Whether you’re taking the big step of hiring your first clinician or adding another practitioner to an extensive group practice, interviews remain a vital (and stressful) part of the hiring process.
Hiring the wrong person can be an expensive mistake. You run the risk of poor patient outcomes and creating a difficult working environment. Both factors can harm your bottom line.
Hire the right person, and you may benefit from new referrals, new patients from word of mouth, and even a better working environment when a true team player comes alongside your other practitioners.
That’s why it’s essential to refine your approach to interviews. If you ask the right questions and have a sense of the type of answers you’re looking for, you’ll be alert for red flags and less likely to be distracted by candidates that look good on paper but would be a bad fit.
Wondering how to hire for your health practice? To find the right practitioner for your business, you should focus on two key areas:
- Clinical skill and function
- Cultural fit
Clinical Skill and Function
In other words, do they know what the focus of the job is and can they do it?
Many practice owners shy away from asking basic skill and function questions because they don’t want to offend. But a candidate’s ability to demonstrate essential clinical skills is necessary if you want to avoid a bad hiring decision.
To get it right, you need to:
1. Take a Hard Line on Jargon
When asking clinical skill or function questions during an interview, don’t accept clinical skill answers from interviewees that use a lot of jargon. When you pose a question, ask them to answer how they’d explain it to a patient.
How a practitioner answers the question gives insight into the language they use with patients and their grasp of the profession. Jargon-filled responses may obscure a lack of professional knowledge and can lead the interviewer to make assumptions about an interviewee’s capabilities.
When looking at how to hire a therapist for your practice, in the face of a jargon-filled answer, you can say, “That’s a good technical explanation, can you tell me how you would describe this to a patient?” This will help you understand their level of expertise and how they relate to and speak with patients.
2. Present Different Scenarios
Try presenting a couple of simple case scenarios that are core to what your practice does. Describe a scenario and ask how they’d approach it. You’re not trying to trick them by presenting complex cases; instead, you’re trying to understand how they approach problems and their ability to explain the process.
This can help you drill down further into their level of experience and can expose a lack of knowledge. There’s no way to hide a lack of understanding when you ask questions about basic scenarios.
For example: “What would you say if a patient came in with that history? How would you approach it? Explain it as you would explain to a patient.”
3. Think About Engagement
You must know how the interviewee will engage with patients in your practice. In health, engagement is the biggest predictor of successful treatment outcomes, which can significantly impact your bottom line.
If referrals come in and the practitioner doesn’t connect well with them, a patient may leave, and you could also lose a referral source. A key goal of a first session is to instil hope, but if the patient doesn’t feel heard or they don’t have hope of improvement, they may not return.
Ask clinicians specifically what they would do to engage patients.
For example: “How would you encourage a patient to return for the next session?”
See if they’re consciously thinking about what would encourage a patient.
Things to look for in their response to this question:
- Explaining feedback as appropriate to the patient (including assessments if applicable)
- Explaining what treatment could look like (what you think)
- Explaining the rationale behind treatment (why this route will be effective)
Cultural Fit with the Team
In other words, behind the scenes, what are your goals and are they a good fit?
Before the interview, have an idea of the culture you’re aiming to build as a practice. If you’re not clear on this, think about your top practitioners and what things they have in common. They may be very different people, but if you can identify some commonalities in how they approach their work, it can help you know what to look for in an interview situation.
The next step in working out whether a candidate is a good fit for your practice is to:
1. Ask Non-Standard Questions
While most candidates will prepare for an interview and the standard interview questions, you can ask slightly different ones that will reveal whether an interviewee is a good fit.
- “How do you feel about doing dishes?”
- “Someone walks in with muddy boots and goes to reception. Would you clean it up?”
- “If the bin is full in the kitchen, what do you do?”
The answers to these questions may surprise you, but if you’re looking for a team player, you need someone who values the whole team, including the admin staff. Find out how they feel about general tidying, loading the dishwasher at the end of the day, and not just leaving everything for the admin team to sort out.
You can ask these questions directly in the interview or answer them to yourself internally as the interview goes on.
2. Understand Their Long-Term Goals
If you find yourself thinking during an interview, “Why isn’t this person running their own practice?” Consider that they may be looking to join yours for the shorter term and plan to go out on their own in the future. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire them for the role, but you must ensure you can align their goals with your needs.
3. Include Your Admin Team
For small practices, often, interviews for clinical roles include the owner of the practice, but they only get the interviewee on their best behaviour.
To get a better insight into the candidate, always ask the admin person who has contact with them what their opinion is of the person, and weigh it heavily. Your admin team is skilled at assessing people quickly from years of experience in patient interactions, and they may pick up cues from the candidate and get a feeling as to whether they would be a good fit for the practice.
The admin team will also deal with the fallout of an unsuccessful hire in terms of managing patient relations, as well as the added stress of working with a clinician who is not a good cultural fit for the team.
4. Assess their Organisational Skills
When looking at organisational skills, it can be hard to assess in an interview. Most practitioners will have completed formal studies of some kind, and understanding their approach to studying can be a good way to evaluate how they approach their work.
It’s better to make the question about studying than about prior workplaces as you may get a more authentic answer this way.
Example questions include:
- “How would someone living with you describe your approach to studying?”
- “Would they describe you as a last-minute person? Do you thrive in chaos?”
- “Would they say you’re extremely structured or creative and on the fly?”
Frame each scenario as a positive trait to help you understand how they would approach their work. Any answer can be acceptable but know their strengths and organisational style before hiring because their style must fit your practice needs.
5. Include a Diverse Panel of Interviewers
If you can, try and have interviewers representative of the diversity within your practice. Candidates may make assumptions and direct attention to particular interviewers, and you should note any difference in treatment.
- Is the candidate replying differently to interviewers of different genders?
- Are they making eye contact with the same person who asked the question, or are they focusing their attention on just one person?
It’s unfortunate that today we still need to be mindful of dynamics like this, but it’s important to look for any differences in the treatment of interviewers as this could play out in the practice environment.
When considering how to hire for your health practice, focus less on where the candidate went to school (aside from any necessary credentials) and more on their ability to perform the role successfully, and fit in well with your team. If you structure your interview around their clinical skill and cultural fit, you’ll be well on your way to a successful hire.