Acing the phone interview

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You never get a second chance to make a first impression. That rule especially applies to phone interviews for locum tenens positions. Unlike approaching a permanent-practice opportunity where you might engage in several phone interviews followed by an on-site visit, the locum tenens evaluation process usually occurs during the course of a single phone conversation. During this brief encounter, it is important to make a good first impression, and equally important to use the time to make sure you will be comfortable stepping into the temporary practice opportunity under consideration.

Before the phone interview, your recruiter will have made a provisional “match” between you and the hospital or clinic you are considering. You will already know a reasonable amount about the scope and requirements of the assignment, and the person interviewing you will have reviewed your CV and references.


Here are a few commonsense pointers about handling the phone interview:

  • Be available to make or receive the call when it is scheduled. Block off about a half hour, use a landline if possible, and speak from a quiet place where you will not be interrupted.
  • Have the practice description handy (whatever you have been sent from your recruiter) along with a list of questions you want to ask. Also have a copy of your CV at the ready in case you are asked about dates and locations of previous engagements.
  • Speak clearly, listen carefully, be polite, and do not interrupt. Relax and be yourself, but remember that you are engaging in a professional conversation.
  • Avoid wandering off on tangents, telling long stories, sharing too much personal information, or spending time on what you would expect in terms of transportation or lodging during the engagement.

You will be asked details about your training, experience, and practice style. Do not be surprised by open-ended questions such as, “Tell me a little more about yourself.” You may also find yourself in a game of “Who do we know in common?” with the interviewer. So if you have time, do a little research on the organization before the appointment.


Remember that questions should go in both directions, and it is up to you to ask enough of the right ones to gain a complete understanding of the scope and parameters of the opportunity. This is the time to confirm and clarify what you have already been told about the practice and determine if you are a good fit for the engagement, both clinically and temperamentally. When in doubt, keep asking questions. The most common reasons locum tenens placements do not work out satisfactorily are usually related to lack of clarity about the obligations or responsibilities of either the practitioner or the institution.

When it is your turn to ask questions, here are several to consider:

  • What typical volume of patients and/or procedures can I expect?
  • What after-hours call responsibilities will I have?
  • Who will be responsible for follow-up care of patients I see while I am on location?
  • Will I have any supervisory or leadership responsibilities?
  • What sort of orientation should I expect on arrival?

Follow these general questions with ones specific to your specialty, including those related to equipment availability, support-staff ratios, how locum tenens physicians are expected to respond in emergency situations, access to consulting physicians, protocols for procedures, formularies, and standards of care. If you are being interviewed by an administrator rather than another clinician, that person may have to get back to you with answers to your technical or medical questions.