Informational Interviewing – The Secret to Getting Your Foot in the Door.

Informational Interviewing – The Secret to Getting Your Foot in the Door.

Having trouble lining up an interview? I spill the secret to a master level interviewing technique

Author: Robert A Felberg MD

Topic: Interviewing, Networking

Keywords: Informational interviewing, doctor interview tips, physician jobs, medical doctor jobs

You won’t admit it, but you’re starting to panic. Everyone else has already started their negotiations and you haven’t even lined up any interviews.  Sure, there’s plenty of time to still land a new job, but it sure would be nice to have at least toured a few facilities and received a few offers. Well, don’t worry… there is a technique taught in top-flight business school that will get you first in line for next great physician job opportunity.


[Editor’s note: There are lots of great doctors out there. But, some are more respected, well known, or successful than others. Chances are, that successful physician has excellent professional and medical business skills like negotiation, networking, or public speaking that they leveraged to accelerate their careers. This post is one of a continuing series from Physician Advocates LLC and Medical Success Central discussing often overlooked skillsets that Healthcare Professionals can utilize to grow their careers. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter.]

Imagine you are a program director of a successful program. You’ve been in the position for several years and you’ve got a large network of friends and colleagues. And, you must admit, your reputation and influence is such that a phone call from you can open doors. Today you have an unusual meeting scheduled into your calendar. A young doctor just finishing up her fellowship requested 30 minutes of your time to discuss your deep

knowledge in the field.

She shows up on time and acts and dresses very professionally. She introduces herself, hands you a CV and business card, and pulls out a pad with several questions. She starts by asking you, “what do you see as the most important shift in the field over the next 15 years?” She follows this with brilliant conversation and insight. You can tell she is well-trained and innovative. She mentions her projects and research along these very lines and an upcoming publication. She asks several other fascinating questions, “if you were starting out in the field, what would you do differently?”, “What is a standard salary for a starting physician?”, “If you were in my situation, who are the leaders in the field besides yourself that you would most wish to speak with?”


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The half-hour flies by and at the end of it you are delighted and energized by the dedication and depth of knowledge this young doctor possesses.   Finally, she asks, “Are you aware of any positions that are open that you could recommend for me?”  Impressed thoroughly by this doctor, you remember that a colleague of yours at Penn State is looking for an early career physician.   You tell her about the opening and she is excited.  You give her the contact information of your friend. After she leaves, you email the program director in Pennsylvania and tell him he’d by crazy if he doesn’t snag up this doctor before someone else does. If only you could free up the funding to hire her you think as you place a call to the VP of finance…

You were just involved in an informational interview.  You were being visited by a young doctor seeking information. At the same time, you spent 30 minutes to an hour being introduced to a job candidate. However, since the primary goal was information gathering, you were primed to judge the doctor in a far more casual and collegial manner. A friendship and maybe even a mentor-protégé relationship was initiated. The candidate got a great opportunity to obtain high-quality information while presenting herself and her brand in a favorable light and non-threatening environment.

And let’s face it, most people will see the visiting doctor as a younger version of themselves- Freshly minted, whole wonderful future ahead of them, but confused and in need of guidance.  If they prove themselves professional, charming, and respectful, you will be very likely to go out of your way to help this doctor. In the end, you’re only here in this leadership role because of the kind help of the mentors in your life.



This non-pressured, non-judgmental nature of the interaction with the strong tendency to build friendship and positive emotional bonding is the power of the informational interview. You are being asked for help and guidance. Your guard is down, and you are primed to be receptive to the message. Informational interviewing is the business school secret that hasn’t reached medicine as the most useful technique in landing your next job.  Through the questions you ask you can get an insider view of salary, job openings, introductions to the thought leaders in the field, and make a contact that could be mutually beneficial for decades to come.

How do you tap into this master interviewing technique? Here are some tips:

  • Make a list of the 20 leaders in your field that you would most like to meet. Starting from number one, contact everyone on your list working down. Don’t be upset if they are unavailable- they’re busy and may not have the time. Avoid skype or phone interactions. You want to meet in person.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. Have a list of meaningful questions ready. Don’t attempt to “wing it”. Be sure the questions are appropriate and reflect well on you. Imagine you could meet someone famous from history that you’ve always admired for just 30 minutes. You wouldn’t blow the chance by not planning.
  • Make sure you to work on your brand. Know the type of personal qualities to emphasize and be sure to present yourself in the best light. You want to leave your interviewee impressed and convinced that you are the future of the field.
  • Act and dress professionally. Be respectful and thank your interviewee for their time and help.  Be sure to follow up with a personalized and heartfelt thank you letter. A small gift is appropriate, but keep it inexpensive and thoughtful- A bottle of wine, gift card to a local restaurant, or something similar. Avoid any gift that could be misconstrued like flowers or cologne.
  • Be certain to ask the names and contact information of other leaders in the field that may be able to give helpful information.  This is a great chance to tap into a network that would otherwise be closed to a rookie like you for years.
  • Always ask about job opportunities.  State that you’d appreciate hearing about anything new that opens and let them know that they are free to pass along your contact information.
  • Undoubtedly, some of the people you contact will be familiar with informational interviewing and will understand the purpose of the visit. Don’t worry. Approach them the same way. If they aren’t interested, they would just have said “no” from the beginning. They may be looking to hire someone themselves and realize this can be a way to find a great candidate without the expense of a nationwide search and hiring a recruiting firm.
  • Keep in touch with the people you meet during the process.  Send them emails, letters, and holiday cards telling them how your career is going. Ask to meet up with them at national meetings for coffee or dinner. These early career mentors can become the most valuable people in your professional network as well as friends that you will treasure for years to come.

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Getting job interviews and great leads can be as simple as asking thought leaders to spare an hour or so for an opportunity to ask them about the field. Learn how to use informational interviewing and you will become a master at building a supportive network and learning about positions long before anyone else does.   Be sure to master your interview skills and your brands. Be charming, cool, and confident.

Don’t forget that job negotiations usually start during the initial interview –  go in fully prepared or risking leaving 10’s of thousands of dollars on the table.  Be sure to have a high-quality market value report, develop your negotiation strategy, your anchor number-counter-offer, up your negotiation skill set, and consider taking a CME approved course specifically designed for physicians.   Interviewing, like all professional and business skills can be improved with study and practice. With the proper training and hard work, you’ll be able to land the job of your dreams and succeed… really succeed!



What do you think? Is this the secret sauce you’ve been waiting for your while life? Or will this idea only annoy the people you contact? Have you ever set up an informational interview? Do you have advice for anyone going this route? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.




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