The clipboard crew and the BBQ factor: The Interview: Part 1

After 16 years of doing interviews, I am not sure that I yet know what the perfect interview looks like. After trialing a few different approaches, I have discovered some of the things that work for me

At one stage, I thought that I would create an even playing field by asking each candidate exactly the same question, in exactly the same way. I had heard that this approach was common in the public service and large organisations. They work to selection criteria and have a team of interviewers with clipboards who sit and interrogate the candidate in a formalised setting. I managed to get halfway through the first interview before going off track by asking different questions, wanting to know more. It is a little like being emergent and adaptable when assessing patients, isn’t it? I have realised that I do not want to employ a robot and so should not interview for one. I have learned that interviewing with interest and curiosity helps to put candidates at ease.

Is your candidate someone that you would want to hang out with at a BBQ? Are they interesting, can they carry a conversation, are they open, honest, and authentic? If you have a number of candidates and their resumes and experience are similar or even slightly different, the characteristic that will set them apart will be their ability to engage and to tell a story. In many work settings, skills can be improved or taught, the BBQ factor cannot. It is the trait that indicates that your future employee will be able to engage with your clients and the rest of your team.

Make sure that you allow enough time to really find out what you want or need to know. At a minimum, an hour is required, to interview for a clinical position. Beyond standard questions about skills, experience, scenarios, there are three questions that we always ask:

  1. Interview for resilience:

Can you tell us about a situation in your work or personal life, that has been difficult for you? How did this situation affect you? How did you feel? What did you do? Did you learn anything from this situation? Can you give me an example of circumstances that might make you feel stressed? How would you manage this? Do you ever have difficulty switching off, when you go home or sleeping at night? What do you do for fun? What do you do to unwind?

There are big challenges in workplaces supporting people with anxiety, especially if there is little self-awareness. The questions above will give you information about a candidate’s ability to talk about difficult situations and also tell you whether they have insight and self care strategies in place. I would be very careful about employing anyone who could not answer these questions, as it is an indication that their self-awareness is poor. Every employer will know that stressful events are inevitable in a health care setting. Our job as employers is to support our employees and we need to find out what the scope is to assist them.

2. Interview for ability to take feedback:

Can you tell me a time when you have received feedback that was difficult to hear? How did you respond? Have you had a situation when a patient expressed dissatisfaction with some aspect of their care or where they felt you did not meet their expectations? How did you manage this situation? What is your approach if you disagree with someone or they have a different opinion to you?

We are looking for someone who is interested in learning and growing in our workplace. Giving and receiving feedback is an important part of our workplace culture. Can you tell me how you respond and what you do with feedback?

A candidate is likely to have received some negative feedback in their career or student days. I would be wary of a response if they say that this has never happened.

3. Interview for ability to ask for help:

I am interested in a time when you have asked for help or perhaps when you did not ask and wish that you had?

I would preface this question with an outline of workplace culture. Candidates might otherwise see this as a “trick question”. Many people continue to feel that it is an indictment of their skill base or on their level of experience if they need to ask for help. We know that for individuals and teams to grow and develop within a workplace, regardless of experience, that recognising limitations or more importantly opportunities for learning, that asking for help is very important.

Focus in interviews can be on hard skills, expertise, and experience. For contemporary workplaces, it is important that the interview is broadened to include questions about how your candidate will fit into the culture of your workplace and how you can support and develop them to their potential. If your workplace has developed a purpose and values, it is a good platform to focus your interview questions. (See part 2 coming soon)

Dianna Howell Certmgr MIML MAPA

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