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Three Ways to Improve the Physician Interview and Avoid Hiring Mistakes

November 3, 2011

I am continually surprised by the lack of sophistication in the physician interview. Accordingly, I’m never surprised by their lack of effectiveness. Physicians do a poor job of evaluating job opportunities and hospitals and physician groups do a poor job evaluating physician candidates.  Far too often, a few years into the relationship, both parties are unhappy and feel that their expectations weren’t met. It’s likely that expectations were never discussed, and possibly were unrealistic. One way to start improvingthis process;  a meaningful interview.

Unstructured interviews have little predictive value. The traditional physician interview is as unstructured as it gets. A physician executive recently described it to me as a “slap and giggle fest” – nothing more than a meet and greet and some chit-chat. Rarely is there a deliberate dialogue designed to learn something about the candidate. In other industries, the interview is a valuable opportunity to gather critical data that will either help make a hiring decision or, at least, understand how to help make the candidate successful when they come on board.  Start with the basics:

    1. Define the desired competencies. A recent client’s list: Openness to New Ideas, Transformational Leadership, Innovation, Healthcare Business Acumen and Patient-Centered Care.

    2. Ask structured, behavior-based questions for each competency. Prompt  the candidate to give specific examples that allow you to evaluate the competency. Examples:

      • “Tell me about a time that you changed your established approach to treating a type of patient or condition, based on new information. What was the result?”

      • “Tell me about a time when you worked with other disciplines (i.e., nursing, therapy, administration) in order to accomplish a goal. How did you tailor your approach to work with the group dynamics? How did the situation turn out?”

      • You want the candidate to cite specific situation, their actions and the outcome. If they struggle, or speak in generalities, they likely are not strong in the given area.

    3. Score the responses. Use behavioral anchor ratings to bring objectivity to the process.  If there are multiple candidates, use the scores as a data point to compare them.  If there are multiple interviewers, use the data to discuss the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.

Every physician leader will tell you about a few recent disappointing hires that interviewed well.  Yet, we continue to use the same, useless, interviewing techniques. We invest a lot of money into the recruitment of physicians, and even more into their early career.  The cost of a bad decision is exceptionally high. There’s an art and science to interviewing, just like there is an art and science to medicine.  There is too much on the line.  It’s time to stop going through the motion of interviews that add nothing to the decision process.

Next week, we’ll comment on the interview from the physician’s point of view.

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Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.