Overcoming the Boys Club: Job Interview Challenges

When I started interviewing for my first job out of fellowship I was nervous. Although I was comfortable as a well rounded critical care expert, I wasn’t sure how to convey my new found power in a humble and sensible manner. My first interview was at a large expensive private hospital in Southern California. An alumni from my program had warned me in an email to be prepared to answer a lot of questions. Why do you want to work here? Are you a team player? Why did you pick critical care? I figured it would be the basic stupid questions asked during residency and fellowship interviews. Blah blah.

It makes me, and probably every female physician uncomfortable talking about our strengths and accomplishments. I went into critical care because I’m good at it. I’m a strong communicator and used to cringed when I would hear another physician deliver bad news minus the empathy. I’m calm and relaxed in any situation. Lastly, I can perform several advanced bedside procedures with both hands. I did so many lines in fellowship that one day I got bored and switched hands. Saying these out loud is kind of obnoxious. In reality, I went into critical care because I love the pace and it’s fun to me.

None of this came out of my mouth when the panel of interviewers asked me the usual questions. I was at a loss of words and said something about how motivating my critical care attendings were. Actually, what was really obnoxious was this panel. All young males and one older female. 7 men and 1 woman. They kept asking me how I would stand out from other physicians applying for the job and I answered that my fellowship was very vigorous. They simply replied back that everyone’s fellowship was vigorous. I was annoyed. They were all about dropping the name of the institution that most of them trained at, so why wasn’t my name dropping enough? I also tried to put in the generic “team player” crap. I could tell that I wasn’t going to get this job because I wouldn’t fit into their precious group. These men repeatedly asked me, “how will you fit in?” And while a concern for getting along with your colleagues is important to any physician group, it just felt different coming from 7 men. The Boys Club. They didn’t mean it as “how will you fit in… as a woman”, but it’s hard to ignore the micro-aggression towards a non-bro, bro. How would I even begin to answer how I would fit in? I didn’t even know if I could.

I just couldn’t brag. They looked at me like I was an outsider.

Needless to say they never contacted me about the job. I realized that I didn’t want it anyways and went for an interview in another state closer to family. At this hospital, the critical care group hadn’t been formed yet but I had another panel interview. This time with the VP and CEO, both older men. And this time I let them have my real answers, of course, with a little bit of my charm. They loved me and offered me a contract. I took it and learned that bragging about myself wasn’t obnoxious. It was powerful. I thought about how a man would answer these questions, and he would never be embarrassed by his power. I guess I was used to a room full of my peers during training and shied away from what I really was; from what I had really accomplished. Everyone had achieved similar skills, but once you’re separated from your humble little group of friends you realize that being a doctor is powerful and it’s definitely something to be proud about.

All women in healthcare are powerful. Wield your power!

*Picture is from residency with some of my amazing male colleagues. None of who were a part of that obnoxious panel. 😉