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Advice On Interviewing

Assessing Candidates

There are many books and training guides on interviewing and evaluating candidates for positions. In this section we present some introductory advice from expert interviewers, suggest a general structure for interviews, and reveal favorite interview questions from a number of top executive and physician recruiters.

Most interviewers use the candidate's resume to structure the interview. This can have the disadvantage of giving effective control to the applicant. We suggest building an interview around three modules: 1) general topic openers ("Tell me about..."), 2) self-appraisal ("What is it about you that..."), and 3) situations ("How would you handle..."). We also would like to point out that many interviewers talk too much and telegraph answers to questions they pose.

Here is another way to organize questions to help you evaluate the skills of a candidate:

Problem: "How have you reacted when a hospital administrator or physicianhas been angry with you or a member of your team?"

Continuum: "Where do you see yourself on a continuum of bottom-line results versus developing the skills of employees?"

Comparison: "How do you compare improving performance through cost reduction versus revenue growth?"

Future assessment: "How do you see competition in our area developing?"

While it is important to use the interview to form an assessment of the skills, thought-processes and attitudes of each candidate, there are also minefields to be avoided. For instance, asking what citizenship a candidate holds is discriminatory on the basis of national origin. Similarly, asking how often the candidate has been absent from work due to illness discriminates on the basis of health or disability. Avoiding this kind of pitfall makes thorough preparation for every interview vital. You should have a game plan mapped out before sitting down with the candidate, no matter how seasoned an interviewer you are.

Suggested Structure for First Interviews

1. Introduction
Your first objective is to put the candidate at ease. Smile, be friendly, make eye contact. Use small talk, offer a compliment, make sure the candidate is comfortable.

2. Take control, define objectives
Now you review the purpose of the interview and your plan for the conversation. Mention the planned length of the interview. State whether you prefer questions to be kept to the end or not. Clearly identify yourself and your position.

3. Questions
Work through your prepared set of questions. Attempt to be concise. Don't allow answers to run on excessively. Ask questions that reveal the applicant's poise, intelligence, experience and communications skills.

4. Sell the opportunity
Base your comments on the job description, but add your personal enthusiasm for the opportunity. Do not offer feedback on the candidate's apparent fit yet.

5. Answer questions and close
Offer candidate the opportunity to ask questions. Don't feel obliged to comment on sensitive areas. Start looking at your watch. End the interview on a positive note.

6. Post interview
Allow time immediately after the interview to write up your notes, while details are fresh. Be careful not to let an isolated response outweigh positive information and impressions.

Favorite Interview Questions

• How do you perceive your early background and family experience to have impacted your career?

• How has your personal background influenced what you are today, your career progression, your management and people style?

• Where do you relate the best? Up one level, down one level, or with peers?

• How are you best managed?

• How do you build a team under you?

• What qualities have you liked or disliked in your bosses? Why?

• How do you evaluate the performance of your subordinates?

• How do you show your anger and frustration?

• Discuss the importance of your job vis-a-vis your family.

• Have you ever been burned out?

• How do you reward yourself for working hard? How would you spend more time if you had it?

• What are your current career prospects in your current company?

• Tell me about your most recent interview.

• According to your definition of success, how successful have you been?

• Do you consider yourself lucky?

• When and why have you fired people?

• Have you made any mistakes during your career? If so, what were they? How did you fix them?

• Let's talk about set-backs. How have they affected you and your family?

• Is there any pattern to critical feedback you tend to get from others?

• What is the most adverse situation with which you have had to deal in your personal or professional life? How did you deal with it? What was the outcome?

• Tell me about the events surrounding severely reprimanding someone.

• If you were speaking tonight at the American Medical Association, which subject would you select that would enable the audience to see what is special about you as a business person?

• What was the most difficult ethical decision you have had to make and what was the outcome?

• What is the difference between a good position and an excellent one?

• Tell me how your approach to managing an organization has changed from the way it was ten years ago.