8 effective hiring questions

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November 07, 2017

3 minutes to read


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Technical skills and work experience are important considerations when interviewing for new staff, but as a colleague once told me, “You can’t train to be ‘nice’. or not. To determine them, you need to go beyond the simple question of the key duties of the job description.

Here are eight questions that can help you understand a candidate’s courage, curiosity, problem-solving, and comfort in the face of failure.

Cheryl Toth

1. What can you tell me about our practice / organization?

This is a good general opening question and the answers give you a lot of insight. First of all, you will quickly know if the candidate has done any research before showing up for the interview, which indicates their preparation and curiosity. Second, you will get an idea of ​​the candidate’s honesty and integrity. If they try to pretend they read about you but didn’t, you’ll see through their responses. And third, assuming they know a bit about your practice, this question is a conversation starter. Most people appreciate being asked for their opinion and being told what they know.

2. Our office does not have a formal software training program. Give me some examples of how you have successfully learned a practice management system or electronic health record in another job.

Both of these technologies are ubiquitous in medical practices and essential to employee productivity. Since few firms offer formal software training for new hires, your new hires are going to sink or swim when it comes to using software. The answers to this question will determine if a candidate has the skills to swim or if they will need additional training.

3. If I asked your last boss what three adjectives best describe you, what would he say?

Moving the candidate from the first person to the mind of their former boss offers an interesting perspective. The frankness of the answers may surprise you. After providing the adjectives their boss would use, ask how their coworkers would describe them.

4. Tell me about a project that frustrated you. How did you persevere and what was the result?

In any role, there are ups and downs when it comes to workload, projects and interactions with colleagues. It’s just life. What is important is how a person handles it. The answers to this question may indicate a person’s courage. Will they last until they succeed or will they give up? Are they going to pivot the problem to something that can be solved? Will they face the problems and win? Listen to these results in the candidates’ responses.

5. Explain your process for prioritizing and managing your workload.

Effective prioritization skills are essential. You will learn a lot by listening to the tasks or projects that a candidate chooses to tackle first. For example, if he looks at the A / R report, identifies the highest balances in the 60-day column, and contacts the payers to find out what they are unpaid, that’s a positive sign.

A follow-up question asks what the candidate does when their to-do list gets out of hand. Understanding how people “manage the stack” provides insight into their ability to deal with stress and overwhelming situations.

6. Tell me about a time when you identified a problem and found a way to solve it or do it better, or when you achieved something by not following the rules.

This identifies candidates who are bold enough to spot a problem and do something about it. As examples are explained, ask for details on how the change or improvement has been implemented. Millennials, in particular, will love this question. Usually, they’re looking for different and more efficient ways of doing things, which often causes them to change their ways or solve problems in ways that don’t follow traditional rules. It can lead to new ways of thinking in practice.

7. What have you tried, in a job or in any other part of your life, that hasn’t worked? What have you learned?

The answer to this question can give insight into how comfortable people feel when they fail or take a wrong turn. Effective people know how to take corrective action after making a mistake, and then come out of a misstep a little wiser and stronger. Pay close attention to candidates’ body language when describing their experience, as well as what they have learned.

8. What do you like to do for fun?

It’s a lighter question you might ask at the end of the interview, and it’s a question the candidate can’t ‘go wrong’. You will often see their body posture or facial muscles relax when they tell you about their interests or things they are passionate about. Why is this important? In the end, you hire someone to work with day after day, week after week. Understanding the candidate’s “human character” can help you assess whether he or she would be a good fit for the rest of the practice team.

Cheryl Toth, MBA, is the Marketing Director of KarenZupko & Associates Inc., a consulting and education company that has been advising physicians to succeed for over 30 years. Based in Tucson, Arizona, she is a former consultant to the firm.


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