Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The interview

Always remember that the goal in any interview is to progress to the next step in the interviewing process. This is a step by step process that may include one or multiple telephone interviews, followed by one or more internal face to face interviews.

Research the hospital and corporate group. Use the internet or other sources of information to gain knowledge about the organization. Interviewers like to see that you have done research on the hospital, are interested in their organization, have knowledge of size, service line offerings and recent news articles.

Make a list of your accomplishments. Include quantifiable results (numbers, percentages, dollars) Include achievements such as process changes, quality improvements, employee retention, patient satisfaction, procedural improvements, etc. The position you are interviewing for requires someone who has a track record of achievement and is able to convey this in meaningful terms.

Allow plenty of time to reach the interview destination, park the car and get to the interview site. However, do not arrive too early. It is best to arrive at your meeting place roughly 10 minutes or so before the start time. If you are a bit early, wait in the lobby or other area before proceeding to the meeting place. Everyone is quite busy these days, so arriving early can interfere with their schedule and adversely impact your chances of success. Once you are at the meeting place, make sure the receptionist knows you are there and contacts the person coordinating the interview.

Do not talk too much…..in a 300 recruiter survey, 43% stated that talking too much is the most common error in interviews, 33% pointed to lack of preparation and 24% cited over-inflated ego. Make sure you understand each question and ask for clarification if you are unclear about what the interviewer is asking. Respond in a concise fashion without digressing into other subjects. Listening is very important.

Show interest in the position and organization. You should convey excitement about becoming part of this organization, although you do not want to overdo it. Always keep in mind that you are trying to achieve the goal of moving forward to the next step in the process. Even if you have no idea whether you are interested or not, it is important to always work toward this goal.

Be confident in your abilities. Make sure you speak clearly and in a professional manner. I have had several candidates fail because they did not convey confidence in their ability to perform the required functions of the position or did not display professional poise. I have also experienced candidates being passed by because they did not seem interested or excited about the opportunity or were aloof. The best possible advice is to be you. Connecting with those who interview you is of utmost importance. You have the skill set and experience to do this job; you need come across as someone the interviewers can work with.

Think about several questions to ask the interviewer. This shows that you are interested in the organization, thought about the position and are able to ask intelligent questions. (See sample questions, below). Be prepared to give concrete examples to an interviewer’s questions. Interviewing methods have improved during the past five years. You will likely be interviewed by someone who knows how to probe for information. They may ask for clarification about your resume details, so you must be able to provide additional details supporting your resume line items.  

Some interviewers do not know how to interview and to probe into your experience. They may spend the entire session telling you about the organization, rather than determining your skills and experiences which make you an excellent candidate. In these cases, it is important to do your best to let the interviewer know how your skills will enable you to contribute. Ask this interviewer what the primary short term goals of the position are. This will allow you to engage. Answer all questions honestly.

Never talk solely in terms of just I or me. Mix it up. You want to show that you are an individual, but that you are also a solid team player. Think about several instances when your supervisory and managerial skills resulted in particularly good results. Be prepared to discuss these instances.

Be polite to everyone you meet. They all count in the interview process. In many cases, a receptionist has direct input into the hiring decision. Smile; be positive, upbeat, energetic and engaging. Sell yourself to each interviewer. They may not know all of the accomplishments that you have discussed with the previous interviewer.

Sell yourself for this position even if you are not sure that this is the position you want. They need you now for this position or they would not ask you for an interview. As the interview progresses, you may find that this is an ideal position for you. In any case, the goal is to get an offer of employment. That leaves the final decision to you.

Never say anything negative about a current or previous employer. This is a huge turn-off for the interviewer. Comment that you have learned many new things at each employer which has improved your ability to contribute. Your present employer and previous employers are all wonderful organizations.

Don’t discuss salary unless specifically asked. If pressed, try to evade by saying “Although I am motivated by compensation, it is this hospital organization and opportunity that intrigues me. I am presently earning $XX and would hope that you would make me your best and most competitive offer.” Make sure that the amount you state is in agreement with the number that you have provided to me, because it is likely that I have already informed the organization of your present income or income requirement.

Take my as well as the hospital contact person’s name and phone number with you in case you are delayed due to an uncontrollable circumstance. Call me so I will know if you will be late. Always do everything possible to be there on time, as being late may damage your success in getting to the next step in the process. Be prepared to fill out an application form. This requires that you have your resume and other personal information with you. Take the final resume that was submitted to the employer with you for this purpose.

Interview Questions

Questions that are probing for specific examples of how you have handled situations or problems in the past. Your examples should include the situation, the action you took and the result.

Tell me about a time you had difficulty communicating and what you did to overcome that.

What would you do if a patient demanded to see you because he/she felt mistreated by another employee of the hospital?

Tell me about a time when you had to implement a change that you did not personally agree with and what the outcome was.

How would you handle a dispute between two employees in your department?

Do you feel you are ready for this level of responsibility? The answer is “absolutely”.

What achievement are you most proud of and why?

You must be able to discuss specific instances that support your experience and ability to manage. Using generalities at this stage of the interview will result in a low score. This is difficult, since you may be asked a question, and draw a complete blank. Do your best to come up with a reasonable response. You may wish to ask the interviewer to allow you to come back to this question later in the interview after you have a chance to consider your experience and develop a good example.

Be prepared for these questions:

Why are you considering leaving your present job? Why did you leave your prior employers? – Talk about growth opportunities and challenge. Never say anything negative about your present or prior employers.

Tell me about yourself. – Talk about your education, early positions, career progression, work ethic, drive, focus and desire to excel. Talk about things such as shared governance, the importance of good morale, high patient, employee and physician satisfaction, quality of care, ability to generate process and cost improvement.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? – Emphasize your skills and don’t be overly negative about your weaknesses. Prepare to discuss a minor weakness and how you have countered it or dealt with it in a manner that resulted in improvement. Being impatient with low performance may be countered with your increased effort to mentor an individual to generate a turnaround that yielded personal success for that person.

In your present position, what have been your three or four most significant accomplishments? Refer to key accomplishments that may already be identified in your resume. Be brief, concise and include measurements that indicate performance. Remember numbers, dollars, percentages are important. Everyone is looking for performance oriented leaders.

What kind of manager are you? – Talk about making sure employees understand the goals and expected behavior and holding employees accountable. Talk about open communication and encouraging participative input. Display teamwork rather than autocracy. Talk about the way you mentor employees and encourage them to gain additional education.

How do you manage a budget? – Tell the interviewer that you make sure that everyone understands budget elements and their individual contribution to budget achievement. Discuss how you review the results frequently and follow up with corrective action when elements of the budget are trending toward an unfavorable condition. Communication and follow up are the keys in managing a budget. Talk about the care you place in development of the budget, looking at history, trends, projection of future growth, etc. You are detail oriented and take great pride in creating a reasonable but stretched budget that you achieve on a consistent basis.

Where do you see yourself in the next three to five years? – Discuss your desire to contribute in this position, become familiar with the organization and be a part of the larger picture, when appropriate.

Management Ability

Can you describe how you solved a difficult management problem?
As a manager, what do you look for when you hire people?
Have you ever had to discharge an employee? If so, what were the circumstances and how did you handle it?
What do you see as your most difficult management task?
What have you done to achieve cost reduction goals or achieve a budget?
How much financial responsibility have you had in previous positions?
What is your management style?
How do you think subordinates perceive you? Peers? Superiors?

Questions you may ask:

What would your ideal candidate look like?
What skills or attributes would make a person successful in this position?
What are short and long term objectives you would like accomplished?
What is the most pressing objective in the next two to three months?
How is morale in this department? What do you attribute that to?

Toward the end of the interview always ask:

Based on this interview, how closely do I match your qualifications for this position?
Do you have any concerns that would prevent you from considering me?
Have any of my responses left you with a need for further discussion or clarification?


Turn off your cell phone before going into an interview.

Once again --- Do not talk too much…..in a 300 recruiter survey, 43% stated that talking too much is the most common error in interviews, 33% pointed to lack of preparation and 24% cited over-inflated ego.

Always keep in mind that you are interviewing to evaluate alternatives to your present employment situation and to position yourself for a better future.  Be prepared, be positive and work to get the offer. After you receive the offer, the ball is in your court to decide. If an offer is not reasonable or an opportunity is not in your best interest, you will have the facts to make that determination. The benefit you received is that you practiced your interviewing skills with minimal cost to you.

When it comes to an offer, I will be pleased to handle the income negotiation issue, if you prefer. Often, I am able to handle conflict at this stage to arrive at an agreeable result, without friction developing between you and the hiring organization.

Wear a well pressed suit and polished shoes. Pay close attention to personal appearance (hair cut, finger nails, etc.). Speak clearly and use proper diction. Limit jewelry to ring and watch. Do not use perfumes or colognes.  

Other common Reasons a Candidate is Not Hired
·         Untidy personal appearance;
·         Inability to express information clearly;
·         Lack of genuine interest or enthusiasm;
·         Negative attitude;
·         Lack of eye contact;
·         Incomplete or sloppy application; and/or
·         Arriving late for the interview.