This one’s for the interviewer. When your responsibilities include interviewing and hiring new radiologists, you want to ensure you attract and hire the best candidates for the job. With proper preparation, the right perspective (and priorities), and some interview savvy—you’ll be sure to lay the perfect honey trap. The following are some essential aspects to consider when you are seeking to bring a new member aboard, and interview tips that will help you separate the wheat from the chaff (and not get sued in the process). 

The hirer’s role 

Recruiting and hiring are the most important functions of a leader.  The WHO is more important to success than the WHAT or the HOW.  The purposes of the interview are to 1) find the right person, 2) minimize performance issues in the future, 3) set expectations clearly and accurately, 4) maximize job satisfaction, 5) maximize retention, 6) begin to build trust, and 7) engage the team.  Everyone that is hired or interviewed is a potential ambassador for the group.  

Job description

Preparation by the hirer should start with a job description that is specific and describes more than just the clinical role (e.g., any teaching or administrative responsibilities, maintenance of the subspecialty’s portion of the department website, etc.).  Engaging other members of the group to contribute to the job description can help bring to light any department/group needs that a new hire could fill. This kind of forethought will also inform potential candidates as to how they can make a meaningful contribution to the group—above and beyond providing clinical coverage.  

Heirs apparent

Every group needs one or more leaders. And every group should keep an eye towards the future and have a succession plan for when leaders step down or retire.  Therefore, every new hire should be evaluated as to their leadership potential (e.g., core values and character, interpersonal skills, expertise in conflict resolution, ability to share credit and responsibility, ability to delegate, decisiveness, and tolerance for stress).  

Interview itinerary

The interviewer should create an interview itinerary in order to help ensure the best possible outcome.  There are several basic considerations when planning the interview itinerary. Allow candidates to meet with members of the group, as well as a representative sample of referring physicians, relevant ancillary staff, and administrative personnel.  In an academic environment, the candidate should also have an opportunity to meet with trainees.  A tour of the facilities should include a review of the equipment. It’s also a good idea to give a candidate the opportunity to evaluate the picture archiving and communication system (PACS) and voice recognition software and perhaps meet with the information technologist on site. You should provide the candidate a list of everyone she will meet (and their title/role), and when and where they will meet. The setting for each interview should be comfortable and as distraction-free as possible.  Keep in mind, it’s important the process not be rushed.  

The opening salvo (or opening the interview) 

It’s the interviewer’s job to set the right mood—and to woo the best potential new hires. The beginning of the interview establishes rapport and sets the tone for the interview. This  should last about 3-5 minutes for a 30-45 minute interview. Eye contact and nonverbal gestures (e.g., smiling, leaning forward, and nodding to make the candidate feel comfortable) will demonstrate interest and start the process of building a relationship.  This will become important later, as it is harder for someone to say “no” when a relationship has been established.  

Behavioral interviewing

During the interview, the interviewer should listen carefully, paraphrase back, and ask follow-up questions (e.g., more detail, what were your goals, what was your contribution, and what was the outcome).  The interview is an opportunity to look for patterns in the candidate’s behavior and assess how their responses match with the group’s culture and environment.  

The purpose of interview questions is to learn how a candidate will behave if hired, not how well the candidate can predict what the interviewer wants to hear.  This is best accomplished through open-ended questions without obvious answers. Keep in mind, there are no “right” answers, only revealing answers.  

Such behavioral interviewing assumes that a candidate’s past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior.  Theoretical questions can be turned into behavioral questions (see table below). 

Turning theoretical questions into behavioral questions

Theoretical Behavioral
How would you handle… What did you do when faced with…
What makes you think you could… Tell me about a situation in which…
Would you be willing to… Tell me of a situation in which you willingly…

Beware bias blindness  

Biases are bad. Biases should be avoided when questioning a candidate, such as affiliative bias (i.e., “falling in like”, which refers to forming positive impressions about a person because of where they come from).  A candidate is being considered to be an employee, not a new best friend. Unconscious bias results from stereotyping. This type of bias is minimized when the interviewer strives to become aware of her blind spots [1].

Illegal questions

In the United States it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a job applicant because of race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), age, national origin, disability, or genetic information (including family medical history) [2-3].  There are federal and state laws in place to prevent discriminatory employment practices. You can avoid such criminal activity—and indeed, it is your duty—by being informed. 

The table below shows illegal interview questions, along with related questions that are legal (the table also known as: ask this, not that).  If any illegal questions are asked and the employer decides not to hire a candidate, the candidate can file a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Nobody wants to deal with a lawsuit (or feel they were discriminated against), and ignorance is not an adequate excuse.  

Legal versus illegal interview questions

Category Legal Illegal
Work/Visa Status and Citizenship Are you authorized to work in the U.S.? What languages do you speak (if relevant to the position)? Are you a U.S. citizen? You sound like you have an accent, where are you from? Where were your parents born? What is your native language?
Marital/Family Status Are you willing and able to put in the amount of overtime and/or travel the position requires? Are you willing to relocate? Are you married? Are you pregnant?  Do you have children? If so, what do you do for child care? Are you planning to have children soon? Have you ever been divorced? Where is your spouse employed?
Age Do you have any concerns about handling the long hours and extensive travel that this job entails? Are you at least 18 years of age? How old are you? When were you born? How long have you been working?
Disability Status Are you able to perform this job with or without reasonable accommodation? Do you have any conditions that would keep you from performing this job? Do you have any disabilities or medical conditions? How is your health? Do you take any prescription drugs? Have you been diagnosed with a mental illness? Are you an alcoholic? Have you ever been in a rehabilitation program?
Religion Can you work on weekends (should only be asked if the position requires working on weekends)? What is your religion? Are you practicing that religion?
Arrest Record Have you ever been convicted of any crime other than a traffic violation? Have you ever been arrested?
Race None! What is your race?
Residence What is your address? Do you rent or own?  Who lives with you?

Articles of exception

For certain positions, employers may require that a job candidate pass a medical examination relevant to the responsibilities of the job, and to pass a drug test.  Questions about an applicant’s religious affiliation or beliefs are generally viewed as non job-related and problematic under federal law (unless the religion is a bona fide occupational qualification). However, religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies are exempt from the aforementioned federal laws when it comes to the employment of individuals based on their particular religion. An organization whose purpose and character are primarily religious is permitted to lean towards hiring persons of the same religion.

The coup de grâce (or ending the interview)

In the final 3-5 minutes of an interview, the interviewer can answer the candidate’s questions—providing concise, positive, truthful statements.  Answering questions openly and completely will work towards building trust. Challenges can be framed as opportunities. The interviewer should be careful about making commitments and any implied contracts.  

It’s very important to end on a positive note.   Everyone that isn’t hired is a potential ambassador for the group/department.

The end of the interview is a very strategic period for the interviewer to switch to recruitment mode (if serious about the candidate). This is when you can share your vision and strategic direction.  You can speak to some of the department’s goals (e.g., multi-million dollar facility renovations taking place over the next few years; initiation of 24/7/365 service; and faculty development initiatives such as sending faculty to grant-writing workshops or other development courses).  You also want to be sure to describe the position and the requirements for success, outline expectations, and why the institution is a great place to work.  

Lastly, the interviewer should outline where the group is in the interview and hiring process, when the candidate should expect to hear from the group, define next steps, and thank the candidate for their time.  It’s very important to end on a positive note. It is worth repeating: every candidate who is interviewed—even if not hired—is a potential ambassador for the group/department.

Last words

Maybe you’ll know the right hire on the spot—you’ll feel that fizzy radiological spark of recognition in your gut; words like “fate” and “perfect match” will pop into your head—-and maybe this will prove right. Or maybe not. 

At any rate, employ the head and the heart (and the very sound, practical advice above), and you may just find you’ve snagged the ideal employee for keeps. 

References 

  1. Project Implicit.  Available at: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/faqs.html.  Accessed July 3, 2019
  2. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Frequently Asked Questions. Available at: https://www.eeoc.gov/employers/smallbusiness/faq/who_is_protected.cfm.  Accessed July 3, 2019
  3. Yale Office of Career Strategy.  Illegal interview questions. Available at:  https://ocs.yale.edu/get-prepared/illegal-interview-questions.  Accessed July 3, 2019