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Do you make this costly interviewing mistake?

Don’t focus a job interview on whether the candidate can do the job. The purpose of an interview is not to evaluate hard skills or job experience or training. Anybody who makes it to the interview already meets the requirements.

Look instead for the behaviors of the person. The interview is the time to find out the motivators, the personality, and the soft skills of self management, organization, and the ability to solve problems and work as part of a team.

Digging past the pre-fab answers

Standard interview procedure is to spend the first half hour telling about the office and how great the job is. It’s a sales pitch, and it’s a waste of time. The applicant already wants the job. That’s why that person is there in the first place – to get hired. Save the sales talk for when the office makes an offer and start instead with questions that force applicants to demonstrate that they have the behavior and competence to be successful in the job and to fit in well with the organization.

The way to do that is to ask questions that make the individual think. Most managers ask questions that can only produce the correct answers: Are you results-oriented? Do you like working in a team environment? Do you like working with people? Those don’t work. Who’s going to say, “No, I hate working with other people. I’d rather work by myself and not be bothered”?

Instead, list the characteristics the job requires and then ask for evidence of each by phrasing the questions in the format of “tell me about a time you were results-oriented” or “tell me about a time you really acted as part of a team.” People have to think to respond. They also have to be candid. Somebody who is not results-oriented is going to have a hard time making up an answer.

…and then? …and then?

Keep going. Whatever the answer is, ask for more about it. Suppose the question is, Tell me about a time you solved a patient problem and the answer is, We had a patient who complained about such-and-such, and I did A.

Ask for more: How did you accomplish A? Answer: By doing B. Response: And how did you accomplish B? What happens is that the applicant winds up doing all the talking, and the manager gets lots of information plus a rich picture of what the office can expect from that person.

Job applicants are prepared. They come in with ready responses to the typical interview questions and can spit back exactly what the interviewer is looking for. But what they can’t get past is the heavy follow-up. Asking question after question takes time; block out an hour, if not more. Spending the extra time is far easier than having to deal later with somebody who’s not suited to the job.

Picking up the dropped hints

Throughout the interview, listen for offhand comments about job preferences and expectations that indicate a bad fit. Don’t expect the candidate to come out and say there’s not a match or even give any indication of a problem. Jobseekers are going to say whatever will get them in. It’s the little remarks that tell the real story.

If a front-desk candidate says, “My goal is to be making $60,000 in four years,” stop and think. Will the position ever warrant a $60,000 salary? Is there opportunity for that kind of promotion within the office? If not, it’s not fair to hire that person. What’s more, in a month or two, the new hire will hear about the salary limits from coworkers and leave.

Or suppose a candidate says, “I’m on the fast track. I want to be assistant manager in five years.” No matter how great a fit that person may otherwise be, if that’s not what the office is offering, it’s a bad hire.

Love at first sight

One last rule: Don’t get dazzled. Someone comes in dressed perfectly, sounding like just what the office wants, and the manager’s first response is, “Wow! I’ve got to hire this person!” Now a halo perches on that candidate’s head, and what follows is not an interview at all but a search for evidence – however poor – that the office should hire that applicant.

Even the most experienced interviewer can fall into that trap. It’s human nature. And it happens just as often with physician interviews as with staff interviews. The doctors see a glowing resume from a prestigious school and think, “This person must be really smart.” No one ever listens for any indication that the applicant may not be right for the practice or vice versa.

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A telling way to interview job candidates









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