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The selection interview: are you asking the right questions?

The selection interview: Are you asking the right questions?

Conducting selection interviews with job candidates is among a supervisor's most important responsibilities. Hiring decisions depend on it more than ever before because information from former employers is so hard to come by these days. When a selection interview is botched, the hiring process becomes a game of Russian roulette.

Unfortunately, many supervisors in the health care field do not handle this responsibility expertly. They have not been trained to carry it out, they don't get much practice at it, and they don't allow enough time for it. In addition, they shy from asking many questions for fear of violating Federal or state employment laws.

Some supervisors complain that the only safe thing to ask a job candidate is, "When can you start?' We must nip such defeatism in the bud. None of the questions recommended in this article carries a risk of violating employment laws, and each is designed to reveal an important characteristic. Pursue the interviewing outline presented here and you will get the information you need to evaluate a candidate effectively and fairly.

Remember that you learn nothing when you are speaking. The candidate should do 80 to 90 per cent of the talking. Your turn at conversation comes when you try to sell the job to those who show promise.

After some get-acquainted small talk, ask the candidate to discuss his or her educational history (starting with high school) and occupational history. If the individual doesn't provide the following useful information, try to extract it with questions.

Intelligence. You should seek information about the applicant's grades, SAT scores, and class rank. Look for special academic achievements, such as honor society memberships, scholarships, and awards. Compare grades with what the candidate says about how hard he or she studied.

Motivation. Did the candidate work harder than other students or fellow employees? Were there any difficulties getting to early-morning classes or to jobs on time? Ask about the average number of unscheduled absences per year. And how does the candidate feel about overtime, weekend or night duty, and extra assignments?

Maturity. How was the college education financed? How has each job broadened the candidate's capabilities? What were the reasons for leaving previous jobs? Does the candidate recognize his or her strengths and weaknesses?

Initiative. Ask about extracurricular activities and how many hours the candidate worked per week as a student during the school year and in the summer. Also find out how each job was obtained since school.

Teamwork/leadership. Extracurricular activities involving team effort are pertinent in this category. Did the candidate ever serve as a team captain or group chairperson in school? What were the candidate's later job duties, responsibilities, and authority? How about interpersonal activities, such as being a committee member or chairperson? Does the candidate prefer to work alone or in a group?

Suitability for job now offered. Why was the particular education program chosen? What academic subjects did the candidate like and dislike? Why were previous jobs accepted, and how could the last one have been changed to make it more satisfying? What jobs and assignments did the candidate like and dislike? What type of supervision is preferred? What have been the individual's most satisfying accomplishments?

Professional competence. A look at starting and ending salaries for each job will provide clues to the caliber of performance. Also find out about any promotions, increased responsibilities, and special awards or achievements. Ask some situational questions: "How could productivity have been increased in your department?' or "What do you think about elimination of routine microscopic examinations of urinary sediments?'

Now let's look at some techniques that can help you get the most out of a selection interview.

1. Ask open-ended questions. "How did you feel about your last supervisor?' is an open-ended question--it cannot be answered in one or two words. "Did you like your last supervisor?' is not open-ended.

2. Use pauses. Don't always jump in as soon as the interviewee falls silent. Wait. The candidate may feel compelled to break an extended silence and thus volunteer additional information.

3. Make it easy to discuss shortcomings. Candidates will be more frank about their shortcomings if your questions are tentative ("Is it possible that you . . .'). It also helps if you avoid using embarrassing words, such as "weakness' or "deficiency,' and make this observation: "I think that people who recognize their developmental needs are much more likely to do something about them.'

4. Conduct uniform interviews. Keep a list of the questions in front of you to insure that you don't forget any and that each prospect is asked the same ones.

5. Develop a simple code for scoring. A consistent method of scoring answers increases objectivity. If you are an inexperienced interviewer, start by recording a check mark for each positive response, then tally the number of checks.

As you gain experience, you can switch to an alphanumeric system. For example, if the candidate has outstanding SAT scores, jot down an "I' for intelligence. If the candidate carried a full academic schedule, played on an athletic team, and worked 20 hours per week in a part-time job, write down I, M, E, and T for intelligence, maturity, energy, and teamwork, and tally the number of letters. This technique makes it possible to score each trait and quickly compare candidates' results during the final evaluation.

6. Don't take notes during the interview. This is distracting. Wait until the candidate leaves, then immediately document your impressions. Include not only the answers given but also your observations during the meeting. Pay special attention to the candidate's body language and the quality of the questions he or she asked.

Picking the right person for the job can reward you for years to come, so it pays to polish up on selection interviews.
COPYRIGHT 1987 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Umiker, William O.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Dec 1, 1987
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