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Conduct Unbecoming an Emergency Physician

Katz, Barbara

doi: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000337990.90116.09
Career Source

Ms. Katz is the president of the Katz Company, an emergency medicine consulting firm dedicated to providing expert physician recruitment services and training emergency medicine residents in effective job searching.



After a 10-year competitive, employer-driven job market, emergency physician job candidates realize they are once again sitting in the driver's seat. But just because you're in the driver's seat doesn't give you the right to run over people in the road. Good employers still expect job candidates to conduct themselves professionally and courteously. From what I've been hearing and experiencing over the past year, this has not been the case, and the offenders are not primarily graduating residents. Even experienced, boarded physicians who should know better are exhibiting behaviors that range from unprofessional and irresponsible to rude and cowardly.

As a recruiter, I worked with a boarded, residency-trained candidate who didn't show up for an interview, leaving a message with the hospital operator even though he had all the numbers for the department chairman. No one ever heard from him with an explanation. Another experienced doctor was unreachable for days prior to an interview, showed up late, left as quickly as possible, and was never heard from again despite repeated attempts to reach him.

ED chairmen all over the country tell me many applicants lack common courtesy and don't pay attention to detail. Sending out a CV and/or cover letter with typographical errors is an obvious demonstration of a job seeker's lack of attention to detail. If the physician can't even proofread his own CV, what kind of documentation abilities can an employer expect? A CV and cover letter are the primary sales tools of a job seeker, and if they are not up to snuff, most employers assume the candidate won't be either. Have someone else proofread your paperwork if necessary. This is the first impression you make on a prospective employer; make sure it's a good one.

There is no excuse for failing to show up for an interview or for arriving late without prior notice. These behaviors demonstrate contempt for the employer and a lack of consideration for others, which are not qualities anyone looks for in an emergency physician. Add to that the failure to call with an explanation after the fact, and you have a textbook description of a coward. If you want to cancel an interview, have the decency to do it the proper way. Make a phone call, and don't just leave a message. Talk directly to the hiring authority and explain. They will respect you for it. And if you are going to be late, let them know.

One physician walked out in the middle of an interview because she heard she would be expected to work a night shift every now and then. She should consider another specialty. Perhaps if she had stuck around, she might have seen or heard something that made having to do an occasional night shift worthwhile. Never, ever walk out in the middle of an interview. You may not like everything you see and hear, but you won't have the ability to make an informed decision if you don't stick around to get all the information. Besides, it's unbelievably rude!

How you present yourself on an interview says a great deal about you as a person and as a physician. If you don't make the effort to present yourself professionally on an interview, you send a signal that you probably won't make an effort to conduct yourself professionally on the job. Proper business attire is the only acceptable clothing for a job interview. Times may have changed, but that hasn't, and it probably never will.

As for cell phones, I can't believe this needs to be said: Turn them off! If you are expecting a call about a life-or-death matter, warn the interviewer ahead of time.

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Be Prepared

There is no excuse for arriving at an interview unprepared without a list of pertinent, targeted questions based on prior research. Every hospital has a web site. Every local newspaper has an archive. Isn't a job search important enough and worth a few minutes of your time to do some preliminary fact-finding? And while you are interviewing, take notes! Asking the same question multiple times makes it clear you're not paying attention or you can't remember details, neither of which will earn you points.

There are ways of explaining why you are on the market and seeking a new opportunity without maligning your current employer. Consider that the people you are criticizing are the ones you will be using as references. Use diplomacy and tact, describing what isn't working for you at your current job, and emphasize what you are hoping to achieve with your new job.

An ED chairman who has been hiring for the past nine months said only 10 percent of the candidates he interviewed sent a thank you letter. A director interviewing a candidate invests a lot of time for that candidate, and deserves a thank you note for that effort. It doesn't matter if you want the job, a thank you note should be sent as soon as you arrive home. It should mention specific highlights from the interview and show appreciation for the interviewers' time and attention. If you decide to turn down the job, don't do it in the thank you note! And do not send receipts for reimbursement with your note; nothing belongs in a thank you note but thanks.

Some of the worst behavior seems to be coming after the interview. A chairman for a major medical center in the Northeast made the current situation clear with this quote: “Candidates tell me they will get back to me, but then they don't call or even send an email. That's so unprofessional. One guy did send me an email saying he wasn't interested, and it had typos all through it. It boggles the mind.”

I don't think emergency physicians understand the long-term effects of poor behavior while job searching. Every bad act has an immediate bridge-burning effect. Emergency medicine is still a small community. The director you offend today may be the head of a department where you want to work in five years or the best friend of another chairman you wish to impress. Word gets around. Emergency physicians talk to each other, and names are often mentioned. A negative impression can be a very difficult thing to change.

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Mistakes to Avoid on Job Interviews

  • ▪ CVs and cover letters with typos.
  • ▪ Failing to show up for interviews with no explanation.
  • ▪ Leaving during an interview when hearing something you didn't like.
  • ▪ Arriving in sloppy, unkempt clothing.
  • ▪ Answering cell phones during interviews.
  • ▪ Asking the same question multiple times.
  • ▪ Being unprepared for interviews.
  • ▪ Criticizing current employers.
  • ▪ Failing to send a thank you note after the interview.
  • ▪ Promising and failing to follow up.
  • ▪ Providing references without asking permission.
© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.