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The art of interviewing – Spring 2014
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By Steven Jacobs, M.A., FASPR, Manager, Physician Recruitment, Good Samaritan Health System

Whether you recruit for a rural or urban setting, a community hospital or large academic center, the goals of interviewing are the same. Evaluate the candidate, determine if the candidate is a fit culturally, and make a decision about hiring the candidate. There are a lot of moving pieces in the process, but the goal of an interview should always stay the same. It doesn’t matter if you are in a large or small market; it takes a tremendous amount of planning to be successful in the interviewing process.

In the health care industry, candidates are often interviewed by members of a group. Often that group is as diverse in intellect and personality as the United Nations. Subsequently, getting everyone on the same page is a difficult task and one that generally falls into the lap of the physician recruiter. Every organization has interviewers who know everything (or at least they think they do), those who require coaching on how to interview and what questions are appropriate to ask a candidate, and those who will push the legal limits by asking questions that are unacceptable or inappropriate. You will likely have individuals on your interview team from each one of these groups and whether or not they meet candidates as a group or individually, your job as a recruiter is to make sure they ask relevant questions to assess the candidate allowing you to make the best hiring decision possible.

Many members of health care organizations do a poor job of interviewing. This often results in disruption when the wrong candidate is hired for a position. In a matter of months that candidate resigns and the cycle of recruiting begins again. An analysis of the interview process will help identify areas that are problematic and ultimately result in a poor outcome. In analyzing these interviews, several practices have been identified that make some interviewers more successful than others:

  1. Set aside pre-meeting prep time. Interviewers should arrive at the interview having read the candidate’s CV. The interviewer should know the candidate’s experience, background, areas of strength and perceived weaknesses.
  2. It’s an interview, not an interrogation. Put the candidate at ease by engaging in small talk before, after or in between meetings. Find areas of common interest or discuss new things that are happening at your hospital. Be cautious not to use too much time with polite conversation so you leave plenty of time to get to the most pressing topics.
  3. Interview as a team. Individuals involved in the interview should know their respective roles. Each should have a portion of the job/candidate profile to cover with the candidate. This does not necessarily mean a “group” interview must be conducted. Interviewers may share their insights at the end of the day to come to a consensus about the candidate.
  4. Align topics with the organization’s goals and mission. Questions about things like stewardship, patient satisfaction, fiscal responsibility, community involvement, motivation, decision making, cultural fit, communication and teamwork are all vital to building an accurate picture of candidates and their fit within the organization.
  5. Structure the interview with a clear beginning, middle and end. 30 minutes to an hour is not a lot of time to determine whether or not someone is a fit for your organization. Therefore, managing time is crucial to the integrity of the interview. “Doctor So-and-so always goes over his/her time” should not be something you must repeat to your candidate throughout the day.
  6. Weigh questions based on the need of the organization, practice or department. If an answer is not optimal but was satisfactory, the weight will determine how important it is to the overall process.
  7. Create a post-interview evaluation form. All interviewers should fill out a detailed evaluation for their portion of the interview and should include their recommendation to hire or not hire the candidate.
  8. Create a post-site visit evaluation form for the candidate. Insight from your candidates helps you evaluate your process and modify it, if necessary.
  9. Decide who makes the final decision. Either as a team, search committee or individual, someone has to make the final hiring decision. Knowing ahead of time who the decision makers are will help you avoid conflict when it is time to decide whether or not to hire a candidate.
  10. Use interview answers to customize onboarding. Areas of strength and weakness can be used to tailor the onboarding process and identify areas where new employees can add value to the organization or where additional training may be required.

No two interviews are ever the same and no two organizations follow exactly the same process. However, we do have something in common- we are all trying to hire the best candidates. Having a consistent, structured interview process will help you do just that.

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