4 Behavioral Interview Questions to Assess Healthcare Leaders

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behavioral interview healthcare leadershipBehavioral interview questions increase the reliability of the interview process in assessing your healthcare organization’s leadership candidates and more accurately predict their potential for success than traditional interviews. Questions are designed to reveal examples of how candidates have behaved in their past roles, so you know what to expect if they are faced with a similar situation at your healthcare organization.

Behavioral interview questions should address traits you want to see in your organization’s leaders. They are often based on the results of a leadership-specific behavioral assessment to dive deeper into the candidate’s areas for concern.

When developing behavioral interview questions, focus on one attribute at a time to allow the candidate to recall a time when they were in that situation. Keep questions open-ended, and reply with follow-up questions as needed, to dive into the situation, the action the candidate took, and the outcome.

Sample behavioral interview questions include:

  1. Describe the most difficult long-term change (involving organization, reorganization, job redesign, merger, etc.) that you’ve ever had to deal with.

The only constant in healthcare is change. A strong leader should be able to adapt to changing priorities, demands, and work processes. To determine if your healthcare leadership candidate can easily navigate changes in healthcare, focus on the evaluating their inherent behavioral competencies. To assess their openness to change,  make sure your candidate covers answers to the following questions:

  • What was your reaction, and why?
  • How did you respond, and why?
  • How did you go about selling the “change” to your staff?
  • What, if anything, would you do differently if you had it to do over again?

Watch for red flags, such as a simplistic strategy for overcoming resistance to change, or not anticipating resistance at all.

  1. Describe a situation when you used your project management skills to complete a project on-time and within budget.

Great leaders are conscientious and willing to work hard to complete tasks. Dive into your candidate’s project management skills by asking:

  • What obstacles were you confronted with?
  • How did your planning help you deal with the obstacles?
  • What resulted from the use of your project management skills?

Watch out for candidates who have little experience in effectively managing projects, or an overly general approach to project management.

  1. Getting the job done sometimes requires the development of a detailed plan. Give me a specific example of a time when you developed and implemented such a detailed plan.

You need healthcare leaders who can organize, prioritize and accomplish work objectives in a consistent manner. Listen for answers to the following questions:

  • What steps did you use to develop the pan?
  • How did you plan for obstacles that you may encounter?
  • How did it turn out?

Dig deeper if the candidate has an overly simple system for developing the plan, or if they offer little rationale for their chosen approach — these can be red flags.

  1. Not all departments function efficiently. Tell me about a time when a unit you were involved with had problems getting its objectives accomplished.

A strong leader listens to the concerns and ideas of their teams and supports their efforts. You want to see a leader who presents evidence of effectively dealing with interpersonal conflicts and may want to dig deeper with the following questions:

  • Were the problems resolved?
  • What part did you take in resolving the problems?
  • How could the problems have been avoided?

Be careful with candidates who are unable to resolve the conflict, or choose a strategy that is not an effective long-term solution — and try to steer clear of a candidate who has threatened a team member.

In addition to clinical and technical skills, healthcare leaders need the right behavioral competencies to effectively lead their team and build a more Patient-Centered WorkforceTM. By assessing healthcare candidates with scientifically-validated behavioral interviewing techniques, you’ll get a glimpse of how they would deal with specific situations in your work environment — allowing you to make the best possible hiring decisions for your healthcare organization.


Are you interested in learning more about hiring great healthcare leaders? Download our free how-to guide:

How to Improve Patient Care: 3 Steps to Recruit and Retain Great Healthcare Leaders

How to hire healthcare leadership

Jen Dewar

About Jen Dewar

Jen Dewar is a marketing consultant in the HR technology space with a focus on developing educational content for recruiters, corporate HR professionals, and staffing agency owners. She has spent the past 10 years working with a wide variety of companies — from corporate marketing for healthcare organizations and recruitment firms, to startup marketing for both Identified and Bright.com, prior to their respective acquisitions. When she’s not doing marketing, you can find Jen snowboarding in Tahoe, enjoying a glass of wine in Sonoma, or watching Netflix at home with her husband.