Tips for Landing a Private Practice Nephrology Job
We spoke with two professionals actively hiring private practice nephrologists — Hawaii Kidney Specialists Executive Director Charlotte Dixon and Dr. Paul Feldman of Advanced Kidney Care of Hudson Valley in New York — to learn what graduating nephrologists can do to maximize their chances of getting hired at a quality private practice. Here’s what they had to say.
What do you look for on a candidate’s CV?
First, on a basic level, I look to make sure everything is spelled right and grammatically correct. It sounds ridiculous, but attention to detail is important.
Next, I look at where they’ve gone and how much time there was between stops. It’s a decent gauge of how hard or easy their journey has been up to this point. I will also check where they went to school. If for instance, they attended a very prestigious university, that always helps.
The truth is that most CVs are going to look fairly similar. They will have gone through the same steps — residency, fellowship, etc. and nearly everyone is going to have published papers. The CV is where I make sure candidates check the right boxes, rather than where any one particular candidate stands out. That comes later in the process.
Everything, really. Education, stable and consistent work history with no gaps. I feel typos in a CV are egregious for a physician. We are very open to speaking with most applicants who have the required training and a clean CV.
Is a cover letter important to you, and if so, what should candidates include?
A cover letter is only important if it gives me some kind of necessary information. Being in Hawaii is unique because physicians use their cover letters to let us know if they have ties to the island. Some have family in Asia, others have relatives that grew up here, or they are simply looking to make a change.
I would recommend using the cover letter to give hiring managers additional context for why you are applying to a given position beyond what might show up in the informational fields of a CV. I do not think a cover letter for a nephrologist is necessary unless they have a visa requirement or something they have to specifically explain regarding their training or work history.
What are you looking for from candidates during a virtual interview?
The first thing I look for is presence. Candidates will be working with a very sick patient population with complex issues. It is critical I hire someone who is going to treat those patients well.
You can actually get a good sense of how someone conducts themselves even in a virtual interview. If they’re able to give you eye contact and be present, that is telling. I also look at how assertive they are. Are they comfortable answering the questions I ask? Are they comfortable saying they don’t know an answer? That’s important. Physicians need to be able to admit they don’t know something and be comfortable asking questions. Answers to medical questions are rarely absolute and physicians need to be able to communicate uncertainty.
We normally conduct a phone interview with several physicians from the practice followed by a personal interview. We never forego the personal interview for a virtual interview and use the phone interview to assess the candidate as being a possible good fit for us.
What are you looking for during an on-site visit interview?
The most important thing in an on-site interview is chemistry. There are some very talented physicians that just aren’t a good match for certain practices. That is why we always insist on conducting an on-site interview to see if candidates are a good fit for our practice.
If you find yourself in an on-site interview, understand that there are no questions about your skill level or ability as a doctor at that point. Use that time to let your personality shine and ask plenty of questions to get to know the practice and its patients. The interview process is also for physicians to ensure a given practice is the right fit for them.
The on-site interview gives us great insight into the candidate’s personality and how they would fit in with our practice. We assess their social skills and cues and how they interact in social situations both in a group and one on one. We want someone who will be a positive representative of our practice. It is also important that they want to become a part of the community which is less than a couple of hours outside New York City.
Can you talk about any missteps you’ve experienced?
We had a physician come for an in-person interview and the entire time they didn’t ask a single question about the practice or the patients. Their only concern was investment opportunities in Hawaii. It’s ok if that is what they were interested in, but it was clear they were not a good fit for what we want in the practice.
Yes, we conducted a group phone interview and the candidate was fairly engaging — they asked and answered questions with no issues. During the on-site interview, the candidate had their face in their phone throughout dinner and did not engage at all with the physicians in attendance, not even to answer questions. We ended the interview.
As fellows consider their career options post-training, what do you think are the benefits of working in private practice?
The benefits of working in private practice are the ability to reach more patients and to be more involved in their long-term care. Most of my physicians have patients they’ve taken care of for years. In some cases, they’ve cared for multiple generations of the same family. When you go into academic or hospital-based practice, you may lose the ability to have those long-term relationships.
Going into private practice also gives you more control over your career. You get to make more decisions in your practice, whereas in an academic or hospital-based practice, you have to deal more often with other people making those decisions for you. I’ll caveat that by adding if you are going into private practice, I recommend you join a group. I think the era of solo and two-person practices is going away simply because of economics and the legislation around practicing medicine.
Hospital-based opportunities have many resources but limited earnings potential and usually no medical directorship or dialysis investment opportunities. I feel private practice in nephrology offers the highest earnings potential, the most autonomy, and opportunities for real estate and joint venture dialysis ownership. Our practice also offers the opportunity to teach, so I feel it is extremely attractive.
Any final thoughts?
Recently, there has been a shift toward more transparency and I think that’s great. I would encourage candidates to do their due diligence and ensure that the practice they apply to is healthy financially as well as culturally.
It is a buyer’s market for physicians, there are more opportunities than candidates. In the job hunt, there are some positions that may seem to be too good to be true — do your due diligence, but these openings do exist. Finally, start now with the future in mind. Look down the road and consider your earning potential and what lifestyle you want to have five or even ten years from now.