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    Carolyn Pickles, MBA, FACMPE, MGMA member

    Disclaimer: MGMA does not endorse any solutions put forth in this column. We urge readers to explore the legal issues — federal, state and local — that might arise from a particular course of action.


    While most people expect candidates to be nervous during job interviews, interviewers oftentimes struggle with anxiety because of inconsistent processes and undefined expectations. Practice administrators can create more consistency and increase comfort level with job descriptions that identify training and experience required for positions and scripted interview questions (sample questions below).

    In addition to providing employees with information about key tasks and responsibilities, job descriptions help identify requirements for education, training, skills and experience so you can match requirements with a candidate’s background and analyze how well they meet your needs. 

    Ask a human resources attorney to review your interviewing tools and process to avoid discriminatory hiring practices. It can be challenging to justify associated expenses but can help prevent costly mistakes. After you have established a protocol, ask your attorney to alert you to any changes in state or federal laws to ensure compliance.

    Let the interviewee do the talking

    Job descriptions and scripted questions also create structure during interviews, which helps identify more qualified candidates, who fit your culture and lead to better hiring outcomes. Without structure, an interviewer tends to talk too much while the goal is for the candidate to do most of the talking to learn about whether he or she meets the required qualifications for a position. If you are talking, you are not learning.

    Sometimes during an interview there's a sense that a candidate has not fully answered a question, and there's an awkward moment when no one speaks. While silence can be awkward, it can be a handy tool during interviews. For example, a candidate might be reluctant to talk about a problem with a supervisor or why he or she left a prior position. Experienced interviewers recognize this and sometimes use silence to encourage a candidate to open up a bit more. Practice using silence. You may be surprised what you learn about a candidate when she adds to her original answer!

    Uncertainty on the part of the candidate is inherent in the interview process. Throughout candidate interactions, take your queue from Poker games and, as dealers say, "play your cards close" and avoid revealing your thoughts and emotions about a candidate. A blank, Poker face helps you obtain unbiased candidate answers, avoid discriminatory practices and keep candidates on their toes.

    Try team interviews

    Benefits of team interviews include teambuilding, establishing relationships between current and new employees and encouraging collaboration. I recommend including one person from each department that will interact with the new hire. Limit the number of interviewers to avoid intimidation and a lack of structure and control. Everyone will need to be trained on the importance of confidentiality, how to interview and what questions can and cannot be asked. Practice wording, inflection and asking probing and clarifying questions. Identity suitable physical space and create a non-intimidating seating structure. You will also need to separate confidential pieces of the interview (salary information) from the team question and answer portion.

    The role of the physician interviewer

    In smaller practices, physician approval of new hires may be the norm and if the new employee has some level of reporting to a physician, he or she will want to meet top candidate(s). Try a five- to 15-minute meet and greet after interviews are finished or consider including a physician in the interviews. Educate physicians on interviewing routines and protocols to ensure compliance with state and federal laws on hiring.

    Sample face-to-face interview questions

    • Tell me about your background, including your education/training.
    • What position from your work history have you enjoyed the most and why? Which one did you enjoy the least and why?
    • Tell me why you left each of the positions listed on your resume.
    • Tell me about your best and worst supervisors.
    • Tell me about an improvement you made in the workplace.
    • What do you enjoy most and least about being a __________________________?
    • Give me an example of a professional situation that you wish had a different outcome.
    • How many days of work have you missed in the past year due to illness? How many times did you arrive at or after your scheduled start time?
    • Hypothetically speaking, if I were to call your supervisor to inquire about your performance, what comments would he or she make?
    • If I were to ask a co-worker and a physician to describe you, what would he/she say?
    • Tell me about a particularly challenging work-related situation and how you handled it.
    • What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
    • What job functions do you enjoy the most (and the least) and why?*
    • Why are you interested in this job?*
    • What defines success for you in a job?
    • Describe your ideal employment situation (in terms of supervisor, position and corporate culture).

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