As a licensed physician, you have coveted skills that are vital to society everywhere. This gives you professional value, and you should hold out for the right job where that value is appreciated monetarily and respectfully.
But if you’re searching for work in an area where the pickings are slim, it can be challenging to find both assets simultaneously. Expanding your job search radius can help, but ultimately, the onus rests on knowing what you’re worth and how to get the hiring manager to see that — and agree.
No matter where you’re interviewing, if you know how to negotiate your contract, you’ll always receive better compensation, working conditions, and opportunities than you otherwise would have agreed to. Follow these tips to ensure you’re getting the best benefits for the value you provide before you accept a physician job anywhere.
1. Recognize Your Realistic Value and Goals
You’ve scheduled an interview, and you’ve done all of the typical interview prep work. Your professional outfit is cleaned, pressed, and ready. Your CV is updated and emailed to the HR office. Now, it’s time to sit down and make a list of what you bring to the table and what goals you have for this job and your future.
This part may seem intuitive, but when you take the time to think and write down your answers without distractions, you may come to some unexpected conclusions.
Start with your value to this particular employer. What skills does the ideal candidate have for the position you’re interviewing for? What are the hard and soft skills you possess that make you the right person for the position?
Knowing what the job requires versus what you hold gives you a better idea of where you stand in negotiations. For instance, if you have years of experience in a general practice office setting, but you’re trying to get into the emergency room because there’s an opportunity for more money there, you’ll need to show the interviewer how well you work under pressure and how your vast wealth of medical knowledge will help you diagnose most conditions.
Next, recognize your goals for this job and your future. Do you intend to use this position as a stepping stone to your true career goals, or is this your final target? Will the hours and pay help you reach your ultimate work-life balance? Does the job give you the level of patient care you want to achieve? How much autonomy do you want to have versus how much will you likely see?
Once you’ve determined these two important factors, you’ll have a better idea of how much bargaining power you have or whether you truly want the job at all. If you decide that it doesn’t help you reach your goals, it’s okay to cancel the interview as long as you give notice and let them know you recognize you’re not the right fit for the position.
2. Go to the Interview Prepared
So you do want this job, as it will help advance your career and your work and life goals. The next step is to prepare for the questions you’ll likely be asked and the information you want to know before accepting the position.
Learn about the position you’re interviewing for as it pertains to this employer. What are the company’s values? Will you be expected to work quickly and see as many patients in as little time as possible, or do they pride themselves on their reputation as caring, thorough healthcare providers? Are there parts of the job that are optional, such as taking extra classes or offering medical marijuana to patients?
After you’ve examined the job, make a list of the things you want to know that will help you accept or decline the position before you leave the interview. It’s good practice to ask questions, and the right ones will impress the hiring manager more than staying silent would.
Negotiations begin with understanding what is included along with the job. If these answers don’t come up organically, ask questions like:
- What kind of schedule will I be expected to work?
- Do I need to be on call at all?
- How is compensation handled?
- What is the base salary?
- Are there bonuses or incentives I can work toward?
- Is there a non-compete clause in the contract?
- What benefits come with the job? (Pay attention to paid time off, sick leave, and insurance, particularly watching for often overlooked things like NSO insurance and disability coverage.)
If anything else is important to you that isn’t on this list, ask about it. Your potential employer will appreciate the chance to discuss factors that could cause you to leave the job out of dissatisfaction soon after you’re hired. For example, if you’re determined to get out of the on-call world, but the job includes these requirements, ask if there’s a way to phase out of call hours or at least limit them. If the employer values you enough, they may be willing to negotiate your requests.
3. Do Your Research on Compensation in the Area
Your old school colleague is making big bucks in a massive healthcare center across the country. You know you’re just as smart as they are, and you have similar skills, so you think you should be able to demand the same compensation.
But is that realistic? The answer depends more on the location of your potential job than your actual skills.
As soon as you know the salary offer, look at reputable pay trends in your area and specialty. Compare the number you have with those you see, and you’ll quickly know if the job is competitive or not.
Although your value may be in line with your friend’s, your geographic location might not support that salary. Recognizing what a competitive salary looks like will lead you to a successful negotiation that works for you and the employer.
To do so, you can start with different job boards that provide all the required information you may need to make final decision. For example, Jooble offers a variety of onboard and remote physician jobs you can explore before negotiations with the employer.
4. Prioritize Your Non-Negotiables
Going back to your goals from earlier, what are your non-negotiables? Let’s say you plan on opening a clinic within a few years. Signing a non-compete clause could limit your patient base as you’re starting out.
Other important aspects to consider as flexible or rigid include salary, schedule, benefits, and length of the contract. Pay attention to factors in the original contract that list early termination penalties, changes in schedule, salary, or benefits, and opportunities for growth. If your starting pay is less than you’d prefer, but there’s a 90-day raise that takes you to your goal wage, it could be worth leaving your non-negotiable behind and taking the three-month wait.
5. Learn the Dos and Don’ts of Negotiation Techniques
As you’ll hear frequently, negotiation is an art, not a science. Most of us can’t study the techniques in a book and automatically do it well because asking for more is outside of our comfort zones, especially as we just start out.
However, if you don’t ask, the answer is always no. Your employer wants to get the highest value possible with the least benefit to you that they can get away with, and that’s common business sense. It isn’t personal. Yet, if you can negotiate better terms for you that still help them win, everyone is happy.
If you don’t have time to study up on the nuances of negotiation, here are some of the most important dos and don’ts to keep in mind during your interview:
- Do keep a positive attitude throughout your interview and into the negotiation process.
- Do ensure you’re negotiating when and where the employer is comfortable. Calling them unexpectedly and telling them your terms is a great way to catch them in the middle of something or unaware, which makes them uncomfortable and decreases your chances of success.
- Do prepare all your requests upfront, limiting your demands on their time to just clarification requests and addendums.
- Do have evidence that justifies your requests, such as compensation offered at similar healthcare facilities in the same or nearby geographical locations and the skills you have that prove you deserve the extra things you’re asking for.
- Don’t ever sign a letter of intent without running the terms by a contract lawyer. You can’t renegotiate them.
- Don’t request changes to terms that are dictated by company policy. Even the manager’s hands are tied in those situations. No matter how much they want to hire you, they can’t go against policy.
These simple negotiation tactics will get you further than a blanket agreement without attempting to get better terms. You may not be comfortable at first, but that short period of discomfort could garner you a much higher salary and/or better benefits.
Recognizing your value and what the employer has to offer you are two important things to do before you sign a contract. Follow these tips, and all parties involved can come to a satisfactory conclusion.