Don’t Ignore Culture When Job Hunting

Time is drawing near when residency training is over and a new chapter in your medical career begins. Many of you will be finalizing your decision of where to practice. Some of the positions you are considering will definitely encourage your growth and accomplishments. Other positions will be stressful and may result in leaving a position earlier than you planned. It is very easy to pick a position or accept an offer with only a simple understanding of how the organization truly operates. So before you make your final decision, I urge you to make sure you have a sound understanding of the organization’s culture. According to Bill Barnett, who led the Strategy Practice at McKinsey & Company, culture has a profound effect on one’s happiness. I could not agree more.

What do you need to know in order to assess an organization’s culture? Basically, find out as much as you can about the organization before, during, and after meeting with the interviewers. A good place to start is by asking if the organization has a formal vision statement. Then decide if it squares with what you observe and with the answers to your questions. Be aware that the interviewers may tell you things that are different from those not involved in the recruitment process. Also speak to patients and their family members, as well as, ex-employees, if possible. Each of them is likely to have a different experience with the organization. It is incumbent upon you to understand the particular situation in which each of these groups were involved. This will allow you to assess the culture of the organization fairly and accurately.

Questions and observations should give you a good understanding of the organization’s purpose. Purpose does not just mean knowing why the organization was formed but also involves determining if what they do achieves their purpose and how their purpose leads to decisions. Such a determination on your part should cause you to consider the importance of performance; i.e., how things get done, the evidence of teamwork, the quality and commitment of the people, how well they communicate, and any ethical issues.

 You will need more than one interaction with any perspective organization to make an accurate cultural assessment.  Even so, first impressions are very important. However, you will learn the most during the interview and negotiation stages. The way people treat you; together, the answers to your questions and your observations will provide you with the data to assess the organization’s culture. It is up to you to determine your comfort level with the information you gather. Always remember, it is never too late to reconsider or look elsewhere. Just remember, your happiness is your primary concern.

It is relatively easy to assess organizational culture by asking a few probing questions. As you visit or re-visit your prospective place of employment, ask people why they like working there, what they are proud of, who are their close friends at work, do they feel valued, and how well does the office, group, or department function together? Answers to these questions will tell you a lot about who the recognized leaders are, what makes the organization successful, and will give you insight about the challenges and opportunities that exist. More importantly, the answers will provide you with important clues to whether you will “fit” into the organization. Not only will you learn a lot, but so will the people you question.

Finally, know that even when the job location is great and the money more than adequate, an organization’s culture can make you very unhappy, if is does not fit with your values. Culture is critical!

For more insights on finding that perfect position, visit our video tutorial “Life After Residency.” I am certain you will find the information provided useful and practical. And oh, good luck in your job search! If you have any questions we can answer, please do not hesitate to contact either myself, Paul Gurny, or Dave Joyce. Our contact information is on this website.


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