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Interviewing for expectations: Theirs and yours

September 2, 2009
by Susan D. Gilster and Jennifer L. Dalessandro
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Reader submitted question: Once a list of potential candidates is narrowed, how can I make the in-person interview most beneficial?

The interview of a potential employee is just one step in a process to ensure successful staff selection and retention. Previously we discussed methods for screening applicants to decide who will proceed in the hiring process. Once selected and scheduled, the facility interview should follow a consistent and well thought-out system.

First impressions do count, and one should take note of the applicant’s appearance. Is the applicant dressed appropriately and is their personal hygiene acceptable? If they are inappropriately dressed for an interview and first impression (revealing clothing, sloppy dress, lack of personal hygiene), consider that they will likely not be attentive to their personal appearance once hired.

A consistent list of questions and topics for discussion will ensure all candidates are treated equally. Interview questions will vary for each facility and for each position. The most important aspect of an interview will be to describe and discuss the facility’s vision and mission. Ask the applicant if they agree with and are willing to embrace and support the vision of the facility, including the expectations for their performance. Additionally, an applicant’s answers to these and other questions will prompt additional questions which may provide important information to consider.

We suggest having more than one person interview the candidates. This may be the director of human resources and the appropriate department director, the administrator, or a different Department Director. One director may catch a questionable or inconsistent answer that was unnoticed by the other interviewing director. And if one person is uncertain or on the fence as to hiring the applicant, the other may confirm those questions or have important input about hiring this particular candidate. If two directors feel uneasy about a candidate, the likelihood is that the applicant is not appropriate and the search should continue. You have to trust your instincts at times, whether your reasoning is based on something concrete or not. Uneasiness is an internal sign not to be ignored.

Escort the potential employee on a tour through the entire facility, allowing them to see and experience the various work areas. Regardless of the department in which they may be hired, all staff inevitably find themselves in all areas of a facility at one time or another. Preparing them for the entire continuum allows them the opportunity to understand what they may face in the future. They may discover for themselves that this is not a good fit for them. Or, you may note their reluctance to engage with residents, or signs that they are uncomfortable with certain populations residing within the building. Potential employee actions during the tour speak volumes about them as a person and their future performance. Are they friendly and outgoing? Are they fearful, anxious, apathetic, or disengaged? Are they condescending and overly nurturing to residents they do not know, calling them “honey,” or “grandma?” Rapid turnover in less than two weeks is often the result when an employee is not exposed to all work areas. Subsequently, when they are called upon to work in these areas, the employee may decide they cannot, as it was not at all what they expected. We set employees up to fail when we do not fully inform them of the work they are to do and the environment in which they may work.

In addition, take time to introduce them to existing staff. See how the applicant interacts and responds to your employees. Often staff will know or have worked with a prospective employee in another facility. If so, listen to their input. Staff opinions should be welcomed and carefully considered, as current staff will be the ones who must work with them side by side each day.

It is best not to offer an applicant the job at the end of the interview. Ask the applicant to take a day or so to consider the vision, job expectations, and environment. Request that they call you when they can confirm a commitment and desire to accept the position. Placing the responsibility on the applicant is yet another method to validate that the applicant is serious, and that both the applicant and facility are making the right decision.

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