Communication Breakdown: Common Interview Errors to Avoid

Advice / Getting Started / January 15th, 2018


Good communication isn’t only an important component of the physician-patient relationship, it also demonstrates your professionalism and the working relationship your colleagues can expect to have with you. You can state on your resume that you have excellent communication skills, but during your interview you will actually have to prove it – so avoiding these common pitfalls is important.

Error #1: Creating a poor pre-interview impression

Getting your communication right pre-interview ensures that you make it to the interview stage.

At this stage, you’re relying on your CV to speak for you – so make sure that this is as polished as it can be.  You may want to tweak it slightly for each of the roles you apply for, to call out different aspects of your experience and training. Take the time to at least consider this.

Label your CV and other supporting documentation in a way that makes it easy for your interviewer.  Your name and the position you are applying for are a good place to start (Resume from Jane Doe for position of Physician at X Hospital).

Your CV isn’t the only communication by which you will be judged.  Make sure your voicemail message sounds professional and you return calls promptly.  Use a professional sounding email address (John.Brown@email.com, rather than JohnnyBeGood@email.com) and ensure your profile pictures are equally professional (use a headshot).

Error #2: Passing up valuable interview experience

Even if you aren’t sure whether a role is right for you, if you are offered an interview it is worth attending.  Things can look very different on paper than they do in practice – and the job you most fancied on paper might not be your top-runner after you’ve toured the facilities and met the team.

There is a huge benefit to having several irons in the fire.  If you have more than one offer on your desk, you’ll be in a better position to negotiate terms and salary – especially if your potential employer knows they aren’t the only facility making you an offer.

There’s no harm in keeping your options open: you can always say no; but make sure you turn down an offer in a professional and timely manner.

If you decide a position is not for you, you now have more interview experience under your belt. You’ve had chance to perfect your answers and get a grip on your nerves – helping to prepare you for when you do get that interview for the job of your dreams.

Error #3: Creating a poor interview impression

The American College of Physicians offers some great guidance on getting the basics right – including presentational advice, not wearing overpowering scents, and simple slip-ups, such as not making sure your cell phone is switched off.

They also recommend that you check your schedule before you agree to an interview date: you don’t want to show up and try to be at your best at the end of a long shift.

Showing your enthusiasm for the role is vital – however many irons you have in the fire. According to  Dr Robert Kuramoto, Assistant Medical Director of the Christie Clinic in Champaign, Illinois, candidates should “act like this is the only interview that matters.”

Error #4: Going in unprepared

You can’t control how your interviewers will conduct the interview, so try not to worry about that.  You can control your preparation, however – so don’t skimp on it.

Think about what you want from the role; create a list of your priorities and be prepared to be asked and to ask about them during the interview.

The American Academy of Neurology recommends that candidates “practice answers to the most anticipated questions” – good advice no matter what your specialty is.

  • Review the position and the list of candidate requirements. Consider how well your skills and experience match what the interviewer will be looking for and prepare how you can present this information to demonstrate that you are a good fit for the job.
  • Research the employer’s reputation, significant recent news, achievements, investments, background, the local area and demographics, and other relevant information you can find. Not only will this help you come across as well informed and interested, it will help you to consider whether the position is right for you.  You’ll also identify some of the questions you will want to have answered during the interview.

Your preparation will pay off during your interview.

Error #5: Making the employer do all the work in the interview

Don’t forget the interview is for you to decide whether the role, people, and facility are a fit for you as much as it is for the interviewer to find out about you.

Hopefully, you’ve already prepared and thought carefully about what is important to you and what it is about the role or facility that you want to know more about – so you should find it easy to ask questions throughout the interview.

In addition to helping you remain calm because you know you are well prepared, you will impress your interviewer by being able to ask informed and pertinent questions about the facility and the role. You don’t need to wait to the end to raise pertinent questions; this is a dialogue between you and a future potential colleague – and treating it as such should help you to represent yourself professionally and confidently. The ease with which you conduct yourself during the interview will speak volumes about your professional conduct.

Error #6: Not taking notes – or taking poor notes

Don’t be afraid to take notes during the interview process; it’s perfectly acceptable to jot down names, information about the role, reporting structures, or salary.  You are going to make a major life decision based on what is said during the interview, so it is important that you know exactly what was said or promised.

However, make sure your notetaking doesn’t happen at the expense of making eye contact with your interviewer.  National locum tenens agency Locum Leaders advises that maintaining a connection with your interviewer is important.

And never refer to your notes when answering a question.  Don’t jeopardize the impression that you are a subject matter expert and are good at your job.

Error #7: Not following up post interview

Follow up with your interviewer after the interview to thank them for their time and consideration.  As well as being common courtesy, this small act of appreciation adroitly demonstrates your communication skills – and offers a positive glimpse of what it might be like to work alongside you.

According to Merritt Hawkins, this step is also your opportunity to reiterate your interest and your qualification for the role, as well as to highlight something unique about your candidacy that might give you an edge.

Make your thank you message personal and thoughtful.  If you find yourself in a highly competitive situation with another candidate, this small courtesy could be the action that tips the balance in your favor.

Error #8: Failing to play the long game

If you are offered the role, but decide it’s not for you, ensure you let the interviewer know as soon as possible.  Don’t drag things half-heartedly in order to “keep your options open” or because you don’t like delivering bad news.  Remain professional and wish the interviewer good luck with their search.

Who knows when you might come into contact with them in a future professional capacity or whether you would like to reapply to that facility – you don’t want to burn bridges through a simple deficiency of communication.

Candidates who adopt a professional manner and communicate clearly throughout the process should find this a breeze.  When it comes to job searches, applications, and interviews, a little research goes a long way.  And first among everything must be clarity about what you want from a position.  We hope alerting you to these eight common communication mistakes will help you be more confident about the choices you are making and more successful in the interview.

Last but not least it is important to note that it can be nerves getting the better of you that lead to making the communication errors we’ve identified here.  The recruitment process can be stressful for candidates, so make sure you schedule in downtime and relaxation.  And, every now and then, force yourself to take a step back and look at the big picture.