Graphic that shows three different types of interview questions you should be asking.

Use these questions to identify a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities

Use these questions to determine how a candidate handled situations in the past

Use these questions to assess a candidate’s personal traits and cognitive skills

Why this matters:

This question tests the candidate’s ability to optimize their patient’s overall status and readiness for surgery. Approaches to preoperative evaluation differ significantly depending on patient health, the nature of their complaint, and risk factors. But all pre-op procedures involve many moving parts—from the timing of the surgery to the type of anesthesia.

What to listen for:

  • Signs that the candidate understands that collaborative and efficient pre-op care is the route to effective and sustainable surgery.
  • Candidates should draw from past patient experiences.

Why this matters:

A general surgeon must be able to work with precision on an extremely small scale. At the same time, advancing technology reduces a lot of manual labor to swiping on a two-dimensional flat screen. Strong candidates will have the right mix of academic knowledge and craftsmanship, and will be confident in their ability to perform surgery with accurate and steady hands.

What to listen for:

  • Great answers may include mentions of skills built at home or school, like cutting textiles, measuring ingredients, making repairs, or playing an instrument.
  • Candidates who focus on technology or artificial intelligence may not value manual dexterity.

Why this matters:

You can learn a lot about your candidate’s knowledge and expertise by listening to them discuss specific surgical experiences. Their answer will also help you determine if they would find the job motivating and fulfilling. If they have a preference for a type of surgery that they will regularly be asked to perform, they may be a great fit for the role.

What to listen for:

  • A thorough understanding of surgical techniques, rooted in extensive real-world experience.
  • Eagerness about performing surgeries your facility frequently undertakes.

Why this matters:

The sensitivities surrounding medical treatment for certain religious groups are well known to practicing medical professionals and can cause a dilemma for general surgeons. Even if they have not experienced this situation firsthand, your candidate’s answer should demonstrate knowledge of this potential challenge and, ideally, some recommendations based on sample scenarios.

What to listen for:

  • A thoughtful discussion of risks, consequences, benefits, and patient confidentiality.
  • A respectful attitude combined with a deep concern for patient welfare.

Why this matters:

Every general surgeon conducts research during their residency. While this question sheds light on the candidate’s medical areas of interest, it also gives them the opportunity to discuss how they bridge the gap between theory and real-world patient care. A great general surgeon may even be doing research at the time of the interview.

What to listen for:

  • A succinct and simple summary of the candidate’s research experiences, including one or two techniques, concepts, or skills they took away.
  • Probe for any interest in pursuing research opportunities in the future, especially if your facility champions research.

Why this matters:

Your goal here is to evaluate how the candidate handles mistakes, takes responsibility, and learns from the experience. Errors in the medical field can have serious consequences, so you want to know your candidate takes careful steps to avoid them. But it’s also important to know they can recognize and quickly rectify mistakes if they should happen.

What to listen for:

  • Evidence that the candidate takes responsibility and immediate steps to correct errors.
  • Signs that the candidate has a process for avoiding unnecessary or repeat errors, such as double-checking patient charts before making decisions.

Why this matters:

General surgeons often have the added responsibility of being educators, as they may need to teach patients and family members about medical conditions and procedures. The specific lesson they teach you matters less than the way they deliver it. Look for candidates who are interested in passing on their knowledge to help others understand.

What to listen for:

  • Signs that the candidate can break down complex medical concepts to help people from all backgrounds grasp the information.
  • A calm, confident speaking voice that fosters understanding and trust.

Why this matters:

This answer can help you determine whether the candidate aligns with your culture, mission, and values. Most healthcare facilities have a website full with information about their mission and services. Strong candidates will have done their homework before the interview and be able to share why they are drawn to your facility in particular.

What to listen for:

  • Focused answers with specific details, such as the patient population, types of procedures, access to a certain technology, or mentorship opportunities.
  • Vague answers may indicate that the candidate lacks the passion to help your facility thrive.

Why this matters:

Focus is a critical component of surgery. A good surgeon considers all the possible outcomes before undertaking a surgical procedure, identifying potential complications and taking steps to avoid them. But they should also be capable of getting “in the zone” while performing surgery, reducing the likelihood that they will become distracted or make mistakes.

What to listen for:

  • Top answers will display a balance of intense focus on the task at hand and an awareness of what could go wrong.
  • Positive patient outcomes should be at the heart of your candidate’s answer.