Healthcare Interview Tips

NHG Professional Healthcare Interview Tips

Interview Types

There are several types of interviews. Understanding them can help both the interviewer and the candidate perform better. Understand as well, that some interviews are not planned and as a result do not fit any pattern.

The Behavioral Interview

A behavioral interview is aimed at getting the candidate to relate real life examples of how s/he handled problems or showed leadership in previous positions. Questions should be phrased as "Tell me about a time when..." or "Describe how you went about...." The assumption is that if the candidate has demonstrated the ability to solve problems or lead people in the past, s/he will be able to do so in the future.

A successful candidate will be able to readily give examples of how s/he solved problems, reacted to unplanned events, improved performance of a work unit, went above and beyond to accomplish a goal, or took the initiative.

The Patterned Interview

If the intent of the interviewer is to be perfectly objective, this type of interview may be used. It is also commonly used in a screening interview to narrow the field of candidates or to see if minimum qualifications are met.

In the patterned interview, the interviewer will ask a series of questions, usually from a written list. The answer to one of the predetermined questions may lead to a probing follow up question that is not on the list. A pause at this point should not be troubling to either party since the probing question needs to be developed in the interviewer's mind at this time. This is a point where the candidate may have the opportunity to take the interview in a direction which could be desirable or not depending on the wishes of the interviewer. If it is not, the interviewer can simply redirect with another question.

The Unstructured Interview

This type of interview can be conducted with the intent of letting the candidate take the lead allowing the interviewer to observe the candidate's leadership and communication style and understanding what is important to the candidate. This is where the candidate can talk about his/her career successes in a story-telling manner.

Questions like "Tell me about yourself" or "Tell me about your last job" or "Why is this position of interest to you?" can be used to elicit the desired response. Candidates who have done their research about the organization and the job can shine at this time because it allows them to demonstrate their understanding of the industry or profession in a relaxed manner that connects with the interviewer on a comfortable level.


Composing Professional E-mail Correspondence

Electronic communication has become the norm in business over the past few years and so an e-mail to a hiring manager or human resources department may create the first, and only, impression an employer has of you. What is the first impression your e-mail correspondence makes? Do you come across as precise, focused, and professional or careless, poorly educated, or out of touch with current business standards? To put your best foot forward, not only for the first impression but on a consistent basis, avoid the following mistakes in composing business e-mail:

  • Composing poorly organized correspondence that fails to convey the purpose of the communication or achieve its desired response such as a decision, an action, or provision of further information
  • Using inappropriately abbreviated, truncated, or misspelled words
  • Using poor grammar and punctuation or slang
  • Failure to keep the discussion thread attached in a reply; or starting a new subject as a reply from an old e-mail on a different subject
  • Covering multiple topics in a long e-mail
  • Not spell checking AND proofreading your message before sending
  • Having an unprofessional looking e-mail address
When you finish composing and before you push the "Send" button, take a moment to consider how what you wrote might be interpreted by the reader who does not have the advantage of hearing your tone of voice or observing non-verbal cues.

Keep in mind that others continuously form impressions of us with every contact, of any type, we make.


What Does Your E-Mail Address Say About You?

Today, a large amount of professional communication is done via the internet, and your e-mail address may be the first thing a potential employer sees in a communication from you. What kind of first impression does your address make? Do you come off as less than serious? Rebellious? Even unkind or mean-spirited? Does it indicate your political leanings? What about your age, race, sex, or religion?

Some of these things should not influence a hiring decision but is it necessary to take a chance on making a bad first impression or giving someone a reason (good or bad) to screen you out? You wouldn’t wear a tee-shirt to a job interview, so why do it with your e-mail address?

We have seen very few e-mail addresses that are impolite or that could be considered antagonistic but we have seen many that could make the owner seem less than serious or unprofessional. Our suggestion is to save the cute, clever, or “making a statement” address for personal, non-professional use and have a second for business purposes.


Professional References

You've heard it before: "What's past is prologue." If you have performed well in past jobs, you'll likely perform well in the next one. So, how does your next employer learn that you've performed well in the past? Your professional references, of course.

As important as your resume and interviewing skills are, your references can make or break you because this is where your future boss learns how your past bosses rate your performance. It is in your best interest to cultivate references at each job and keep in contact with them. Let them know when you are looking for work and, when you have provided their names and contact information to a potential employer, let them know who might be calling and what position you are seeking.

The people to whom you have directly reported should make up the bulk of your reference list. They know your work, your personality, your strengths and weaknesses. They are the people who have helped you succeed and whom you have helped succeed. A co-worker or subordinate may provide insight into how you work with peers and your management style but what every hiring manager wants to know is what your previous supervisors think of you. And they want to talk to that person, not read a "to whom it may concern" letter.

One final point; No reference is a reference. Not being able to locate former bosses, citing company policy against providing references, or worst of all, not being sure of who the boss was merely indicates that you did not have good relationships with them for whatever reason.

References are a precious commodity. Collect them and care for them.


Dressing to Get (and Keep) the Job

Dress and grooming has become a complex issue in recent years. Organizational expectations vary widely and failure to be dressed and groomed within the acceptable range can sabotage your chances. Two key thoughts to help you be on target with your dress are: "What are others who are successful at my level of the organization wearing?" and "What image do I want to convey?"

Many organizations have shifted to more casual dress codes. How can you find out about that in advance of showing up at the door at the appointed time? If you live in the community, drop by a day or two ahead and observe. If you are out of town, try the company web page and look for videos and photos. If you cannot get a read on the norm, an age old guideline is still applicable; dress up a bit from what you think might be expected and stay on the conservative side. What you really hope for is that after you are gone no one remembers what you were wearing but recall that you "looked professional."

Here are some guidelines that should well serve anyone seeking a management position.

For Women:

  • A neatly pressed, tailored, two piece suit or simple dress with a jacket in dark or muted colors
  • Close-toed shoes that can be (and have been) polished, and hose
  • Minimal make-up and conservative jewelry
  • Little or no cologne
For Men:
  • A neatly pressed, structured, two piece suit in dark blue or dark grey with a white shirt and tie
  • Black belt and lace-up shoes that can be (and have been) polished
  • Black over-the-calf socks
  • Minimal jewelry and no cologne
If you are certain that "business casual" is in order every business day, stick to these guidelines.

For Women:
  • Neatly pressed trousers and a conservative blouse perhaps with a blazer or sweater (hose not required here)
  • Open toed shoes are okay but avoid sandal-like varieties
  • Minimal make-up and conservative jewelry
  • Little or no cologne
For Men:
  • Neatly pressed trousers with a collared shirt and perhaps a blazer or unstructured jacket
  • Coordinating shoes and belt (loafers are okay here) and socks
  • Minimal jewelry and no cologne


Upon Not Being Selected

You wrap up the interview and you just know you "aced" it. The job seems a perfect fit for your knowledge, skills, education, and experience. You "connected" with the interviewer, seemed to answer all the questions smoothly and thoughtfully, and you asked great questions that were answered completely. And then you find out someone else was selected. How did this happen?

It is probably nothing you did or failed to do. Every organization, indeed every department in every organization, has a culture that is deeply imbedded in the way business is done and how people interact, and most organizations, either intentionally or subconsciously, look for cultural "fit" when they select employees, especially for management positions. "Fit" can be a style issue, in terms of communication, dress, or body language, or it can be a compatible management philosophy (such as top-down, bottom-up, or consensus) or belief system. The hiring manager may be looking for someone like herself, which puts her in a relationship comfort zone, or she may be looking for a style similar to the person you are replacing if things ran smoothly, or for a very different style if the unit did not perform well. And it might just be something as simple as geography (you may live across the country and the person selected lives nearby) or compensation requested.

In any event, you need to be yourself and the organization needs to be itself. If either party tries to be something they aren't, the experience will likely be unhappy for both parties and getting that job may have been the wrong thing for you. In the end, every experience in life is a learning opportunity. If you take time to analyze your performance, even if you performed well, you can only improve and be better prepared for your next employment selection encounter.


Asking Questions

While you have done some basic research about the organization where you are interviewing, there is much to learn that cannot be learned without asking during your interview. In fact, asking these questions will make you look sharp and professional; not just somebody looking for any job.

What are the key goals you would have me accomplish during the first three months on the job?

What is the first task you would have me tackle?

Where are the land mines that should be avoided, at least initially?

Why is this job open? (The answer to this usually will tell you much about what you will need to do and what not to do.)

What is the organizational structure? Is there an org chart to look at? Who reports to this position and what are their responsibilities?

Tell me about the organizational culture. What is the general style of management?

How long do you anticipate the interim manager will be in place?

At the end of the interview: What is the next step?


The Group Interview

The only thing more challenging than the group interview is the group telephone interview with several people around a speaker phone at the other end of the line. As bad as this can be, you will certainly encounter it and if you can master it, you will show your poise and ability to handle stressful situations.

If the group interview is face-to-face, make sure everyone has a copy of your resume. There is nothing wrong with jotting names down as you are introduced, especially if you are already seated as the group is introduced. If you are introduced as you come into the room, you can make a "seating chart" once you are seated and reconfirm everyone's name and title. As you are asked questions, address the questioner by name if you can. Direct your answer primarily to the person who asked the question but do make eye contact with one or two others while giving your answer to that question. Make sure you make eye contact several times with everyone in the room as you are answering questions.

If questions are coming rapid fire or even simultaneously, don't be afraid to take them on one at a time and ask for others to be repeated, assuring the group you want to answer all of their questions. It can help to jot a quick note about points you want to make about the question you are not answering first.

If the group interview is by telephone, be sure to jot down the names of those present on the other end of the line and their titles as they are introduced. Don't be shy about asking for names and titles to be repeated. As you are asked questions, try to determine the identity of the questioner by saying "is this Mary asking this question." In short order, you will begin to recognize voices and can respond with the questioner's name. If you cannot understand a question, ask for it to be repeated or clarified. Don't be afraid to tell the group that you are not getting all of what they are saying. People will be shuffling papers or tapping their pencils interfering with the microphone in the speaker phone. The group should quickly understand what is happening and police themselves.

At the end, be sure to thank everyone by name and express interest in the job.


Negotiating Compensation

At some point, if you have performed well in your interview(s), you will receive an offer of employment. This is the time to discuss salary. It is advisable to avoid the compensation discussion until there is expressed interest in hiring you. At this point, you know they want you and you are in a stronger position than if you talk about money early on.

As a Nielsen Healthcare interim manager, you will have been presented to the client with your compensation requirement stated or a range within which you are willing to negotiate. If you have been presented with a specific compensation requirement you may receive an offer at that level or you may be offered something less. Likewise, if you have been presented with a salary range within which you will negotiate, you likely will be offered something toward the lower end of the range. If the offer is acceptable to you, express appreciation for the offer and show eagerness to begin work.

If the offer you receive is less that you think the job is worth, again, express appreciation and assure the interviewer of your desire to accept the position. Explain why you think you are worth more than the stated offer; more experience, confidence that you can successfully tackle the organization's issues, or information you have about the market for your skills. If you still do not get the offer you want, offer to "sleep on it" and get back with them the next day. When you call the next day, if you are not ready to accept their offer, restate your minimum acceptable salary and your eagerness to accept the position at the right price. If they say "no" to your request, gracefully decline and ask for a final decision the next day.

Be careful not to let negotiations become a power struggle. Keep in mind that a $5,000 difference in annual salary translates to $96 per week. At $100,000 annual salary, remaining unemployed for one week costs you over $1,900. It will take you 20 weeks at that extra $5,000 annual salary to make up for one extra week without a check.

Lastly, if you are offered the position without a stated salary, ask the question then. You will know the salary level at which you were presented, so simply clarify that you will be receiving x dollars per month.


Interview Types

There are several types of interviews. Understanding them can help both the interviewer and the candidate perform better. Understand as well, that some interviews are not planned and as a result do not fit any pattern.

The Behavioral Interview

A behavioral interview is aimed at getting the candidate to relate real life examples of how s/he handled problems or showed leadership in previous positions. Questions should be phrased as "Tell me about a time when..." or "Describe how you went about..." The assumption is that if the candidate has demonstrated the ability to solve problems or lead people in the past, s/he will be able to do so in the future.

A successful candidate will be able to readily give examples of how s/he solved problems, reacted to unplanned events, improved performance of a work unit, went above and beyond to accomplish a goal, or took the initiative.

The Patterned Interview

If the intent of the interviewer is to be perfectly objective, this type of interview may be used. It is also commonly used in a screening interview to narrow the field of candidates or to see if minimum qualifications are met.

In the patterned interview, the interviewer will ask a series of questions, usually from a written list. The answer to one of the predetermined questions may lead to a probing follow up question that is not on the list. A pause at this point should not be troubling to either party since the probing question needs to be developed in the interviewer's mind at this time. This is a point where the candidate may have the opportunity to take the interview in a direction which could be desirable or not depending on the wishes of the interviewer. If it is not, the interviewer can simply redirect with another question.

The Unstructured Interview

This type of interview can be conducted with the intent of letting the candidate take the lead allowing the interviewer to observe the candidate's leadership and communication style and understanding what is important to the candidate. This is where the candidate can talk about his/her career successes in a story-telling manner.

Questions like "Tell me about yourself" or "Tell me about your last job" or "Why is this position of interest to you?" can be used to elicit the desired response. Candidates who have done their research about the organization and the job can shine at this time because it allows them to demonstrate their understanding of the industry or profession in a relaxed manner that connects with the interviewer on a comfortable level.


Selecting the Right Person for the Job

Selecting a new employee is always a roll of the dice to some extent and organizations are always looking for ways to better predict which candidates will be most likely to perform at a high level after they are hired.

While objective testing is available for some jobs, the personal interview is still a tried-and-true selection technique for most jobs including management level positions where soft skills such as problem solving, communication skills, and management style are important. Currently in favor as a predictive interview style is the behavioral interview.

A behavioral interview is aimed at getting the candidate to relate real life examples of how s/he handled problems or showed leadership in previous positions. Questions might be phrased as "Tell me about a time when..." or "Describe how you went about...." A successful candidate will be able to readily give examples of how s/he solved problems, reacted to unplanned events, improved performance of a work unit, went above and beyond to accomplish a goal, or took the initiative. The assumption is that if the candidate has demonstrated the ability to solve problems or lead people in the past, s/he will be able to do so in the future.

When combined with open-ended questions such as "Tell me about yourself" or "Tell me about your last job" or "Why is this position of interest to you?" the interviewer can better assess both whether the candidate has demonstrated the ability to develop concrete solutions to real problems and has communication style and personality to be successful on the job.