Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Guest Post: Job Hunting, Interviewing, and Job Offers

This week's blog post comes from Denise, a second year PA student at WVU.  She was kind enough to write about her experiences with job hunting, interviewing, and accepting a job offer (Congratulations!).

Hello fellow PAs-to-be,
In being asked to type up a blog entry in regards to my job hunting, interviewing and negotiating experience, I was excited to give you all some helpful insight for nearing the end (I promise it will come)! First I must say, that all interviews are not the same, PA jobs are not the same, there is no one way to approach job hunting and even though negotiating worked for me, I can’t promise the other end will cooperate as did mine. So please, continue with me and I’ll share more details.

Sidebar: I just took a job offer from the University of Alabama – Birmingham. It’s a very unique position, in that the University has been contracted to insert its Pathology group into a 3-community hospital group located in Montgomery, AL. They needed one PA who would work solo in receiving specimens from all 3 hospitals, lab manager, and to act as liaison for the different locations.

Sending out CVs can be exhausting, especially if it involves the HR process instead of the direct emails that Cherie [our program director] will forward you. Keep plugging away! There is this misconception that we cannot penetrate the HR process because we are not licensed yet. Well, UAB called me and their application process was through HR and DID ask for my ASCP license number (which I obviously don’t have).  I was notified that I was ineligible due to that, but then I received a call 4 months later asking if I could visit ASAP for the position.

Preparation once receiving the Invitation:
It was requested to fly inbound on Thursday and outbound after 3pm on Monday. I did not receive the itinerary until landing in Alabama, so I had no idea what to expect. Knowing that it was going to be 4 days of interviewing, and therefore potentially a lot of people involved, I brought 15 additional CVs with me (in which I did not use a single one of them). I also brought recommendation letters and a few dictations that I was prideful of. I recommend you bring a specimen log from clinical year (with complex specimens) if you are trying for a position that is unsure of what a “Program Graduated PA” is capable of.
P.S. Pack a professional dinner outfit for every night that you will be staying.

During the Interview:
The tough stuff : The interview process was indeed the full four days. Every night was a dinner with a different group of pertinent people. Lunch was also this way. I must have been in and out of 12 offices that weekend doing one-on-one interviews for 30 minutes each. I had a “chauffeur” who guided me throughout the buildings and who would knock on the door when the interviewer had 5 minutes remaining. I also was sent to the new location where I would be asked to be the first PA with “boots on the ground”. In this portion of the interview/tour, I was asked what I thought about the lab and if I had suggestions or things I saw that they would be in need of. I suggest you keep an eye on the inner-workings of the labs you rotate through during clinical year instead of just keeping your head down grossing.

The cool stuff:
  • I was never pulled into an interview where they asked me the assumed interview questions we could all come up with on our own. Except of course the “tell me about yourself” and “why are you interested in us”? Know your answers to all those practice questions anyway. I found that preparing for those helped me answer other questions quickly.
  • The interviewers are not professional interviewers; therefore they may begin by saying “do you have any questions for me.” And THAT could be a toughy or an easy one depending on if you’re ready.
  • I was given a rental car to see the sites on my own during down time.
  • I was scheduled an appointment with a realtor for driving around the neighborhoods to get a good look at the homes there. If you have this luxury, use your time wisely! This person doesn’t JUST know about homes, they know so much about the entire area!
  • Chat up the current PAs and become their best friend. I found that the PA will give you the most incite on the inner-workings and if you can read people, you’ll be able to tell if they have enthusiasm for their job or just flat out hate it there. 

After the Interview
I was asked to contact UAB within the next week to let them know if I was still interested. I did so. They called me back to let me know they had an offer. I wrote down all the information and asked if I could have a bit of time to decide and think of any questions I may have in regards to the “package”.
Two days later I called back and knew I needed to negotiate.  It’s easy and worth it. You will never sweat more during a phone call in your life but man-up and know what you’re worth.

This is what I said to UAB:

I have just a couple of questions for you:
1. How are raises calculated? i.e.  Are they annually? Based off performance? Who will be conducting my performance and evaluation? – Starting with the “raise” question is good because it forces them to be honest with the answer before they hear you’re unhappy with the offered salary.

2. In regards to the proposed salary – I have given it some serious thought and considering the expectations and responsibilities of the job and the current national average for a newly graduating PA, I was hoping to hear $__, 000. THEN SAY NOTHING. Don’t mumble on the words that come out at this time and certainly don’t ramble on with nervousness. Stand strong and confident.

UAB responded, “wow… wow… okay. Well, let me give you a call back after speaking with the board and we’ll see what we can do”.

I received a phone call back and they decided to meet me in the middle. I planned on this happening and that was the number I wanted from the beginning. All you do is take the initial offer number, then take the “number you want”…and subtract that. Then add that difference to the “number you want” and BAM… there’s what you counteroffer. They’ll more than likely meet you in the “middle” which is actually the salary you’re requesting anyway. I hope that makes sense. (Disclaimer: I can’t promise this works. It just did for me!)
BONUS – I was also given a $5,000 sign on bonus just to “get me to the salary I requested for at least the first year”. Wow. Negotiating works!

Like I said, I definitely don’t know how all interviews play-out but I feel as if hearing at least one version of the process is certainly good to have in your back pocket. I wish you all luck in rotations and in landing that wonderful hard-earned career!

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