Managers' Monday: Put job candidates to work

Managers' Monday: Put job candidates to work

Working interviews can make tough hiring decisions easier.
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Sep 08, 2008
Editors' note: This article kicks off our weekly series of tips for veterinary practice managers.

Hiring a new employee is never easy, even for the most seasoned manager or practice owner. The interview process needs to be objective, but often the interviewer's gut feeling is the main force in the final decision. There are ways to eliminate the guesswork. For example, a short phone interview before inviting the candidate into your practice can give you a feel for his or her personality. Then, if you like the candidate, extend an invitation for a personal interview. If that goes well, you may be tempted to hire the applicant on the spot. But there are compelling reasons to perform a working interview. Here are some basic guidelines to make this step a success.

Pick a time

The working interview is applicable for every single position because hiring mistakes can be made in every area of the hospital. Its purpose is twofold. First, it gives candidates a chance to see the practice in action, to help them make sure they want to perform the job in your specific environment. Second, it allows you and others to get a feel for the candidate and weigh in on the decision.

The length of the working interview depends on the position you're hiring for. If the position involves performing the same types of tasks throughout the day, then three to four hours is sufficient. If the position's duties are more varied, a day-long working interview may be necessary. The timing of the interview is also important. The candidate should get a taste of the busiest part of his or her, whether that's morning, afternoon, or evening.

Also, keep in mind that when you present the working interview option to candidates, it shouldn't be a requirement in order for them to be considered for the position. For a day-long interview, obtain legal advice to make sure all laws are followed.

Get to work!

The candidate should be assigned to shadow a specific person in that same position in the practice. This mentor needs to pay particular attention to the candidate's level of interest. The ideal candidate will ask questions and appear engaged while participating in the activities around her.

Be sure that your staff knows a working interview will be taking place and discuss the types of questions that would be beneficial for them to ask the candidate. Educate your staff to make sure they don't cross any legal lines: For example, they shouldn't ask about the candidate's religion, marital status, or nationality. At the conclusion of the working interview, solicit feedback from the mentor and other employees who interacted with the candidate during her visit.

But don't put your applicant on the spot the entire time. An ideal working interview lets the candidate relax so that his or her personality comes through. It also allows the entire team—especially those who will work side-by-side with the new hire—to be a part of the decision. If done correctly, the working interview can increase your chance of success in the hiring process and bring a great new member to your team.

Katherine Dobbs, RVT, CVPM, is president of InterFACE Veterinary HR Systems and founder of the Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Practice Association.

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