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It’s Not Me, It’s You - Read This Before You Interview

Disclaimer: This post was written before the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the interview information may not be relevant during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Have you ever been on an online dating app? Things were going well and your new love interest told you multiple times how excited they were about your first date. You eagerly awaited the moment you’d meet. Finally, the day came and the date went exactly as you’d hoped. You were ON FIRE. You were funny and charming and you KNEW there would be a second date. You send a text the next day to let them know you had a great time . . . And never hear back.

At first you think, “Well, maybe they’re just busy,” but the days turn into weeks. By then you’re wracking your brain replaying every interaction trying to figure out where it went wrong. Finally the weeks turn into a month and you delete their number and hope you won’t cross paths again.

Sound familiar? So many of us have been through this heartbreak while dating, or even while making new friends. The last place I expected to repeat the experience was in the world of faculty interviews. Unfortunately building relationships with recruiters is a lot like online dating, and you’re going to get ghosted by most of them.

I went on thirteen faculty interviews in six states while looking for my first attending position. Based on the experiences of mentors who had graduated in the past few years, I expected to go on three or four and receive a handful of offers to be in a good position for contract negotiations. I didn’t think about how every year the market is different, and also didn’t realize how much work it takes to get to every first date.

I spent hours communicating with recruiters in the weeks preceding every interview. After sending in the initial application, a recruiter calls with basic screening questions, and then there’s a second call from faculty, staff, or a second recruiter. If it goes well, coordinating interview dates and travel arrangements warrant more calls/emails/texts with the original headhunter.

I’d hear, “We are so excited to meet you, we think you’re definitely going to be the one.” I’d go on the interview and hear, “Dr. X never spends this much time talking to anyone so she must really like you.” I’d get excited, imagine my life at said hospital, send a text the next day to let the recruiter know my interest . . . and never hear back.

Some new grads get lucky and are able to find their perfect job right away. But most of my colleagues across medical specialties experienced the same things I did. Weeks after our interview days we were wondering what we could have done differently. About half the recruiters eventually closed the loop and told me they’d hired someone else. But not before ignoring me for weeks after I summoned the courage to send the dreaded double text and ask for an update.

Once I figured out that recruitment was like online dating, I was able to shake off the sting of being ghosted more easily. Like I used to tell myself when I was single, “There are plenty more fish in the sea.” And that is the reality. Out of thirteen I had two fantastic recruiters who I felt were forthcoming throughout their hiring process and I hope we cross paths again.

My advice to all of you is go in with the expectation you may not get closure from every interview.

Even if it’s not the right way to treat someone, it happens, and you have every right to feel hurt. But pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back in the game. Just like dating, you WILL find the program, hospital, or practice which is the right fit for you, and there will be no unrequited feelings involved.

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