers are not playing fair with candidates and putting on impressive shows to lure in physicians. It's a leap of faith on both sides. What I'm saying is play fair. Take the road less travelled, and treat everyone you encounter with respect. Try to adhere to a few simple guidelines:

  • Always communicate with those involved in your job search in a timely manner.
  • Only accept site interviews with employers for whom you will seriously consider working and in geographic areas where your family is willing to live.
  • Check your attitude at the door before interviews.
  • Think not only what your employer can do for you, but also what you can do for your employer.
  • When negotiating an offer, put away the entitlement and base requirements.
  • When you accept a job verbally, it means you intend to sign a contract.

Even if you interview without costing the prospective employer anything, follow the guidelines. You never know when you might encounter these folks again or under what circumstances. Do you want to be remembered as the rude doctor with attitude, the greedy Gus who couldn't get enough, Houdini's protégé, or the king of the time wasters? Or would you rather be remembered as that nice, professional physician who would have been lovely to get then and is probably even lovelier to get now? The footprint you leave behind is totally in your hands.

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Ms. Katz

Ms. Katz

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.