Growing Your Practice With Behavioral Interviewing

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Replacing or adding new physicians and staff is a challenge many growing practices face. This process is costly in terms of both time and money. Furthermore, the ongoing physician shortage has complicated and compounded this already difficult process.

However, it is crucial that providers, staff, and stakeholders thoroughly vet candidates to find those who will make the best long-term fit for a practice and the surrounding community. When done right, this painstaking process can take up to 24 months!

Taking the time to properly select the right candidate can save resources later. If the first hire leaves because it wasn’t the right fit, rehiring and retraining someone to fill their place can cost approximately one year’s salary. One way to reduce the chances of this happening is through behavioral interviewing.

What Is Behavioral Interviewing?

Behavioral interviewing involves assessing a candidate’s qualifications by asking them how they reacted (or would react) in specific situations that may happen at your practice. The candidate’s answers will give you a realistic idea of how they would contribute to your practice if hired.

Before conducting a behavioral interview, you first need to determine what values are important to your practice. Aside from prioritizing patient health, are you looking for candidates who demonstrate characteristics similar to what you envision for your practice? What traits are you looking for in a potential candidate and why? Are these values and traits aligned with your community’s? You have to determine what those answers are before you start asking.

Where to Start?

If you want candidates to respond genuinely and informatively, you want to avoid being overly specific or overly abstract. Give them some room to interpret the question as it relates to them. Also, be careful not to ask too much at once. You can always break a long question down into shorter, smaller questions to get more focused answers.

Here are some questions that fit those criteria:

  • Tell me about a time when you didn’t meet a patient, family member, or customer’s expectations. How did you react?
  • What is a mistake related to patient care you’ve seen non-physician staff make?
    • Follow-Up Question: How did you fix the error, educate the assistant, and preserve the working relationship?
  • What is a clinical leader’s most valuable skill?
    • Follow-Up Question: How did you leverage that skill to lead? What was the outcome?
  • What was a positive clinical example you set for your team?
    • Follow-Up Question: What motivated you to do what you did? What was the outcome for your team or your patients?

In each of these questions, you are asking the candidate to look introspectively and assess their own reaction to a specific situation. These are open-ended questions that invite a meaningful conversation between you and your candidates.

What Comes Next?

Beyond behavioral interviewing, there are other ways you can attract the right candidates to your practice.

  • Move quickly. Respond to promising candidates as quickly as possible. Other employers will aggressively pursue candidates with experience, so you want to assume each candidate you interview has or will soon have multiple offers. Younger candidates tend to have large student debt coming out of medical school, so they are more likely to jump on an offer if you do not respond in a timely manner.
  • Give yourself plenty of lead time. Hiring a new physician costs independent practices $40,000 or more, and the recruitment process can take two years. This may seem like a lot of time, but it’s really the amount of time you need to determine what questions you need to ask, ask them, and reflect. Make sure you agree on a timeline for a decision from the candidate. Nothing is worse than choosing that one perfect candidate, only to find out they’ve already accepted another position, so you want to keep interviewing until you have a signed contract from the candidate.
  • Consult with your retiring physicians. You won’t be able to completely replace your retiring physicians, but you can get the recruitment process off to the right foot by having proactive conversations with them about the direction you would like to take your practice after their departure.

Hiring physicians can be a lengthy and expensive process, but if you ask the right questions, it’ll all be worth it. For more information about physician recruitment, check out our “Tips From a Physician Recruiter” on our podcast, The Break Room.

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