How to Prepare for a Family Medicine Job Interview

April 16, 2016

Interviewing for a new career can be a daunting undertaking, so proper preparation is essential for anyone seeking employment. This especially applies to family medicine physicians, for whom the application and interview process tends to be more rigorous. Even the most experienced physicians can benefit from a better understanding of what medical groups are looking for in a CV and what to expect during the interview process.

Define Your Ideal Practice

The first step in preparing for an interview is to reflect on your years of training/experience, your passions and strengths to define your preferred scope of practice and practice settings.
It is likely you’ve had training in areas such as:

  • Newborn and Pediatric Care
  • Prenatal care
  • Cesarean sections
  • Minor procedures
  • Inpatient consults
  • Suboxone
  • Sports medicine
  • Quality improvement
  • Plus many other focuses


Additionally, your training and/or experience may have exposed you to a variety of settings; rural, urban, HMO, private practice, large or small group practices, and practices in underserved communities. Use these past experiences to envision your future – What is your ideal practice in terms of scope and setting?

The more clearly you define your ideal practice, the easier it will be to align your CV and interview responses with your goals.

kaiser permanente technology


Preparing Your CV

After you have defined your ideal practice and have found the perfect job opportunity, you will submit your CV, application and cover letter for review. It is important that your CV is thorough, yet aligned to the practice opportunity in which you applied.

For instance, if you are searching for an academic practice, consider including more highlights of your teaching and research experiences. If you are interested in a practice focused on women’s health, you might emphasize special women’s health care initiatives that you led. If you desire a sports medicine practice, you might focus on your fellowship training and teams that you supported.

For family medicine positions at Northwest Permanente, our recruiters and hiring physicians will be interested in how your ideal practice aligns with ours. We will also be looking specifically at areas such as:

  • Undergraduate and Medical School Programs
  • Residency and Fellowship Programs
  • Licensure
  • Board Certification or Eligibility
  • Experience


Preparing for Your Interview

Physicians agree that the CV/application can be used to ‘rule a candidate in’ and the interview can be used to ‘rule a candidate out’. Spend as much time preparing strategically for your interview as you did in completing your application materials.

The interview is your opportunity to stand out among other candidates and demonstrate why you are the best choice for the practice. You can do that far more effectively if you are prepared to answer any questions the interviewer may ask. We have chosen 10 common interview questions for jobs in family medicine and provided tips on how to approach answering them.


  1. Why do you want to work with us?

This question is designed to assess whether you’re interested in this specific job or if you’re interviewing simply because there is an opening. This is a good opportunity to show that you have researched the practice and are invested in the job.

Example: “Kaiser’s philosophical approach to care is patient-centric. I chose medicine to make a difference in the lives of patients. Practicing at Kaiser would allow me to put my patients first.”


  1. Why did you leave/why are you leaving your job?

If you have already left a previous job, be honest about your reasons, but avoid being too negative or personal. If you are currently employed, keep the focus on what you want in the job for which you are interviewing, rather than problems with your current job.

Example: “I enjoy my current practice – my partners are great! However, my husband and I would like to relocate to the Northwest, so our children can grow up with their cousins nearby.”


  1. Why should we hire you?

This is a fairly common interview question, but it is also a good chance for you to shine. Be confident! Briefly summarize your experience and relate it back to the job for which you are interviewing.

Example: “With five years of family medicine experience in a fast-paced, urban practice, I have had excellent patient satisfaction scores. I’m confident I would be a great addition to your family medicine team.”


  1. What are your goals?

For this question, it is best to focus on concrete, short-term, and mid-term objectives rather than long-term goals.

Example: “I am interested in joining an organization where I can develop a progressive, patient-centered practice.  Beyond developing strong relationships with my peers and specialists, my long term goal is to further develop my leadership skills to support the organization in a mutually beneficial way.”


  1. What makes you stand out from other candidates?

For a question like this, it is crucial to revisit your unique skill set and passions that inspired your initial application to the practice opportunity. How will these benefit the medical group?

Example: “I am bilingual in Spanish and English. Additionally, I volunteer for medical missions to South America annually. As a result, I have developed the necessary cultural competence to effectively care for and communicate with Spanish-speaking patients and family members.”


  1. How do you work to improve patient care?

This question is particularly important for family medicine jobs at Northwest Permanente. Our commitment to continuous improvement in patient care is a primary focus. Show the interviewer that you take this seriously and provide concrete examples of how you approach it.

Example: “I find that effective communication with patients plays a vital role in the quality of their care experience and in their overall health outcomes. I am intentional with each patient interaction to listen and reflect on what I have heard. If I can help them feel heard and understood, I am one step closer to cultivating a true partnership in their care.”


  1. How do you deal with stress?

Family Medicine practices are stressful and can lead to burnout without proper self-care. This question helps your potential partners assess how you handle the day-to-day stresses in your practice.

Example: “Regular physical activity is my medicine for stress management. I schedule time for myself five days a week to cycle, practice yoga and lift weights. By managing my stress, I have found that I feel healthier and am a better role model for my patients.”


  1. What do you know about our medical group?

This question tells the recruiter and/or hiring physician about your level of investment in the practice opportunity.

Example: “Northwest Permanente is the Medical Group for Kaiser and has approximately 1,500 physicians across most specialties. My best friend in Residency has been in practice with you for the last eight years. He brags about the primary care – specialty care integration on a regular basis.”


  1. What can I expect to hear from your references in terms of strengths and weaknesses?

The simple act of reflecting on this question before applying to a job, allows you to coach your references on what could be helpful in their comments. For instance, if you are applying for a practice that has a Suboxone niche, asking your references to highlight this skill set with potential employers could set you up for success.

During the interview, this question affords you the opportunity to initiate a detailed conversation about the great things you bring to the organization as a physician candidate. If you’ve had any past mishaps that might appear in referencing, this also gives you the opportunity to address them and place a positive spin on it.

Example: “My references will likely comment about my Suboxone certification and my enthusiasm to build a Suboxone clinic in our Eastside clinic. They may also say that I’m an over achiever and can put too much on my plate at one time.”


  1. Do you have any questions for us?

This question is key. It is an excellent opportunity to stand out and show that you are committed to performing well in the organization.

Example: “Could you describe the abilities and characteristics of family medicine physicians who are generally considered to have high potential for advancement within your organization?”


Every candidate brings their own unique set of skills and experiences to the table. No two interviews will be exactly alike. The 10 examples above should provide you with a good baseline from which to start. Below are some other areas you may want to prepare to discuss:

  • Health care team roles
  • Effective conflict resolution
  • Creative problem solving
  • Resource stewardship
  • Service orientation (Listening, Communicating, Responding)
  • Experience with computerized clinical information systems


Bonus tip – Handwritten thank you cards make quite the impression on the recipients.

After your interview, take the time to write a thank you card. Not only does it show the interviewers that you were grateful for their time, but it’s also a strategic opportunity to reinforce who you are as a candidate in terms of your interest, strengths, and motivations.

For current career opportunities in Family Medicine at Northwest Permanente, visit our job board.

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