Category Archives: Interviews

3 Required Skills for Successful Healthcare Candidates

Finding, interviewing, and hiring the right person is challenging.  Since most healthcare staff directly deal with patients, managers want to hire candidates who are caring, efficient, and effective.  These types of employees help patients feel cared for, and they ensure that clinical operations flow smoothly.  Although different roles may require credentials, this list includes skills that are applicable to all positions in healthcare.
Communication: Communication patterns can be identified after a manager’s first connection with a candidate.  Some things to notice include: grammar and punctuation (in emails), timeliness in response (both to emails and phone calls), and overall communication style.
During phone screens and in-person interviews, managers should pay attention to the candidate’s communication style. Notice if they are able to explain things in a logical pattern.  Ask the candidate to clarify a few of their answers.  Note if they become flustered.
Managers should ask about the candidate’s ability to communicate under pressure.  Often, healthcare staff work with upset patients and family members.  The strongest candidates will have a demonstrated track record of effectively communicating in calm and escalated situations.
Detail-Oriented:  Many managers consider this phrase to be generic. Yet they still need to identify candidates who can work with details successfully.  Instead of asking if someone is detail-oriented, ask about being meticulous or precise.
Successful healthcare exists in the details, and staff must be able to adapt. Providers need to complete comprehensive exams, and write chart notes with precise information. Medical assistants, nurses, and additional staff must be meticulous about gathering the necessary information to assist in patient care.
Situational awareness:  Managers want to hire candidates who easily notice changes in their environment.  Front desk staff need to notice when a patient needs assistance.  Clinic staff should be able to quickly react when asked for assistance.  All staff should be able to react in urgent situations.
During interviews and reference checks, managers should ask how the candidate reacts to changing situations.  Specifically, is the candidate able to shift focus easily?  Or does it take them some time before appropriately reacting?
Conclusion: Successful healthcare employees communicate effectively (especially under pressure), operate precisely, and notice the world around them.  Hiring managers should look for candidates who hold these skills, because they are more likely to be able to adapt and succeed in these roles.

Four Qualities to Look for in Interviewees

Managers know that interviewing, hiring, and training to fill open roles takes significant time and investment.  In most healthcare roles, staff are required to interact daily with vulnerable and agitated patients. Given this daily reality, it’s important to determine as quickly as possible how a candidate will handle stressful and unexpected situations. Here are four qualities to look for during the interview process to help with hiring decisions.

Punctuality: Regardless of industry, all managers want their employees to be ready to work on time. Tardy employees create more stress for their managers and co-workers.  For interview candidates, this should be the easiest standard to meet. Allow extra time to get to the interview. If something unexpected happens, call the hiring manager to inform them. Most hiring managers will allow candidates to arrive late if circumstances are outside of their control.  Candidates who are late without prior notification or apology should be considered cautiously.  It may be a one time occurrence, or it may be a pattern.

Communication: Successful healthcare employees should have strong oral and written communication skills.  Arranging interviews over email allows managers to see firsthand how candidates use written communication.  During the conversation, managers will have clear examples of how the candidate communicates orally.  In both cases, consider the tone, efficiency, and professionalism of the communication. Most adults should already have a firm understanding of how to communicate in the workplace.  If the candidate doesn’t already meet organizational communication standards, then consider whether or not this would be the right person to fill the open role.

Response under pressure: Healthcare is an unpredictable industry.  Patients arrive with a need and medical providers and staff need to respond.  These general scenarios can be urgent, escalated, routine, or unexpected.  Before the interview, consider the environment of the organization.  Note any frequent stressors and ask how the candidate would respond to these stressors during the interview.

Problem solving: Some healthcare organizations exclusively use behavioral based interview questions that require candidates to provide examples in their answers.  Regardless of the type of questions, any hiring manager should ask the candidate to provide examples.  Then listen to their answer.  If it’s still unclear how they arrived at a decision, continue to ask follow up questions.


Healthcare hiring managers should use these four qualities and other organizational requirements to determine whether or not a candidate will be a good hire. Eventually managers will learn to recognize strong candidates during the interview process.

Why are you asking for references?

Interviewing is an emotionally charged event – and especially since 2008. Think about it from the candidate’s perspective.  There’s an implied message when you ask for references. But the message can be different based on the candidate’s personality (fox terrier, or golden retriever) and stress levels (out of work, or my spouse is a millionaire).

First of all, when do you ask for references? This tells a lot about why you want them. As a headhunter I wanted the references up front because they were more leads (pursued delicately, of course)! Do you tell the applicant to bring them to the interview at the end of a phone screen? Do they email them after the first onsite (or video) interview?

Here are some of the perspectives I’ve seen in recruiters when they ask for references.

  1. The Bureaucrat, who’s working down a list and checking all the boxes.
  2. The Mirage, who thinks giving a false sense of hope is building a positive corporate image.
  3. The Efficient, who is interested enough to want them in case they choose to go to the next step.
  4. The Closer, who wants to finalize a hire decision.

The key is to remove the implied message in a way that the candidate can’t misinterpret (aka, a reasonable person won’t misinterpret), since clarity is always the best way to build a positive corporate image.

I found giving the candidate a task with a specific timeframe was the most effective approach. They were to ensure the references have my name, and the candidate’s written permission for a personal reference related to their relationship at work. This is an excellent test in and of itself. The timeframe would be a 2-3 day window. And this is equally applicable when using a product like SkillSurvey or checking the references manually.