Health Care Selection Interviewing

Καταχώρηση 2013/02/22




One of the most critical skills a health care recruiter needs is to be a successful interviewer. And as we’ve said before, this is not a skill any of us is born with. For new recruiters, we recommend attending an interviewing workshop where you can learn the finer points of this important process. Many of these workshops offer role-playing exercises, which have been proven to greatly increase ability and comfort in this area. Interviewing skills can be learned. It simply takes time, knowledge and practice, practice, practice.

In a new series of articles, which begins with this, we will review many aspects of the interviewing dynamic,
with an emphasis on behavioral interviewing. In this issue, we will concentrate on the work that must be done prior to the actual interview.

Preparation for the Interview

What are the Job Requirements/Skill Sets?

As with most things, the key to success in interviewing begins with preparation. Before you even schedule an interview appointment, make sure you have a good understanding of the job requirements, skills, abilities, behaviors and core competencies that are critical for successful job performance. This information is based on the job description, analysis of the job, and performance by incumbents.

Unfortunately, in health care, it is not uncommon for us to be asked to recruit for a position which we know little about, whether it’s for a new category of personnel or modification of a current position. Take the extra time to discuss the new position with the appropriate manager to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Are There Internal Candidates?

Another key consideration is internal posting. Follow your organization’s policy and make sure you’ve met its requirements and those of any unions with which you have contracts. There are few things worse than making an offer to an outside candidate when there’s an interested internal candidate and the posting procedure has not been followed.

Analyzing the Resume/Application

Now that you have a good understanding of the skill sets for the position and you’ve made sure there are no internal candidates, you can go about reviewing resumes and/or applications from external candidates.

When analyzing a candidate’s experience, we recommend that you always use your own employment application. Your facility’s application is a document with which you are familiar. And it requires specific information that applicants don’t often list on their resumes. For example, often months worked are omitted from resumes. This can create problems when you’re attempting to resolve gaps in employment. Also, there are many different 

styles of resumes and some offer very little information.

In general, we recommend that you investigate a candidate’s activity during employment gaps. Any breach in employment of four months or more is a potential red flag and may indicate a time frame in which the individual was working at a job not noted on the application or resume. The issue here is whether the applicant was working during that time, what outcome that employment yielded (Was the applicant terminated? etc.), and
why the candidate chose not to include that period of time on his/her application or resume. There may be an innocent reason for the gap, but it is your job to track that information down. Sometimes, what isn’t on an application can be as important as what is.

Another tool to assist you when analyzing applications is an interview form for note-taking. This can be easily designed and incorporated as part of your interview process. It should encompass the following areas:

Educational Background

List these in order, starting with high school, then college or university experience with types of degrees. Whenever possible, you should check with the college or university attended to make sure the applicant actually graduated and received the degree indicated. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for individuals to claim educational backgrounds or degrees they did not receive.

Positions Held

Analyze this data starting with the first position: list facility, month and year started to month and year when the applicant left the position, position responsibilities and reasons for leaving.

Licensure/Certification/Social Security Number

Be sure to check these items once you have made the offer to the candidate.


First Impressions Are Lasting Ones.

All too often, an interview can go awry because the environment and interface dynamic are not suitably prepared. It is therefore critical that you take all the steps necessary to creating an atmosphere conducive to a positive and productive interview experience. And it all begins from the moment your candidate walks through your door.

One of the most effective ways to approach an interview is to use a customer service model to guide you through the process. For example, make sure your receptionist or assistant lets your candidates know that
they’re expected and welcome. Let your administrative assistant and related staff know you are interviewing and that you are not to be interrupted with calls. Consider an “Interview in Progress” sign for your door to prevent unwitting visitors. And make sure you arrive for the interview on time. The more important a candidate is made to feel, the more impressive your opportunity will look.

As with any social dynamic, it’s also important that the physical environment be made to create optimum comfort. Set up your interview room so that there is no desk between the interviewer and the candidate. This open arrangement works best with a small table and chairs. And be aware of personal distance needs. The
rules of proximity are never more important than in a business setting, especially one in which a first impression is being made.Remember, this is a stressful time for candidates. Your ability to make them comfortable ensures a more honest exchange and a more successful interview for everyone concerned.

It’s Not Always In The Technique.

There’s a phenomenon in interviewing called “The Five-Minute Decision,” in which studies have shown that most interviewers make a decision about a candidate’s viability in just five minutes’ time. It is strongly advised that you resist the temptation to “follow your gut” in such a way, as the best decisions in interviewing are based on
verifiable information. Your instincts play a role, but should never drive a decision in and of themselves.

Another approach to avoid is the “Grace Under Pressure” technique in which a candidate is intentionally placed in a stressful environment to determine how well they can handle it. Though the “stress interview” is favored in some industries, it is not usually used in health care, nor should it be. As mentioned earlier, your objective
should be to create a free-flowing exchange of ideas and information.

When dealing with the sociocentric personalities of most health care candidates, this is best achieved in a relaxed and comfortable setting.Rather than embracing a particular interviewing technique, it is best to understand the psychological dynamics involved in the interviewing process and to use that knowledge to better assess a candidate’s prospects. It is important to be on the alert for the following kinds of cues:

Did the applicant arrive on time? Is she well-organized with her materials? What is her overall appearance? Is she suitably attired for the interview? What is her body language like? Does she exude confidence? Is she forthright in her responses? Is she using eye contact? Do her questions indicate that she is listening to you? Each of these factors can play an important role in indicating future behaviors.

Listening.Your Most Powerful Tool.

Without question, the greatest skill an interviewer brings to the table is listening. That said, it’s not enough that you hear what your candidates have to say, you must also create a situation in which they’re able to say it.

The fact is, over-talking is one of the biggest problems we see in interviewing today. Interviewers find discomfort in silence and can’t resist the urge to jump in and fill the gap. Our suggestion? Don’t do it. Give your candidate time to consider both your question and their response before they provide an answer. An interview isn’t a race and a rapid-fire response is not a measure of intelligence. A candidate’s ability and willingness to provide a thoughtful response speaks volumes about who they are and what they’re capable of bringing to your facility.

And Finally, How to Begin.

Now that you’ve prepared your staff and interviewing environment and readied yourself to listen and read the cues, it’s time you got yourself organized.

The best way to begin is to do some prep work. Take notes about the candidate prior to the interview and have them ready. Make sure tea, coffee and water are available and ready to be served.

Be prepared to engage your candidate in small talk to break the ice and enhance his/her comfort. You can refer to the Hobbies and Interests section on the candidate’s resume in order to accomplish this. Be ready to
explain that you’ll be taking notes and encourage the candidate to do the same. And be mindful of what you write, since he/she might be able to read it and all of your notes may ultimately be part of a permanent record.

As with all things, preparation is the key to success. If you expect that from your candidate, you most certainly should practice it yourself.


Expectations And Exploration

Now that you’ve done your prep work (see Parts I and II of this series), it’s time to focus on the interview itself. As with most recruiting interactions, the best place to begin is with managing your candidates’ expectations.

Set the stage for the interview. Tell your candidates whom they’ll interview with, how long those interviews will take and what type of followup will occur, including the time frame for your getting back to them. And make sure
your interviewees understand they’re not the only applicants for the position. Not only does this give them a realistic understanding of the competitive framework, but, if necessary, it makes for a much smoother rejection process.

Once you begin to review the opportunity, describe the position with as much detail as you can. Provide a copy of the job description and review everything from skill requirements to work environment. The better you
convey the essence of an opportunity, the more effectively a candidate will select in, or out, of it.

After your candidate is fully briefed on both the interview process and the opportunity, it’s time to begin the exploration phase. Here, your objective is to obtain as detailed a picture of the candidate as possible in the limited time allotted. Where do you start? At the beginning.

Review the candidates’ first employment experience, ensuring you’re very clear about the scope and nature of the position. This should include the duties involved, the skills they used, the type of facility/unit/department, the schedule, the length of time they were in that position, and of course, why they left.

With new graduate RNs, it’s also important to explore the time spent with patients in their clinical experiences, the length and depth of clinical rotations, the number of patients cared for on a typical day and the procedures they were able to perform. Bear in mind, college nursing experiences vary widely.

Interviewing Dos and Don’ts

Don’t be afraid of conversational silences and resist the impulse to fill them yourself. A silent candidate is usually a thinking one!

Do repeat a question if you sense your candidate misunderstood or misheard you.

Don’t be shy about asking for a candidate’s attendance and punctuality record:

“What will your supervisor say about your attendance record?” “How many days were you late for work in the past year?”

Candidates will often surprise you with amount of information they’re willing to share about such things.

Do ask for clarification, or restatement if you need it, i.e. “I’m not sure I understand. Could you tell me more?”
Don’t let the conversation stray into personal subject matter. Keep questions work related and reiterate that you will be checking references.

Do take the steps to establish a good rapport. In doing so, a candidate will sometimes tell you more than you could learn from references, thus underscoring the importance of comfort level in the interview process.

Don’t assume you understand what a candidate’s former position was based on job title alone. Titles may not translate well from facility to facility, particularly between community hospitals and large teaching hospitals.

Ask And You Shall Receive

You’d be surprised how many interviewers have missed valuable information simply by failing to ask the right questions. Here are some basic parameters to help ensure you make the most of every interview.

First, ask the obvious. It seems almost cliche to ask candidates about their career goals, but it’s critical information nonetheless.

Try these questions on for size:

“What are your long- and short-term goals?”
“Where would you like to be in five years?”
“What do you see yourself doing in the final phase of your career?”
Standardized questions should address:

• Values/ethics • Problem solving
• Work intensity • People management
• Relationship skills • Skills specific to position

In patient care areas, you can assess candidates’ strengths and interests by asking what they liked best and least about their unit, patients, environment, management, etc.

For patient care givers, ask for detailed information about previous types of care delivery systems with which they’ve worked.

And, don’t forget about honors, published articles, membership in professional associations, work-related community involvement, etc. Even the most successful professionals can be uncomfortable “boasting” about their accomplishments.

Classifications Of Questions

There are four primary classifications of questions that are designed to induce very specific types of information. They include:


This is designed to elicit a simple yes or no answer.

“Did you graduate from the University of Kentucky?”


This provokes more in-depth exploration and information.

“Tell me about your post-graduate program. How was it structured?”


This asks the candidate to imagine what he would do in a given situation, thus affording you an insight into thought-process, problem-solving and the ability to think on one’s feet.

“What would you do if you had a problem with a difficult staff member?”


This requires the candidate to describe an actual experience, giving you an opportunity to assess problem-solving and interpersonal skills. The advantage of using behavioral questions and the reason we recommend this technique, is that it builds on real-world experience and demonstrates how the candidate actually handled an
event or experience, rather than how they would ANTICIPATE responding.

“What happened the last time you had a problem with a difficult staff member?”

As you can see, an interview is only as good as the questions that are asked. Stick to these fundamentals and you’ll be well on your way to a productive and meaningful exchange.






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