Top 10 Physician Phone Interview Fails

February 24, 2015

Recently while lecturing to a group of residents, one young physician asked a question:  “Dr., two weeks ago I had a phone interview with a potential job, and since then both the HR person and the recruiter are not responding to my emails or calls.  What do you think is the matter?”  Now, I didn’t come right out and say it this way, but in my mind all I could think of is: “Well, you did or said something on the phone interview that irritated the snot out of one or both of them.”

Phone interview etiquette for is critical to making the right first impression…or the wrong one.  Here are the top 10 EPIC phone interview fails, each from a true resident or fellow interviewing for their first physician job.


Top 10 Physician Phone Interview Fails


Fail #10.   Inappropriate/Unprofessional voicemail.  In the unlikely event that you miss your scheduled telephone interview, having an unprofessional voicemail message may guarantee you will not get a second chance.  If you have your favorite hip-hop song as your message, and you would not let your mother read those lyrics at the Thanksgiving Dinner table, you may want to delete that until after the ink on your employment agreement is dry.  You should have a clear, audible, professional voicemail message, preferably with your own voice.

Fail #9.  Poor cell coverage.  If your phone typically drops calls from home, don’t take the call on your cell at home.  Imagine being on an interview call that is dropped 6 times.  Do you think your prospective new employer is going to keep redialing?  Eventually they will echo the word, “NEXT.”  Equal to this is using a speakerphone.  You’re not Donald Trump.  Pick up the phone or use a headset.

Fail #8.   Not knowing important news about the hospital or employer.  If one of the researchers just earned a Nobel Prize, or if President Obama was just there, you may want to know a little something about that.  Now if the hospital just had an Ebola case, you might not want to bring that up on your own, but be prepared to answer reasonable questions should they be asked.

Fail #7.   Kids screaming/Pets barking in the background.  If you have a last minute challenge with watching your kids, announce that at the beginning of your call.  “I truly apologize. Our daycare person called in sick 30 minutes ago, and unfortunately I will need to juggle our talk with any urgent children needs, unless you would prefer to reschedule.”  Most who have children will understand 100% and perhaps like you more because you are a real person.  Otherwise, keep background noise at a minimum.

Fail # 6.  Not communicating confident energy or enthusiasm.  We do not like it when we have to drag a history out of a lethargic patient, and interviewers don’t want to have to do that with job candidates.  Be prepared to answer questions with some excitement about the position, the company, and city.  Pretend it is like interviewing for the Match when you said; “Thank you Doctor (blank).  I have always wanted to be a (Pediatrician, Pathologist, OB/Gyn, Hospitalist, Psychiatrist) and of all the cities I have visited I like (Cleveland, Jacksonville, San Antonio, Bismarck) the best.”  To which the attending typically replies: “Thank you.  And we plan to rank you high.”  Just go with it, play the game and show some enthusiasm.

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Fail #5. Poor communication skills: Er, Ah, MMmmmm, Huh? Yea, Ya’know, Like, Right?  These are nervous utterances all of us are guilty of from one time to another.  If you habitually use these words in your conversations, you may want to rehearse practice interviews with someone and video tape yourself.

Fail #4.  Poor attention span… Appearing distracted…and Yawning/not communicating interest.  This is a job interview where someone is going to offer you a contract for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  That’s likely the  equivalent of your entire student loan amount in just one year!  If you are not truly excited, FAKE IT.  If you know you’re going to be post-call, schedule the call for a time when you’re perkier.

Fail #3. Going to bathroom while on the phone.  Ok-ok.  We have all done this.  While you may be able to hide the fact you are urinating, you can’t hide flushing the toilet.  This is a scheduled call; plan ahead and go before the call starts.

Fail #2. Eating while on the phone.  Sipping a drink is fine.  But crunching chips or granola, or speaking with your mouth full, is disrespectful.

And the #1 All-time Possible Fail.  Not answering the phone when called.  If your attending schedules a meeting with you, would you be late or miss it altogether?  Then don’t miss your telephone job interview either.  Put it on your electronic calendar with reminders.  Be ready.  Treat it like a priority.


Your phone interview is just one of the many important steps on your journey to landing the job you deserve.