Exceptional clinical skills are required in any care setting. For senior care, however, behavioral characteristics are also crucial to ensure quality care, improve resident outcomes and satisfaction, and build a workforce that will stay with your organization. When assessing candidates, interview management is key for identifying who has the right mix of behavioral and clinical competencies to meet your organization’s needs.

“The top competencies will vary in degree of importance depending on role,” explains Martha Abercrombie, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Product Marketing Strategist for HealthcareSource. “However, the main competencies for working in senior care include empathy, compassion, teamwork, attention to detail, initiative, and the ability to effectively communicate with residents, families, and coworkers.”

Empathy and compassion are especially critical when working with residents, says Abercrombie, who spent 15 years in senior living human resources before joining HealthcareSource.

“A few years ago, I talked with a nursing home administrator who, due to injuries sustained after a serious car accident, became a resident of his own facility for a couple of months,” she recalls. “He spoke of an evening in which he was in extreme pain but chose to endure it rather than interact with an unpleasant charge nurse. While this nurse had the knowledge and ability to provide medication as prescribed, she lacked the soft skills of compassion and empathy necessary to be effective in the role.”

There’s no doubt, that to provide quality care, senior living staff must truly care about their residents. So how do you find the best people with the appropriate behavioral skills?

Use Interview Management to Identify the Best Candidates for Senior Living Jobs

Putting the right processes in place can help the entire interview team adequately identify behavioral skills. Using structured interviews will enable you to identify candidates with the right mix of clinical acumen and behavioral competencies for senior living. In fact, organizations that lack a structured interview process are five times more likely to make bad hiring decisions than those with one, according to data from the Brandon Hall Group.

Here are four ways you can strengthen your interview management process.

#1 Create an inventory of successful behaviors based on attributes of solid performers in similar roles: Developing a behavioral competency reference guide comprised of traits that are proven to be valuable will help you better prepare for interviews. You can include these traits in behavioral assessments and behavior-based interview questions.

#2 Require candidates to complete assessments as part of the application process: Results from behavioral assessments make it faster and easier to choose qualified interviewees. “If I only have time to interview two or three candidates for an open position, utilizing assessments as part of the application process helps to more easily identify the top candidates,” says Abercrombie. Assessments also allow you to compare candidates to one another in a less biased manner. Additionally, the results can identify specific topics to probe further in the interview. 

#3 Involve peers in the interview process: Expanding the interviewer pool to include peers provides additional and important insights about candidates. “For example, when hiring a nursing assistant, ask one of your trusted nursing assistants to spend five to 10 minutes with your candidate,” Abercrombie says. “It’s quite possible the applicant will open up a bit more with a peer. This also lets your staff know you value their input and seek to hire other great staff who will be a good fit on the team.”

#4 Equip interviewers with structured interview guides driven by assessment results: In many organizations, hiring managers don’t receive formal interview training. As such, a structured interview guide helps them ask the right questions and listen for revealing details in candidates’ answers. “By presenting each candidate with a combination of position-specific and assessment-driven questions, interviewers make more informed and better hiring decisions,” Abercrombie says. Guides can include behavior-based queries that invite candidates to explain how they’ve actually handled similar situations in the past. This is valuable, because prior behaviors are good predictors of future performance.

Interview management is an effective way to attract top talent to your senior living workforce. When you conduct interviewing properly, you are more likely to hire talented people who are skilled, engaged, and likely to stay with your organization longer.


Learn more about finding and hiring the best quality employees by registering for our free Recruit-to-Retain webinar.


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Margot Carmichael Lester

About Margot Carmichael Lester

Margot Carmichael Lester is a North Carolina-based freelance business journalist who has been covering healthcare and staffing for more than 20 years. She also writes about moviemaking for the International Cinematographers Guild, specializing in action cinema. Margot co-authored the award-winning teen writing book Be a Better Writer with her husband, Steve Peha. She earned her BA in journalism from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and is a rabid Tar Heel basketball fan.