By Phil Weiss ’16
From full-time class work and case competitions to working part-time at two large health systems, graduate school was definitely packed with wonderful learning experiences.
However, the biggest learning experience occurred over a 7-month period in which I interviewed at 14 different health organizations, ranging from huge Academic Medical Centers and top consulting firms to state agencies and healthcare start-up companies.
Below are the 3 major takeaways from my (lengthy) interview process.
- Rejection is not failure, but an opportunity for feedback
Although I was grateful for receiving final round interviews at so many organizations, the sting of not getting offers compounded.
I initially viewed rejection as a failure on my end. Somebody recommended I ask for feedback and since that time, I began looking at rejection a bit differently — seeing it as the interviewer or organization rejecting my application for the position but not me as a person!
I asked for feedback from a few places early on in the process. There were a few instances when there were 8–10 equally qualified candidates on-site for 1–2 spots. In those cases, it wasn’t surprising to receive the cliché response; “there are a limited number of available positions, as well as a highly competitive pool of candidates.” I was able to get deeper feedback from a few organizations and learned a few areas to improve upon, most notably, my casual demeanor. There are instances where my casual and friendly demeanor is one of my main strengths but for the first time, I became conscious of the way it can be perceived as a negative. Thus, I began to adjust accordingly and remained the most authentic me I could be while ensuring I maintained a professional presence.
- The interview process helped clarify my goals
Class helped me figure out which topics I enjoyed learning about, while business case competitions and work experience helped me figure out my strengths and weaknesses. It was the interview process though, where I learned the most about myself.
The lengthy interview process opened my eyes to the numerous possibilities that exist in the healthcare industry. Coming into graduate school, I was intrigued by everything. After 4–5 interviews for very similar positions across different health systems, I realized that I was targeting the wrong position. The opportunities were great but didn’t fully align with my interests or goals. “Knowing yourself” in the present is imperative but not enough. You must think deeply about your future self. Assess what you want to learn in the next few years and how you want to leverage your strengths.
Along the way the interview process helped me reflect on what type of work environment I enjoy, how I want to make an impact, what mission I want to work towards, and most importantly helped me articulate my short and long-term goals.
Exposing myself to so many types of organizations allowed me to assess and compare the different ways I could make an impact.
- It really is all about F-I-T
We talked all the time about “fit” in graduate school and in the job search it really does mean everything.
A potential issue is that it’s difficult to determine fit. I think fit can be assessed by asking yourself two questions. First, is there a fit between your qualifications/skill-sets/interests and the specific position and organization? If you’re not targeting the right organization and the right position, it’s likely they won’t recognize or appreciate your value. As such, it doesn’t really matter how you interview. There were a few instances where I could tell within a few hours — and sometimes even minutes — that the position/organization simply wasn’t a good fit for me.
Second, what does your gut tell you? Are you able to see yourself there? Do you get along with the individuals on the team(s)? Remember that interviews are meant to be a two-way street. Take that time to think about whether you’ll actually be happy working 40 — and sometimes 60 — hours a week doing that job at that organization. Sometimes it’s difficult to assess on the spot, so take time to reflect on the day and how you felt.
Fortunately, it was during my final interview with an incredible healthcare technology company (CipherHealth) that both components of “fit” felt right. It’s important to remember that you have your own unique interests, skill-sets, and preferences. What may be a great fit for someone else could be an awful fit for you.
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