Hiring Right: Interviewing

A new employee is typically hired based on the strength of her skills and experience. What's frequently overlooked, however, is how well her personality fits with the practice culture.

A new employee is typically hired based on the strength of her skills and experience. What’s frequently overlooked, however, is how well her personality fits with other staff members and the culture of the practice. When there’s a poor fit, clashes invariably occur. These may persist for weeks or even months, and if unresolved, the new employee usually quits or is let go. And the practice is once again faced with the process of hiring a replacement, which carries both financial and operational costs.

Searching for quality traits. “Which personality traits are most important for your practice?” is a question I’ve posed at countless seminars. The following is a list of some of the traits most frequently mentioned. Consider these questions closely: They may explain why employees with good skill sets and varied experience have not done well in your practice. Others might prove helpful when screening future job applicants.

  • Does the applicant come across as a truly nice person?
  • How verbal and articulate is the applicant?
  • What is the applicant’s energy level?
  • Does he project a degree of personal warmth in interactions with others?
  • Does the applicant seem willing to collaborate with others to achieve mutual goals?
  • How tactful and diplomatic does the applicant seem to be?
  • Does the applicant have a positive manner and attitude?
  • Is the applicant rigid, inflexible, or highly opinionated in her viewpoints?
  • Does the applicant display initiative, drive, and resourcefulness, or is he the type of person who must be closely supervised?
  • Is the applicant a self-starter or one who needs to be prodded into action?
  • How well does the applicant respond to stress and pressure?
  • Does the applicant seem capable of persevering or does she give up easily when encountering obstacles and difficulties?
  • Does the applicant show patience with others?

Behavior-based questions. Use behavior-based questions to determine the presence of such traits. Widely used, behavior-based interviewing aims at projecting job applicants’ future performance based on how they’ve handled past work situations. Here are two sample questions that you might use:

(1) Tell me about a time when you felt you went beyond the call of duty in helping a patient or coworker.

(2) Tell me about a work emergency or crisis of some kind in which you were involved. What was your role? What did you do?

There are no right or wrong answers to behavioral questions - only responses that may or may not be relevant to the job for which you’re hiring and may shed light on whether the candidate has the traits you are looking for. Many candidates inadvertently raise red flags while describing past situations they’ve encountered.

When there’s a good fit between the personalities of your employees and the culture of your practice, staff tend to be happier, work harder, are more productive, and as a rule, stick around longer. Don’t be afraid to ask the right questions.

Bob Levoy is the author of seven books and hundreds of articles on human resource and practice management topics. His newest book is "222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices" published by Jones & Bartlett. He can be reached at b.levoy@verizon.net.