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Un-Sweet Talking the Golden Goose in Radiology: How Not to Get Jobs, Referrers and Other Things You Want


A good awareness of your communication style with others can pay significant dividends in your career.

Once upon a time, I was approaching a crossroads in my radiology career. The job I was in wasn’t terrible, but it had not lived up to expectation, and I was increasingly sure better things were out there.

Eyeballing job listings, I occasionally saw potential opportunities that sounded like they might be worth investigating, even if I wasn’t formally applying just yet. If a cold-calling (or emailing) recruiter happened to hit me up at the right moment, I might even see what he or she had to say.

I found myself talking to a guy who represented a couple of jobs with promising-sounding blurbs. Plenty of details needed filling in, and I wasn’t in a desperate hurry to get out of my current gig. The burden was thus on him to impress me with his offerings.

He completely failed. It wasn’t because the jobs were crummy. For all I know, they could have been amazing. Unfortunately, I never found out because the recruiter got in his own way. Not only did I lose interest in his offerings, the recruiter managed to make me strongly dislike him. I wound up thinking that, all other things being equal, I would probably go out of my way to not take any job that might pay him a commission. I certainly wouldn’t be inquiring after any other opportunities he (or his recruitment group) represented.

Our interaction wasn’t just potentially getting me to apply for the jobs he was representing at the time. If he got me to appreciate his services and plain old like him as a person, I might have come back as repeat business in the future. Maybe I would have referred other rads to him too. He didn’t just do himself out of one golden egg, but the potential for multiple others.

It’s something of an achievement to create that strong a reaction—negatively or otherwise—in just a few minutes over the phone. I found myself wondering if it had been a bad time for him to speak. Perhaps he was just dumped by a significant other, had a hangover, or was sore that his favorite sports team had lost the night before. Under any such circumstances, of course, if he was temporarily in a bad way, he probably should have deferred professional interactions.

(Editor’s note: For related content, see “Give Yourself a Raise: Goals and Systems in Your Radiology Career, Part 3.”)

The recruiter used a variety of methods in his alienation. He repeatedly talked over me or cut me off (while I was answering his questions). He spoke down to me as if I wasn’t a seasoned rad who knew my own field. “Mansplaining” seems a worthy term, even though we were both male. The recruiter dismissed my statements or demonstrably did not listen to them. Perhaps most importantly when trying to sell something like a job opportunity, the recruiter’s refusal to cough up basic, pertinent details gave me the impression that they were more worthy of hiding than hyping.

Let’s assume for the moment that the recruiter was an absolute genius, 100 percent correct about everything, and could tell that I was the polar opposite. Maybe he even “read the room” and knew this call was a waste of his time. He still screwed up. If you’re in anything resembling a sales position, or otherwise trying to get people to give you business, you need to keep such insights to yourself instead of broadcasting them. You need to at least pretend to respect the person on the other side of the table. If the potential recruit is in a profession in which folks tend to be intelligent (or at least think they are), you need to feed into that. If you have to contradict the other party, gently bring him or her around to your way of thinking. Don’t bludgeon the person with it.

One needn’t be a radiologist (job hunting or otherwise) to know this, but it does belong on our radar. Referrers, technologists, patients and pretty much everyone else we interact with in our line of work will take note of how we comport ourselves. If you don’t think their perceptions of us will matter in the long run, you haven’t thought about it enough.

Have you, for instance, ever been snippy or otherwise unkind when a tech calls you up with a protocol issue? Have you expressed annoyance if a referrer has a question, perhaps one whose answer you know you already answered in your report if only the doc had read it? Even if you’ve forgotten your less than diplomatic moments, the other person probably hasn’t or, no longer remembering the details, might just have a general sense that you are a jerk.

On the other hand, suppose you went out of your way to be friendly, patient, and helpful. You were good to interact with when others perhaps were not. Sure, that might get you tagged as the preferred person to bother (excuse me, “consult”), but it will also sprinkle the world with allies. These folks might just be around at the darnedest moments to return the favor.

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