Top 10 Screening Questions You Need to Ask Physician Candidates

The initial phone screening of physician candidates, while one of the first steps, is also one of the most important steps in recruiting the right physician to join an organization. When done right, a good initial phone screening can give a physician recruiter insight to a candidate’s personality, professional interests, motivations, and level of interest in their opportunity, essentially laying the groundwork for how the physician recruitment process will proceed.


But what makes a good phone screening, and how can recruiters tell when a candidate has failed it? Below are ten questions recruiters must ask in order to complete a quality phone screening, and what the answers can indicate about a candidate.

1. Why are you considering this location?

Physician recruitment is both costly and time consuming. Because of this, recruiters want to do everything possible to ensure that their hires will stay on long term. One of the best ways to do this is by checking to make sure a physician has strong ties to your area, increasing the likelihood that they will stay with your organization for the duration of their careers. Make sure to find out why a candidate is considering your location, if they have family and/or friends in the area, and if they’re pursuing positions in other locations where they may have ties.

2. What is your time line?

Some candidates begin their job search more than a year out from when they’d plan to begin, whereas others have more flexible time lines due to the fact that they don’t have an active contract. Finding out when they would be available to join their team and if there is anything that may restrict that time line can help you see if they would be able to fill a current or projected future need.

3. What does your ideal practice situation look like?

While the majority of physicians today want to be employed, a minority still want to be in private practice. Additionally, physicians will have varying ideas as to what their ideal group size, referral base, network, and payer mix will be. Find out what they truly want and see if it matches what you’re currently offering. If there are large differences between their ideal situation and what the reality of your opportunity is, pursuing this candidate could be a waste of both of your times as they will likely either decline your offer, or leave your organization shortly after joining.

4. Is there anything you DON’T want to be doing?

Based on past experiences, schedule preferences, professional interests, or personal commitments, some physicians will have very distinct ideas of what they don’t want in their next opportunity. Make sure to ask about procedures, scheduling, call, and prescribing reservations to make sure that the candidate is not only able, but willing, to meet the needs of your practice.

5. What are you special interests?

While some physicians are happy with just the “bread and butter” of their specialty, others will have unofficially sub-specialized or aggressively pursued special interests. A candidate’s special interests can be either positive or negative, depending on the needs of the hiring practice. While a special interest or sub-specialization can open up a whole new patient pool, having to many physicians who focus on special interests in the practice can cause the practice to lose out on patients who simply need to see a generalist in their field.

6. Is there anyone you need to take into consideration during your search?

For most physicians, there is usually someone they need to take into consideration when weighing the possibility of a move for a new position. Whether it’s a partner, spouse, child, or pet, these individuals can affect everything from a candidate’s time line, location flexibility, and whether they will even end up relocating at all. Finding out who these individuals are and what their unique needs are apart from the candidate is an important part of successfully recruiting the physician .

7. Is there any reason you would be unable or hesitant to take this position?

Many physicians work under employment contracts, which means there could be some legal snags for candidates looking to exit their contracts early. Whether it’s a claw back for loan forgiveness, a non-compete clause, or any of a litany of legal restrictions, physicians can have their time lines thrown completely off balance – or be unable to change positions altogether.

8. Why are you considering leaving your current position?

When dealing with new graduates, this question is often moot. But with practicing physicians, the way a candidate answers this question can provide insight into possible red flags. For example, a candidate that cites compensation issues, practice specifics, or difficulties with administrative leadership could alert recruiters to the possibility of a fraught recruitment and retention situation. Find out specifically what is making them unhappy in their current situation and if has any resemblance to parts of the opportunity you’re looking to fill.

9. Is there any reason you may be unable to be credentialed?

Unfortunately for recruiters, not all possible candidate issues will be obvious from a glance at their CV. Some candidates have long histories, including malpractice suits, legal issues, or license suspensions that can lead to issues when the time comes for a candidate to complete the credentialing process. Often times, asking this question up front can lead a candidate to disclose any potentially negative history and allow the recruiter to run any potential problems past HR before expending precious resources bringing in a candidate for a site visit.

10. Is there anything else you want to know about the position or organization?

Just like with other positions, good candidates should have plenty of questions regarding the position or your organization. A candidate who doesn’t have any questions is likely either unprepared or lacking a sincere interest in joining your organization. Either of these reasons should be enough reason for a recruiter to rethink moving forward a candidate who indicates a possible issue with credentialing.

Key Take Aways:

  • Dig deep – get the details about what a candidate wants, doesn’t want, and what made them leave their last position.
  • Look for anything that can throw a wrench into your recruitment plan, whether it’s a time line issue, credentialing problems, or a third party that isn’t happy about a move.
  • Make sure you know exactly what about your opportunity attracts your candidate, whether it is location, practice specifics, or special interests.
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