Hiring candidates who are a perfect fit for your healthcare practice is hard. Period.
With the knowledge that getting it wrong can lead to costly turnover and strained resources, hiring the right candidate is important. However, with only a handful of brief interactions before the actual hiring decision, it can be extremely difficult to determine just how someone is going to fit into your organization. Beyond the needs and scope of individual/ personality fit, your candidate pool is likely limited to those candidates with specific credentials, education, certification, and possibly geographic proximity.
So the question remains: how do you determine a candidate’s viability within your organization during only a small handful of interactions? For this recruiter, one of the most important steps is asking great interview questions.
Good interview questions are those that allow a candidate the latitude to answer in their own way, rather than directing a subject toward an obvious answer. This goes beyond avoiding simple yes-and-no questions. The idea is to ask open-ended, meaningful questions and give the candidate the opportunity to go into detail and direct the nature of the conversation. The following questions are not only great for evaluating your candidate’s ability to communicate and articulate their points effectively, but can also provide greater insight into their work styles, expectations, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence.
“Can you walk me through your résumé and talk to me a little bit about how you came to be sitting here today?”
While this question may seem redundant (after all, you have their résumé right in front of you), it is often a great first step to getting your candidate to open up and relax. People like to talk about themselves, and this gives your candidate a bit of a softball to walk you through their backstory.
Additionally, you will often discover random bits of context and insight about their various roles, responsibilities, and transitions. Candidates will also discuss information that is not directly represented on the résumé that may be meaningful to understanding their work history or style.
“Where do you see yourself in five (or 10) years?”
The trick with this question is to not take an answer at face value. Often candidates will describe a role similar to the one that they are interviewing for, with perhaps an elevated role or set of responsibilities. This is a terrific time to probe and ask follow-up questions with regard to career path and their understanding of your organization, and to begin to evaluate individual motivations.
If they can articulate how they might reach that role and what they bring to the table for your specific practice, you may have a candidate who is thinking critically about a career with your organization. If the candidate’s answer is flat or presumptive, it may reflect a lack of long-term consideration.
“What are you strengths … and what are your opportunities for improvement?”
I often hear “what are your strengths and weaknesses,” or some variation, in interviews. The problem with asking this question in this way is that a candidate may not be as open and communicative about their weaknesses as you would like.
‘Weakness’ has a negative connotation, and candidates will often try to flip a strength into a weakness to present to the interviewer well. For example, I have often heard “my attention to detail often gets in the way of my productivity” or “I have trouble saying no, and I often end up working too much.” Net-net, employers are more likely to consider these as positive, rather than negative, responses.
The problem is that this line of questioning has missed out on two opportunities. First, you may not receive a substantive answer. Secondly (and more importantly), you have possibly missed an opportunity to gauge your candidate’s willingness to own their mistakes and open themselves to constructive criticism.
Instead, consider asking them for their strengths first. Once they give them, ask for detailed examples of how they have demonstrated each of these strengths in prior roles. Candidates in possession of said strengths will often have compelling examples of how they brought those strengths to bear on a problem or challenge.
Once you have completed this component of the discussion and set a precedent for what kind of detailed examples you are are looking for, move on to ‘areas of opportunity for improvement,’ using the same format. I will often phrase the question as such: “based on your professional experience so far, what do you feel your greatest opportunities for improvement are?” Allow them to respond, and then ask for detailed examples of each area of weakness presented.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for additional examples, and don’t be afraid to remain silent if they have trouble coming up with additional answers. Your intention isn’t to make them sweat; you simply don’t want to give them an easy out when they may have a great answer waiting in the wings.
All in all, this is a great opportunity to let introspective and coachable candidates really shine. Such candidates will likely have a keen understanding of their strengths and shortcomings and will also be willing to speak openly about them, up to and including plans of action for self-development.
“Hypothetically, if I could call your current (or most recent) supervisor right now and ask them to rate you on a scale from 1 to 10, what would they rate you, and why?”
This is one of my favorite questions, because if you do it right, there is a follow-up question that can yield tremendous and insightful information. Often candidates will rate themselves between a 7 and a 9, usually citing those things they did well and will often suggest that their supervisor doesn’t give out a 10.
The immediate follow-up question is, “what could you have done differently in that role to earn a 10?” This is often one of the most productive and fruitful points of conversation. It demonstrates in real time the candidate’s ability to think critically and introspectively. Most candidates haven’t considered this line of questioning, and their answers can be very telling.
“What questions do you have for me?”
This, like the first question, seems obvious at first glance. However, what you’re really looking for here isn’t just to answer their questions, but to use their questions as a gauge of their commitment to pursuing a career in your organization (and, if they are a new healthcare professional, their commitment to the industry).
If they ask about trivial or inconsequential matters or ask for information that is readily available on your website or recruiting material, it may be a red flag that they’re just going through the motions. However, if they ask detailed questions about career path, management style, the future of the practice, or other such lines of interest, it may be a sign that this candidate is vested in pursuing a career within your organization and has thought critically on the future.
I hope these interview questions will help you in your next candidate interview. Certainly, no one interview question can provide you with a definitive perspective on a candidate, but strategizing your questions may help to paint a clearer picture.
John Veit is the firm recruiter for Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C., a full-service regional public accounting firm with specialties in the area of accounting and consultative services for healthcare organizations. He also consults with clients on recruiting processes and candidate evaluation methodologies; (413) 322-3546; email@example.com