Employers: Additional Interview Tools to Assess Soft Skills

Recently I wrote a post about the new healthcare IT consulting skill set because as the consulting market softened in 2014, I saw many consultants struggle to find contracts as well as recruiter friends (and myself) challenged to find candidates that met all the new requirements. For example, at my current firm, we’ll no longer a hire an Analyst/builder without operational experience; and leadership and communication skill sets that will make them viable beyond 2016. What’s going to happen in the healthcare IT consulting market after Meaningful Use incentives fade away and the tidal wave of EHR implementation ends? We all have our predictions (another post for another time, friends), but nobody can really predict the future. Not even her.

Therefore, how do employers size up candidates’ abilities according to the new healthcare IT consulting skill set that includes communication skills and multi-faceted knowledge? Here are a couple techniques I’ve either used or have researched that may help hiring managers take their interviews to the next level.

Ask Questions that Assess Thought Process
Let’s say you are interviewing a Revenue Cycle candidate with operational experience (that you desperately need), but aren’t a Revenue Cycle expert yourself. Instead of asking this candidate to tell you about their past experience, ask them a question that will enable you to garner a glimpse into how this person thinks about Revenue Cycle. I like scenario-based questions to help accomplish this. This technique is well-known as behavioral based interviewing.

For example, you might give your Revenue Cycle Director candidate the following scenario: Since our enterprise-wide EHR go live in 2012, our health system has encountered a $15 Million deficit, our A/R days have risen to 78, and our denial management is poor. Given these symptoms, how would you go about solving these issues? Then, listen for the way the candidate thinks through how s/he would research, assess, diagnose root cause(s), and assemble strategies to resolve these issues. If the candidate can’t reasonably talk to through their thought process, their operational experience may not be as deep as described on their resume.

Gather a Writing Sample
The ability to write in consulting is absolutely crucial. Healthcare IT consultants deliver extensive amounts of work via writing such as emails, status reports, workflow diagrams, white papers, and much more; therefore, during the interview process, consider gathering a writing sample.

This can be done during the in-person interview, or, if your firm no longer interviews in-person, via an email exchange. I would highly suggest integrating this requirement into the in-person phase of your interview because just like in college, people pay other people to write for them. Come on, you know it happens.

Here’s what I suggest. When a candidate arrives for his face-to-face interview, hand him a piece of paper with, possibly, another scenario-based question for which he will write a timed response. Do not give the candidate a heads up he will be required to provide a writing sample! The question can be standardized for all candidates; for example, “Tell us about a time when you faced a challenge on a project. What was it and how did you overcome it?” Give the candidate 10 minutes to write a response. In this scenario, you’ll not only get to assess the candidate’s writing skills, but also their ability to think and respond under pressure.

Live Presentations during In-Person Interviews
Another option includes asking candidates to prepare and present live during an in-person interview. I believe a 10 minute presentation is all it takes to evaluate a candidate’s writing skills via their PowerPoint slides, oral communication abilities, and composure. It also allows hiring managers to understand how well a candidate can follow instructions. For example, if the instructions were to deliver a 10 minute presentation on a topic related to implementation and the candidate drones on for 20 minutes about strategic planning, then hiring managers could conclude this person doesn’t follow instructions well.

I hope these techniques help you hire multi-faceted employees that allow your firm grow into the future!

About the author


Cassie Sturdevant

Cassie Sturdevant is a Senior Recruiter for Impact Advisors, a healthcare IT strategic and implementation services consulting firm just named 2013 Best in KLAS for Overall Services. She specializes in humor and follow up.