Interview Prep Strategies to Help YOU Shine
This post provides some helpful tips on how you can prepare to ace the interview.
“Today you are YOU,
that is TRUER than true.
There is NO ONE alive
Who is YOUER than YOU!”
A lot of people look the same on paper. The interview provides an opportunity to show why YOU are the best person for the job.
Everything that is said or implied during an interview should be factual and an honest representation of your professional abilities. It doesn’t pay to fudge it (a.k.a. lie) or in any way try to deceive a potential employer. Ultimately, this would be a disservice to both parties. The objective of a job search is to find a good match. In many ways, it’s like dating—and as is true with any happy relationship—you want an employer who wants you for who you are—the real you—so it’s best to just be yourself.
Of course, it’s one thing to be “you” and another to describe “you” to someone else. Every candidate should be prepared for the common question, “Tell me about yourself.” You know it’s coming, so be ready to present an accurate, concise, relevant, and interesting story. Stumbling over this question sends the message that you’re not prepared or don’t know yourself well (think: soundbites from an NFL game summary, not “Chapter one…I was born” detailed personal history of David Copperfield).
In the book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t , Jim Collins emphasizes that the most important part of any business or organization is getting the “right” people. Technical competence is necessary, but not what separates high performing organizations from the pack. Make them see you as one of those “right people” for the organization and prove you are just the right person for the job.
Someone who has made it all the way through residency and fellowship training is probably technically qualified for a radiology job. The interview is your chance to show you are a good personality fit, have the ability to do the job, can fit in a team environment, and will represent the organization well. The interview may not land you the job, but can kill your chances (if you flub it).
It’s a two way street
Keep in mind, the interview is also an opportunity for YOU to better assess if the organization seems like a good fit, and is right for YOU. While your potential employers are getting to know more about you and evaluating you, you should be doing the same. Face-to-face, on-site visits offer unique insights that web searches, emails, and phone conversations, alone, cannot provide. It’s true, I promise. Note: As I edit this post on 8-4-20, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I realize that virtual interviewing via Skype, Zoom, or other video communication service may be your only option. If so, make sure you become familiar with and practice using the technology, and conduct yourself with the same degree of professionalism as you would with an in-person interview.
Play the field
Interviewing for multiple positions (e.g., 3-4) not only provides a backup in case a top choice falls through, but also helps a candidate compare opportunities on a very tangible level.
Ideally, the interviews should be scheduled close enough together to be able to negotiate with all job prospects at roughly the same time (and avoid having to put off a decision on one job offer while waiting to be interviewed by another).
Often, the first conversation with a prospective employer is by phone. This “preliminary interview” may be with a recruiter or practice manager. Please don’t make the mistake of not taking the preliminary interview seriously. The evaluation by the employer representative may determine whether a face-to-face interview will be offered. The main aim of the call is for the employer to judge the candidate’s personality. Be courteous, demonstrate enthusiasm for the job and express your thanks and gratitude for the opportunity to be considered for the job.
Exercising due diligence before sending an application can help you breeze through the preliminary interview and ensure you are not caught off guard (this includes research and a prepared list of questions and possible answers, which we’ll cover in more detail shortly).
People, get ready
It’s time to get down to brass tacks of interview preparation. Your interviewer says, “Tell me about yourself.” How do you go about handling this open-ended question, avoid other potential interview pitfalls, stand-out from the crowd and shine like the brilliant gem you are?
|The agenda is also the “story” that relates common themes, “aha” moments, and compelling accounts of past events. It should be interesting.
Craft your agenda
Before the interview, one important step is to prepare an agenda, which is 2-3 things that you want the interviewer to know about you by the end of the interview. These things will help distinguish you from others interviewing for the position. The interview agenda is also the “story” that relates common themes, “aha” moments, and compelling accounts of past events. It should be interesting.
“When I was walking around the campus of Montana State University on a snowy winter day, unhappy with my current major and looking for an advisor to help me schedule my next semester’s courses, I walked into the nearest warm building, which happened to house the college of education. The rest was history. I obtained a degree in education, taught school for six years before going to medical school, and knew as soon as I started residency that I wanted an academic career that involved teaching. I parlayed my teaching experience to become residency program director and dean of graduate medical education, received funding for and published results of educational research, and taught radiology education courses to thousands of trainees and practicing radiologists around the world. Although my foray into education was pure happenstance, it became my greatest passion in life.”
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
Play detective (and do your research)
Another crucial aspect of preparing for an interview includes researching the people and place, anticipating and developing answers to possible interview questions, and practicing your responses.
Let the job posting serve as a road map—they’ve outlined what they are looking for in a candidate. Based on this, you can develop sound bites that address the needs of the employer (e.g., 2-3 minute vignettes of how you demonstrated the skills that appear in the job posting). All else being equal between two highly qualified candidates, the one who “brings something else to the table” will have an advantage.
Check out the organization’s website. Read through the information about the hospital, academic center, company, or practice. This will allow you to avoid asking a question that could have been answered from online research. It also gives you a prime opportunity to ask a question related to something you’ve seen on the website—and impresses the hirer by showing you’ve done your research. A group will often post information about their services or initiatives (e.g., prostate MRI, virtual colonography, CT lung cancer screening, quality initiatives) and knowing about these can help you identify and speak to how you can add value to the group.
Reading about other members of the group can make individual interviews with them more meaningful, and help you formulate questions and craft meaningful follow-up notes to interviewers. You may find that you share interests in common with other group members, which may help establish a connection.
In addition to reading about potential colleagues, you can learn a lot from talking to some of them prior to the interview. This not only gives you a first-hand account of the work environment, but allows you to compare answers among group members, better formulate questions for the interview, and demonstrate serious interest in the position.
Be a social media snoop, get the scoop
Contacts on LinkedIn or other social media sites, who previously worked in the organization, may also be able to provide information that can help formulate interview questions. These contacts who are not part of management or who work outside of the organization can be particularly helpful with certain questions that may not result in transparent answers from the employer.
Such questions might include: How is the practice regarded in the community? Do the doctors get along? Is the practice thinking of selling to a hospital or health system? Was the orientation process helpful? What is the referral network like? And so on. This way, you can get the real scoop and be aware of any potential negatives (and avoid walking into a potentially negative situation blindly). As they say, information is power.
Stick around – the next post will get into specific interview questions (and answers).
- Collins J. (2001) Good to great: why some companies make the leap…and others don’t. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers