CES Partners, Ltd. Executive Search Consultants

An Interview Guide for the Hiring Executive

Finding and attracting capable executive talent is a very real challenge today, more than ever. Despite the apparent excess of available health care executives, selecting and recruiting the individual who best fits a specific situation is a difficult task. The best way for you to choose the right executive for the job is by focusing on the selection interview.

The selection interview is the most important element of the hiring process. It is a two-way communication tool, which enables you to have the opportunity to assess a candidate while enabling the candidate to personalize you and your organization as a potential employer. It is a conversation in which both you and the candidate give and get information.

Interviews can be categorized into the following five types or styles:

  • Stress Interview - Most people have heard about stress interviews, but few have truly experienced them. This technique is typically characterized by a constant barrage of tricky, difficult, and negatively phrased questions designed to keep the candidate off-balance. Skilled interviewers rarely use it. The stress interview can often backfire on the person asking the tough questions by portraying the interviewer as insensitive or uncaring. The infamous naval submarine commander, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover was known to deploy this high pressure technique when selecting his officers.
  • Structured Profile Interview - organizational psychologists often use this style in an attempt to characterize a candidate's personality traits. It is typically employed through a question and answer approach with tight control and a narrow focus. The responses are generally screened and directed toward a specific trait or issue. This approach can be effective, particularly if you are looking for specific skills or abilities, such as salesmanship. Nevertheless, this method is generally ineffective if used as the sole basis for the hiring decision.
  • Unstructured Open Interview - This style is, as its name implies, open-ended and, as such, provides the interviewer with little control. This broad approach sometimes manifests itself in what is arguably the most dreaded question an interviewer can ask, that is, "So, tell me about yourself." The main problem with this style is that the candidate will usually provide more information than may be relevant. The interviewer is then tasked with the need to cull out the appropriate information.
  • Situational Interview - This style is based on the belief that the closer you can get to a real work situation, the better your evaluation of the candidate will be. For example, you might provide the candidate with a set of facts related to an actual problem that your organization is facing. Coupled with this might be a tour of the area affected by the problem. After a thorough review of the situation, you might ask the candidate for his or her broad recommendations for a solution to the problem. In this type of interview, An Interview Guide for the Hiring Executive Page 2 of 3 questions often begin with, "What if...?" It can be a great predictor of success, but it is not a perfect technique on its own.
  • Combination Interview - This is likely the best strategy for your hiring interview because it combines elements from each of the interview styles. By drawing from the style that is most appropriate to the organization and your specific situation, you are more assured of a comprehensive evaluation of the candidate. In this approach, you the interviewer guide and lead the situation, and the candidate is allowed to speak freely about relevant topics. The opportunity then exists to test the candidate's abilities, and you can better measure the potential for success.

Today's Candidates Are Smarter Interviewers

There is a great deal of interview and career management advice out there. Some well prepared candidates bring a higher level of sophistication to the interview. On the surface this would appear to be a good thing, enabling a more efficient communication process; but a savvy candidate can create false impressions and mask a true fit. Therefore it is vital to probe beneath the surface and reveal the true strengths and weaknesses of the candidate. The combination interview approach can help you do this.

The Interview Environment and Setting the Tone

The introductory moments of the interview can be the most awkward but are vital to a successful interview. Your introduction sets the tone and creates a rapport and trust between you and the candidate. Ensure that you have a private and comfortable interview environment. Avoid furniture barriers (e.g., desks) between you and the candidate. Maintain a level plane and keep a close, but non-threatening distance from the candidate. Relax and be still. Acknowledge the candidate with a smile and warm handshake. In the early moments of the interview, it is quite appropriate to talk about trivial topics such as the weather or sports, and a dose of humor can go a long way in relaxing both you and the candidate. Above all, it is important to establish a trust and open, honest exchange of information. Also, explain to the candidate that you will be taking notes to make sure that the candidate's information is accurately reflected when you make your evaluation.

Take care of routine business early. Card exchanges and other housekeeping issues such as expense reimbursement might be addressed here.

At this point, it will be important for you to review the agenda for the interview and outline what you hope to accomplish. Be prepared to talk about yourself and your own background. If others are involved in subsequent interview meetings, you should provide brief background information for these individuals as well.

Remember to state the purpose of the interview. For example, if it is the first phase of a two-step interview process, let the candidate know that this is the case. In the spirit of two-way communication, make sure the candidate understands that he or she may ask questions at any time; nevertheless, in order for you to maintain some structure and control over the interview, devote a portion of the interview time for the candidate's questions, and let him or her know that this will be factored into your interview time.

Closing the Interview

After you have covered most of the ground you set out to, know when to stop. Remember to allow adequate time for the candidate to ask questions. Of course, do not hesitate to ask the candidate about his or her initial impressions of you and the organization. Provide the candidate with the opportunity to ask for the job.

It might be helpful to explain the post-interview timing; that is, the next step or steps in the screening process. Provide your constructive, but realistic, impressions, if appropriate. If the candidate is scheduled to meet with someone else at a nearby location, try to escort the candidate there. If it is not practical to do this, make sure an appropriate representative of the organization does so.

Immediately following the interview, record you impressions. Remember to not only compare the candidate with your pre-established position specifications but also with the other candidates.

Interviewing Tips

Following are some suggestions, which should help to make your candidate meeting both enjoyable and productive:

  • Encourage free speech.
  • Probe and pace the interview.
  • Remember to listen and then listen some more.
  • Block out sufficient time for the interview.
  • Eliminate distractions and create privacy.
  • Be courteous and thankful.
  • Verbally notify the candidate of the outcome.
  • Don't be late to the interview.
  • Don't keep the candidate waiting.
  • Don't ask leading questions that imply the answer you want.
  • Don't ask confusing, compounding questions.
  • Don't criticize or be negative.
  • Don't jump to conclusions and answer for the candidate.
  • Ask for examples of both accomplishments and failures.
  • Don't reread the resume to the candidate.
  • Remember to recruit the candidate - sell the position.
  • Don't allow a group interview to degenerate into an inquisition.
  • Develop a true rapport.
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Don't forget to listen.
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CES Partners, Ltd. is a premier retained executive search firm that specializes in serving healthcare provider organizations with tailored, personalized, senior level consulting services. With a national reach throughout the United States, CES Partners serves health systems, hospitals, group medical practices, and senior living communities. CES Partners’ main office is located at 1314 Kensington Road, #5195, Oak Brook, IL 60522-5195.