Your “brand” as a physician will set you apart from other candidates.
Author: Robert A Felberg MD
Topic: Medical Interviewing
Keywords: Interview questions for doctors, Physician candidates, Informational interview
Think about the well-known (and copyrighted) brands in the accompanying image. What do these brands bring to mind? Everyone has a different connotation with a particular brand and I’m no different.
Keeping that in perspective, let me share some of my unprompted thoughts on a few on the brands: Toyota– Reliability. Amazon– convenience. GE– International top player for large projects and innovative leadership techniques. You probably have your own thoughts on each brand. Certainly, these company invest a lot in the way of resources to develop, maintain, promote, and protect their brand image.
[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 discussing often overlooked skillsets that Healthcare Professionals can utilize to grow their careers. Also note: I have no commercial disclosures or relationships with the many commercial brands discussed in this article.]
What exactly is a “brand” and why is it important in your Physician Job Interview? The original concept of a brand was an identifying scar, usually from a burn placed by a “branding iron”, to differentiate livestock. Over time, identifying marks or labels were used to tell the difference between various manufacturers of a particular generic product- For example, soda is the generic product with Pepsi and Coca-Cola being some of the branded manufacturers. Over time, it became evident that the branded name led to perceptions and associations in the mind of customers regarding the properties and qualities of a particular manufacturer’s product. Described as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes” by David Ogilvy.
Whether you realize it or not, as a physician you represent a brand, your brand! What do I mean by this? By your actions, appearance, interactions, and other media such as publications, your resume, or social media presence you are putting forth a combination of intangible qualities that differentiate you from other physicians. When you got your media photo taken do you wear a suit, a white coat, or scrubs? What does this tell the world? When you introduce yourself, do you use your first name or do you call yourself “Dr. Smith”? What connotations are you trying to make with your preferred title? Does your resume emphasize your research, education, or experience? Hopefully, you’re getting the idea. You have a certain image you actively project that you believe best represents you as a doctor and person.
It’s likely that you’ve never given much deliberate thought to the physician image or brand you are hoping to project. That’s not unusual. Most doctors aren’t trained in marketing and the importance of brand. However, by focusing on your brand you can make a huge impact on how you are perceived in the interview process and can ultimately stand out from other candidates when the right job comes along.
Here are some tips to consider when developing and marketing your physician brand:
- How do you want others to perceive you? For example, as a Stroke and Neuro-Critical Care Neurologist, it’s important for people to consider me “cool” under pressure, “quick” on my feet, “competent” in complex and difficult clinical care scenarios, and “compassionate” for patients and families facing the worst crisis imaginable. It’s also important to me that I am thought of as “honest”, an individual with high “integrity”, and a top-quality physician “leader”. What intangible qualities do you want others to associate with your physician brand? Spend some time truly considering this. It’s important to be honest and carefully match your qualities to your desired brand.
- Does your outward appearance match your brand? If you wish to be thought of as a “hard working” clinician, wear scrubs or roll up your sleeves. Do you want to be the doctor who is a friend and virtual family member? Maybe a suit and tie is not the right choice. Do you want your pediatric patients to love you? Then a white coat could send the wrong message. Ultimately, it’s up to you how you want to represent your brand. I’m not here to argue the idiom about “judging a book by its cover”. But, be certain your choices are well thought out and not clashing with your goals. Being a Chief Medical Officer for a 3500 physician group has several responsibilities. One of those is having a clean, well-fitted suit with matching belt and shoes ready each morning. When interviewing, be especially aware that your appearance is complementary to your brand.
- Design your Resume and cover letter to reflect your brand. Emphasize the characteristics that define you. Go into detail about your past LEAN 6-Sigma successes if you want to be a team leader or project manager. Write short descriptions of your publications to emphasize your research background. If your brand is that of technological innovator, turn your resume into a website or on-line multimedia presentation.
- Play up your brand during the interview. Do not be overbearing or repetitive. Watch for non-verbal cues and pay attention to the actual questions. But, where appropriate, turn the conversation to your strong points and interests. Your goal is to have the interviewer feel positively about you along your brand goals, without any negative associations. You want them to think, “Wow. That Doctor seems really passionate about holistic cancer care” without thinking, “I wish she would stop talking about the importance of exercise in chemo-recovery and answered some of the questions I asked.” It’s a balancing act, but with time you’ll learn to adapt quite naturally.
- Of course, these same techniques will work for all interviews, including medical school and residency. You should consider your brand in any situation where you wish to influence others. This includes patient interactions, media appearances, and public speaking. Realize that when it comes to interviewing as an applicant for medical school, residency, or fellowship your variety of brand will be limited. You may find your acceptance letters scarce if your brand is “experimental-hallucinogen consuming” med student. Stick to the tried and true when first starting out.
Understanding the importance of the intangible qualities you are projecting and how they align with your desired qualities will help you build your brand and differentiate you from the competition. Fortunately, interviewing like other professional and business skills can be mastered. Avoid common interviewing mistakes and build up your professional skills set you need to thrive. With practice and training you will be able to reach your dreams and succeed… really succeed.
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What do you think? Do you have a personal brand? How would you develop your brand? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.