Do's and don'ts for conducting a successful interview

Nurse Leader Insider, August 25, 2016

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Just because you aren't in the hot seat doesn't mean an interview doesn't take some preparation on your side of the desk. Nurse managers need to consider everything from the candidates' education, experience, and work history to their personalities, whether they are the right fit for your facility, and how well they will work with fellow employees.

But the effort is worthwhile if it results in finding the best candidate for the position at your facility. Here, various healthcare experts share their proven tips to enhance the chances of a successful interview.

Top no-nos

Sharon Yopko, CPC, office manager at Associates in Neurology in Willoughby Hills, OH, who has years of experience in interviewing techniques, says that when she interviews candidates she keeps several don'ts in mind. Among them are the following:

  • Don't be nosy. Steer clear of asking personal questions and never ask about marital status, children, pregnancy, or personal life. You can only explain the requirements of the job position (such as shift requirements) and ask whether that is acceptable to the candidate.

It is important, however, to address the needs of the candidate and his or her family, says Michelle Kuehler, a consultant at Black Twig Communications, an agency that works with Cejka Search, a St. Louis-based physician and healthcare executive job search firm. For example, if your facility has on-site daycare, that is valuable information for candidates with children.

  • Don't ask yes or no questions. Give candidates opportunities to tell you about experiences they have had so that you learn more about their skills and personality. For example, don't just ask if they have experience caring for a particular type of patient. Instead, ask for an example of a time when they cared for such a patient.
  • Don't overlook the importance of checking references. Yopko says one downfall in the interviewing process is not being thorough when checking the candidate's references.

It's important to not only verify that the person was employed at an organization, but also whether he or she was a quality employee. Further, ask references to describe candidates' work ethic and personality traits.

Some organizations will merely verify a person's dates of employment, says Nick A. Fabrizio, PhD, FACMPE, FACHE, a principal consultant at the Medical Group Management Association in Englewood, CO. "Everyone's afraid of getting sued these days," he says.

But even this piece of information makes checking references worth a nurse manager's time. For example, if a candidate is found to be misrepresenting his or her dates of employment to cover gaps, that's a red flag.

Frequent job changes may also signal concern, and it's up to managers to find out whether it's worth their time and resources to train a person who may not last long, Fabrizio adds.

Definite do's

Yopko also prescribes several dos of interviewing, which may help ensure a good fit and therefore boost retention. For example:

  • Do focus on the candidate's personality. Yopko says it's crucial to determine whether that person will fit in at your facility and how well he or she will work with others. Discuss with candidates why they believe they could be an asset to your facility and find out how they see themselves fitting in.

Plan to discuss with candidates their experiences working with others, focusing on prompts such as:

  1. How have you created an environment in which staff members or patients are comfortable approaching you, even with bad news?
  2. Describe a time when you recognized the efforts of another staff member.
  3. Describe a time when someone wasn't performing up to your standards.
  4. Tell me about your relationships at work. Describe a favorite relationship and a difficult relationship.
  5. Give me an example of a time you had to mediate conflict in your department or organization.
  6. Describe a patient complaint or encounter and how you handled it.
  • Do prepare. "The manner in which you conduct the on-site interview sends a clear message to the candidate about your organization," Kuehler says.

The interviewees should be prepared, so consider sending an itinerary to the candidate at least one week before the interview, she says.

  • Do talk about expectations and goals. Lay out the ground rules and discuss expectations for how the candidate will work and handle difficult situations, Yopko says, adding that it's important to make sure the potential employee has or is willing to develop knowledge of all aspects and jobs within your facility.

For more tips and strategies, check out the Strategies for Nurse Managers' Reading Room!

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