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Do Healthcare Hiring Managers Like Behavioral Assessments?

December 17, 2015


healthcare-selectionHiring managers are usually people who were skilled as nurses, therapists, etc. and now manage a department. They don’t come to the job with much experience building a team or interviewing candidates. Even if they have some basic interviewing training, they tend to fall back on what they know- technical knowledge and common interviewing mistakes – like the “just like me” bias, or assuming an articulate candidate is intelligent. They don’t ask true structured behavioral interview questions or know how to follow up with probing questions. Not surprisingly, that type of interview is not really predictive and can leave the hiring manager feeling like the interview process is a waste of time.

Candidates they think would shine sometimes fail, and they are likely passing up on qualified candidates who they don’t have a great “gut instinct” on. This is all true in other industries as well, but more so in healthcare, where we’ve placed so much value on clinical training and healthcare-specific experience. One hiring manager insisted that even in dietary, previous healthcare experience was a requirement, even though there was no evidence it was predictive of success.

Not surprisingly, getting this group to accept the idea that behavioral assessments and interviews are helpful can be a challenge, regardless of how many validation studies you show them. Like other industries, in healthcare, we often use “top of the hiring funnel” screening tools for high volume positions. These are carefully designed for selection in healthcare –not a general personality test. These, along with the application and, sometimes, phone screens, can eliminate candidates who have a low likelihood of succeeding. These tools can help the hiring manager focus their attention only on those candidates that research and data show are most likely to be successful. We also know it’s just far more efficient than sending every candidate to the hiring manager. Combine this process with an effective interviewing program and now you have a real “selection system” that improves efficiency, reduces turnover and improves the quality of the candidates

While some are looking for any help they can get, more traditional hiring managers:

  • Argue that they still want to see every resume and interview every candidate.
  • Don’t believe that a behavioral assessment can predict behavior (even when they see the validation study data).
  • Can point to a candidate that had a great resume and seemed perfect to them but failed the assessment. Keep in mind this usually means the person scored REALLY low in basic areas like compassion or dependability.

Some organizations bow to these concerns and accept an inefficient selection process that does nothing to improve turnover or add objectivity to the selection decision. Progressive organizations, though, keep their eye on the prize and focus on continually educating hiring managers. Most eventually get it – here are two quotes that are telling:

  • The assessment helped to identify candidates with a good culture fit. While initially I felt it was kicking out good candidates, now having filled some critical positions I would agree that they are a good fit for our culture.” – Foundation & Volunteer Services Manager
  • “We are seeing better candidates, vetted, and are consistent with our values.” - Admin Manager

Now, of course, two quotes aren’t enough to demonstrate that a selection system is working. Once it’s implemented, you should be constantly monitoring:

  • Assessment pass rates
  • Effectiveness and efficiency of the entire process, including the interview
  • Time to fill
  • Turnover
  • A comparison of selection tool results to employee performance (“validation study”)
  • And broader measures including patient satisfaction and safety.

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This blog was co-authored by Jason Frizzell and Amber Thomas -- two of our I/O Psychologists who specialze in healthcare hiring.




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.