9 Tips for Improving the Healthcare Interview Process

interview best practices

But you hit a snag in the approval process, and by the time it’s sorted out, the perfect candidate has slipped through your fingers.

This isn’t the only painful scenario that impacts hiring at healthcare organizations, but we’re willing to bet you’ve seen this example play out more than once. During our organizational assessment, we notice common themes that negatively impact hiring:

  • Multiple interview rounds for a single candidate
  • Large numbers of internal people interviewing the candidate
  • Interviewers forget to sell the organization as a great place to work
  • No process established for reviewing the candidate’s fit as an internal team prior to authorization
  • Poor communication with the candidate throughout the process

Because we believe better hiring practices lead to better hires, we’ve outlined some best practices to improve your organization’s interview process.

Establish a Process

Unstructured interviews tend to harm an institute’s ability to hire the most qualified person rather than help it. 

This may seem counterintuitive. We all consider ourselves good judges of character–which is precisely the problem. 

We’re only good judges of character when the person is honest.

During an interview, instead of relying on references and credentials, we focus on the massive influx of information transferred from the candidate in an interview. Much of which is not relevant or useful.

The best way to avoid having the perfect candidate kicked out of the loop is to establish a structured interview process. We suggest:

  1. Well before the interview is scheduled, have the hiring manager come up with a list of requirements and questions they want to be answered. 
  2. Assign each interviewer a role, and then have them write a list of questions that fulfill that role. 
  3. Have each interviewer agree to ask each of the candidates the same questions.
  4. At the end of a loop, pull the interviewers together to silently fill out scorecards (preferably in a software program) and then review the candidate as a team.
healthcare interview process

When creating a scorecard, be sure to weigh experience and credentials more heavily than personality/fit. While bedside manner and teamwork are essential, humans are notoriously bad at gauging these traits in a short amount of time.

Establishing a process may seem like more work, but deciding on a list of questions prior to the interview loop cuts down on time preparing for subsequent candidate interviews, gives you a list of questions to pull from for future positions, and helps eliminate a degree of bias. 

Taking the time to score and review the candidate as a team also improves the likelihood of selecting a qualified candidate over someone who just interviews well–and gives the team the added benefit of understanding why one candidate is selected over another.

Simplify Your Interview Loops

No one enjoys multiple phone/video-conference interviews followed by a marathon of back-to-back in-person interviews, especially when there’s overlap in who you’re speaking with from round to round.

To cut back on this back-and-forth, the hiring manager should come up with a list of must-haves and deal breakers. The person in charge of recruiting should apply these criteria to all candidates. The hiring manager should review the resumes and reach out if appropriate to confirm any gaps. Once a shortlist of candidates is established, schedule your in-person interviews and condense them into as few meetings as possible.

Are you hiring a nurse practitioner and have multiple people on the shift team involved in a loop? Have them conduct a group interview instead of scheduling back-to-back single interviews.

healthcare interview committee

It may make sense for an executive candidate to meet with multiple people on the executive team, which requires a lot of patience from the person doing the scheduling. A short interview loop may not be possible in this case. However, where possible, we recommend combining interviewers into a single interview instead of a series of back-to-back single interviews.

Meet With Internal Participants Prior to Interviews

When we spoke about establishing a process, we mentioned assigning the team roles, instructing them to come up with a list of questions, and getting them to commit to asking each candidate the same questions. Meeting as a group before the interview loops kick off ensures people do their homework and adds some pressure to adhere to the process.

It’s also a great time to remind people that the candidate isn’t the only person being interviewed. Interviewers should remember they’re selling the organization and position–which is equally important to screening candidates.

Determine Who Needs to Weigh In

We all have opinions, especially when offering a list of character traits to embrace and avoid in our next co-worker (must not microwave fish, baked goods a plus, and we prefer capable and silent over chipper before 7 AM). However, interviews–particularly unstructured interviews–aren’t useful for judging a person’s character. In fact, leaders tend to be very bad at judging character.

People have unconscious biases that can derail an interview before it starts. If the person looks like someone they didn’t like, sounds like someone who annoyed them, or wears too much cologne (something that can easily be rectified with constructive feedback), they may discard a candidate who’s perfectly capable and has glowing references.

healthcare interviewers

Having a large interview loop is more apt to harm your ability to get the right candidate in the door than it is to help.

Determine the minimum number of participants necessary to allow for proper sign-off, and don’t let people randomly be pulled into the loop.

Remember Your Role

We’ve mentioned this a few times, but it’s worth mentioning again.

Interviewers have two equally important jobs:

  1. Screen candidates to determine who is most qualified
  2. Sell the position and the organization as a great place to work

Suppose an interviewer spends the entire time grilling the candidate rather than providing opportunities for questions and answers or volunteering reasons why they enjoy working at your organization. They aren’t sending a welcoming message. Only a small number of organizations can claim a status elite enough to assume the interviewee is desperate to join the organization. 

Selling the position doesn’t mean stretching the truth. If someone wants flexible hours, and the position is more demanding than what they’re looking for, it probably isn’t a good fit, and best to warn them upfront.

Over Communicate

I remember going through a series of remote interviews capped off by a five-hour marathon with the executive team only for the recruiter to go dark for weeks after the final interview. I stopped asking for updates after two weeks passed. When the recruiter did come back to me with an offer three weeks later, I had already accepted another position.

Had they responded to emails or extended me a five-minute courtesy call, I would have been much more willing to postpone accepting an offer from a different company. As it was, the lack of response made it unlikely I would accept the position even if I did not have another opportunity lined up.

Communicate with your candidates–even if the news isn’t good. If you have eliminated a candidate, let them know. Ignoring them sends a bad message. We always encourage organizations to view candidates as someone they may wish to work with in the future.

Align Expectations

Whenever we receive a job description, we call up the hiring manager to confirm the requirements and expectations. Why? Sometimes things get lost in translation, and we feel it is absolutely essential that the candidate fully understand what is expected of them.

We also push to understand whether the job description meets actual expectations.

improve healthcare job satisfaction

Sometimes people lighten language or remain vague about a requirement because they know that it could turn off qualified candidates. In our experience, the leading cause of early attrition is a misalignment between the job description and actual expectations. 

Stretching facts or omitting details about a position strikes most people as a lie-by-omission.

Streamline Your Approval Process

When we outlined how to establish an interview process, we mentioned creating a (preferably online) scorecard and formalized group review of a candidate. If you move as much of the candidate review and approval process online as possible, you have the ability to record approvals as part of the scorecard submission.

If the interview team disperses after the interview loop, your human resources representative will be responsible for running around and asking for signatures. If you gather your interviewers/approvers in the same room and make time for them to finish their approvals in person, you increase your chances of approvals being completed quickly. 

Limited on Time? Shepard Search Partners Can Help

Does this all sound great, but you know there’s no way you have time to implement a structured interview process? Need help refining the details of the program?

Work with a professional who can do the hard work for you.

medical recruitment firm

Shepard Search Partners performs organizational reviews for all of our clients.  We’ll even coach your internal team on the best interviewing questions and practices if you think they need it. We also handle communication, ensure everyone’s expectations are aligned, and follow up after your candidate accepts their offer to confirm everything is going to plan.

To learn more about our organizational assessment and our consultative approach, contact us.

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