Dear Dr. Goodhook,

I’m preparing myself for the job search process (refining my CV, starting on some cover letter templates, etc.), and already, I’m nervous about my first interview. Is this normal? I won’t even be starting the application process for a few more months.

Do you have any advice about what I should do (or how to calm my nerves)? I’m worried I’m worrying for no reason, but I want to be prepared.


Anxious in Alabama

Dear Anxious,

“I’m worried I’m worrying for no reason.” Are you quoting Woody Allen?

First of all, take a deep, tranquil breath. To answer your first question, yes — it is normal to feel anxiety about the physician interview process. In fact, it would probably be a bit strange if you weren’t anxious.

However, you’re right — it’s a little early to be caught up in worry about the actual interview. But I wouldn’t let that worry you.

All right, all right. I’ll stop.

A pat on the back for getting started on your physician CV and cover letter early. That’s one less reason to fret.

In my opinion, worry comes from the great unknown. As Kierkegaard said, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” You’re worried not only about the unknown, but about the impact of each choice you make.

Familiarize Yourself With Your Fears

While it isn’t a cure-all fix, I recommend becoming as familiar with your fears and concerns as possible. Are these questions keeping you awake at night?

  • Will the job I interview for provide adequate compensation? What if it doesn’t?
  • Will this role allow me to do the things I want in my career?
  • Will my spouse and/or family be happy in a new community?
  • Will I be able to enjoy myself outside of work? Will I have the time to?
  • How will I perform in the interview? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I stumble?

If your fears are anything like these, you might notice that they’re not only related to the job interview itself, but to your concerns about how the actual job will pan out. You’re worrying about future you, not present you.

Determine your priorities, and then apply to organizations that only meet your essential criteria. Of course, not every employer will meet all of your criteria, but you can weed out the ones that don’t meet more than a few of your expectations. For more advice on determining what your priorities are, visit the Career Priorities Stage in the Adventures in Medicine Online Resource Library.
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When you feel confident in your priorities, you won’t worry about whether or not a position is ideal (at least not as much). You’ll know what to look for and you’ll be able to seek out physician jobs that are a good fit.

Ease Your Stress by Presenting Yourself as a Stand Out Candidate

It sounds as though you’re already on the right track in terms of interview preparation. As you continue with the process, here are some things to be mindful of. If you can complete all of these steps, you’ll greatly increase your chances of landing (and successfully completing) any physician interview:

  • Write a physician cover letter personalized to each employer detailing your strengths and how you will benefit the organization
  • Provide letters of recommendation early on in the process. In general, employers do not offer formal contracts unless there has been a successful reference and background check

For more tips about easing pre-interview stress, you might also consider the types of questions you should ask a prospective employer.

Good luck, young resident.

Dr. Goodhook

What makes you nervous about the physician interview process? 


Though the views expressed above are solely the writer’s, Guthrie Clinic supports “The Dose with Dr. Goodhook” and is partnering with Adventures in Medicine to create an open, inspiring and insightful community for residents and physicians. Click here to learn more about ways that Guthrie Clinic is making practice purposeful.