Between industry-wide staffing shortages, and the difficulty of finding a perfect career and culture fit as a healthcare provider, job interviews are increasingly stressful for all involved. Once you find the right candidates, you’ll need to take care in how you structure the interview process from the first contact all the way to a signed offer – not only to provide a positive experience, but to make sure you and your eventual choices are indeed a winning match.
Asking the best possible questions has always been essential, but now more than ever, it’s an opportunity to help get it right and guide each situation to its ideal outcome. To lend a hand, we’ve assembled some valuable questions and basic tips to consider that can contribute to the most pleasant, informative, and rewarding interviews – and successful matches made in PT Heaven.
Interview process tips
No matter the position you’re interviewing for, the process should be mapped out thoughtfully and explained transparently to everyone you speak with. The following is a solid template to consider for how to structure your interviews
- Pre-screen (20-30 minutes). These initial chats can work over the phone, but video calls are a better way to get that first “vibe check” and more effectively determine the best candidates for the role without taking too much time and focus away from your patients. Don’t worry about the deeper details during these calls – focus more on personality, communication style, and culture fit. Also, use this chance to make sure candidates have a good sense of the company, mission, and position itself, while asking their compensation expectations as well. Covering all this early makes sure everyone is on the same page before sending interviews through to the next round.
Note: If the pre-screening recruiter is different from the hiring manager, they should sit down with the hiring team ahead of time and get a clear understanding of what they’re looking for in candidates (ex. core competencies, specific traits in the ideal hire).
- In-person meeting (45-60 minutes). Face-to-face interviews at your practice are ideal for learning more about a candidate’s education, experience, and overall personality. This is a chance to ask important questions about work behaviors and mentality, using tactics like behavioral interviewing and the STAR method. If this meeting goes well, you can introduce candidates to the team and share an overview of the procedures and culture at your clinic. You can then collect some thoughts from your team on their impressions to factor into your decisions on who should move forward.
- Working interview (60-90 minutes). You should move a select group of interviewees to an “on the job” session where they can shadow one of your providers during a workday, get a feel for their routines, and even interact with patients during a scheduled visit. This is an excellent way to see candidates in their element and test their clinical decision-making skills, comfort level, and demonstration of everything they’ve told you about themselves. A solid working session like this can really help complete the picture of their qualifications when you get down to your final decisions. After the session you can ask them how everything felt, see if they have any process questions or feedback, and maybe toss in any final questions for them based on observations you or your team made during the session.
- Offer. Collect your takeaways from the process, deliberate with your team, and then make an offer as quickly as possible – don’t drag your feet and leave candidates waiting, they may have other companies that move faster and you want to respect their time! Make sure you lay all the details out as clearly as possible, and give a fair timeline on their response (typically a few days or more if you agree on a reasonable deadline). Try to make yourself available for any last questions they may have or a potential request for one more chat to help them make the best decision for themselves. Though you should only make one initial offer for each open role, you should plan a backup candidate to reach out to in case your first offer doesn’t get accepted.
What to say and questions you should be asking
With the process in place and communicated to your candidates, you can prepare your questions that will set up each interview round for success! The following is a nice flow for how to guide these conversations along, collect the most valuable information for your decisions, and at the same time, create a positive impression of your business and sell the candidates on the position.
Introduce yourself and make them feel comfortable
First impressions go both ways – it may sound cliche at this point, but the candidates truly are interviewing you as much as you’re interviewing them. This starts right from the first interaction, whether you’re reaching out via email or phone call. In these early talks, set the tone with some friendly small talk and some relatable background on yourself and the clinic. Be as open as you feel comfortable with and encourage them to do the same. If you’re on video or in-person, smiling and relaxed body language go a long way. As you and the candidate get familiar, start to go over the structure of the process.
A statement like this can be a helpful icebreaker before diving into questions: “I want this to be conversational, so please feel free to let me know if you need me to clarify what I’m looking for at all or if you have questions throughout. I’ll also leave time at the end for you to ask whatever additional questions on your mind!”
There’s a saying that a lot of interview decisions are made in the first couple minutes of getting to know your candidates. They may seem minor at first, but the warm-up questions during a pre-screening call are often just as important (if not more) than the job-related deep dives.
These are some reliable opening questions for these initial calls:
- What got you into PT?
- What do you enjoy most about being a physical therapist?
- Describe your best experience working with a client.
- What conditions are you most comfortable treating?
- What is the hardest part of your job?
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
As you work through some of these warm-up questions, you’ll see that how candidates answer questions is just as informative as the details they’re sharing. All this together should help you filter down your initial list into a great next round of interviews.
The second interview is when the “heavy hitters” should come out – to get an accurate sense of a candidate’s skills, specializations, and ability to handle different job scenarios. These conversations are better handled in-person if you have the option, or at least over video. Great questions and answers in this round will often follow the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, and Result) which is effective for getting the best feel possible of a candidate’s function-specific qualifications. No matter how nice or charismatic a candidate is, you need to make sure they are up to the task in delivering positive patient outcomes and experiences, and creating winning partnerships with each new patient – so asking the right questions is crucial. Here are some worthwhile questions to consider for your second-round interviews:
- Can you tell me about a time you had to motivate a patient that was having a hard time staying engaged in a long plan of care?
- Can you tell me about a time you helped a patient with [insert injury here]?
- Can you tell me about a time you resolved a disagreement with another therapist in your office?
- What were some of your most challenging cases, and what therapies did you use?
- How do you set expectations with a patient before an intensive physical therapy plan?
- How do you keep family members engaged throughout the recovery?
- What does a typical day at your current job look like?
Topics you should touch on during the process
Sprinkled across your interviews, make sure to share as much info as possible on how your clinic operates so you can not only help them make informed decisions, but see what related questions they have and make sure it aligns with what they’re looking for and comfortable with. Some areas you should try to cover include:
- Clinic atmosphere
- How many patients your clinic sees on a daily basis (and how many they will be responsible for)
- If there is documentation time throughout the day
- Patient population
- Growth potential and how success is measured
Your second rounds may spill over into third rounds, plus working interviews, depending how competitive your candidate pool is – it’s okay to request an additional interview so long as you’re transparent about how things are moving along. If your best candidates are involved in other interviews at the same time, you may decide to adjust your process to accommodate or give them the highest chances of considering an offer from you.
Open the floor to them
Don’t let your interviews end without a bit of Q&A time for each candidate, even in situations where you don’t think at first they’re the right fit. Carve out 5+ minutes during your pre-screenings to see what questions they have, and then more time in each additional round. It helps to have answers in mind for a lot of the questions they might ask – put yourself in their position and think about what information would be most important for you. Question time is your best opportunity as a business owner or manager to truly sell your company to an amazing prospect; the more prepared you are with answers, the more impressed your candidates will be, and reassured about your leadership and how the business runs if you choose to join forces!
Interviewing candidates at your practice can not only feel like a high-stakes situation, but each conversation also takes valuable time and energy away from other priorities. With that said, hiring the right people is one of the most important aspects of running any successful business. Come prepared and take each call or in-person meeting as seriously as the last one – you never know when your next ace is going to walk in the door. Hopefully these interview questions and tips can help you find amazing results, delight your candidates, and connect with the best possible hires for growing your team and improving the lives of more patients.