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Interviewing in Healthcare is Different: 3 Reasons Why

Posted by  Bryan Warren

healthcare-interviewHealthcare staffing experts are now forced to re-think their approach. Finding the nurse, allied health professional or front line worker who has the right experiences or credentials isn’t enough anymore.

Here's an example: An oncology clinic needed a nurse. They were “lucky” enough to find a candidate with twenty years of experience running the practice of a retiring oncologist. They wouldn’t need to train an inexperienced nurse in complex chemotherapy regimens.

A few things became apparent on day one:

  1. Her “experience” was limited to the protocols (some outdated) used by her older physician and she struggled adapting to the clinic’s methods, policies and procedures, arguing that “her” way was better.

  2. She was not particularly, “patient-focused” – on several occasions taking short cuts that inconvenienced patients and impacted the quality of care.

  3. She’d been in charge of a small team for so long that she had forgotten how to “be lead” or to be a productive team player.

After a few months of trying to manage the situation, the clinic decided to cut its losses and let her go. They had focused on clinical experience as their sole criteria as a way to “save time” training a less experienced nurse. This could have been avoided if they had defined the important behavioral competencies and used a well-designed, structured, behavioral interview.

The additional challenge though, is that your standard approach to interviewing doesn’t work in healthcare:

  1. Healthcare is unique. You can’t try to adapt off the shelf interviewing content and training designed for other industries. You need to identify candidates that are patient-focused, dependable, have high levels of emotional intelligence, are collaborative, compassionate and can adapt and innovate.

  2. Healthcare hiring managers are unique. They don’t have time for a cumbersome interview process that doesn’t give them the information they need to make a good decision. At the same time, though, they should learn to appreciate their role as talent evaluators and conduct standardized, effective and legally defensible interviews. Few hiring managers have significant management training – particularly in HR functions.

  3. The healthcare hiring process is unique – We are looking for specific qualities that affect our ability to provide patient-centered care, while providing a positive candidate experience, because we are often dealing with a restricted candidate pool.

Related: Evidence-Based Hiring: Everything You Need to Know

The challenges you are facing call for an efficient, but comprehensive interviewing “program” as part of a solid selection “system.”

  1. Start by identifying the behavioral competencies that matter.

  2. Develop a concise, but comprehensive interview guide using behavioral questions and a rating scale.

  3. Implement an efficient method for training hiring managers in the art and science of interviewing.

  4. Incorporate your interviewing program into your overall selection system.

In our example, rather than wasting three months trying to manage their “experienced” nurse, they could have been training a patient-focused, collaborative, conscientious nurse on chemo protocols and had a long term valuable nursing resource.

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Tags:   legally defensible, behavioral interview, evidence-based hiring, behavioral competencies

Bryan Warren

Bryan is the former Director of Healthcare Solutions at Select International. He was responsible for developing and promoting tools and services designed specifically for the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations.

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