Talent Symposium HealthcareSource KeynoteAt HealthcareSource, we know that hiring quality talent is the key to ensuring your patients get quality care. But are you interviewing to reinforce this patient-centered approach?

This excerpt, adapted from Unleashing Excellence: The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service by Teri Yanovitch and Dennis Snow, tells you what types of questions to ask and what to look for so that you know the people you hire care about patients as much as your organization does.


During the interview, guide the discussion through the applicant’s experience while focusing on the talents needed to do the job well. Remember, you’re listening for themes and patterns. Even if the applicant has little work experience due to young age, you can still dig into school experiences, community work, and other information. You want to get as much information as possible so that you can validate the consistency of answers.

The magic opening to an interview question is: “Tell me about a time when…” This type of question allows the applicant to reveal whether or not a pattern of behavior is truly a part of his or her makeup. Let’s say, for instance, the job entails the talent of reading the patients’ emotions. You might ask: “Tell me about a time when you had to do some digging to get to the patient’s real problem.”

Some guidelines for evaluating responses include:

  • Does the applicant provide specific examples? You want the applicant to respond with an actual occurrence that you can probe for deeper understanding of what actually happened. When, on the other hand, an applicant responds, “Well, I usually try to…,” it may mean that he or she doesn’t have a specific example. Ask again for an example. If the responses are consistently vague, the likelihood is that “reading emotions” is not a talent the applicant possesses.
  • Do the applicant’s responses align with the responses of your current superstars to similar questions? The answers won’t be exact duplicates, but do the same themes appear? Does the applicant talk about listening to the customer’s tone of voice and reading the customer’s body language just like your superstars did?
  • Are the responses consistent? In the course of the interview, you’ll be asking about various experiences that the applicant has had, but the questions themselves will be the same. Do the responses seem consistent, or are the answers all over the place? If there seems to be little consistency in responses to similar questions, the person is probably making up the answers.

Be sure not to telegraph the answers or themes you’re looking for. While this may seem obvious, telegraphing is done all the time, because it’s such an easy trap to fall into. Here’s a typical example: “We’re pretty high volume around here. Tell me about your ability to handle multiple priorities while still giving patients your full attention.” Applicants know pretty clearly the direction their response should take. Instead, by asking, “When it’s busy, how do you get everything done that needs to be done?” you’re able to listen for a response that includes still giving patients full attention, without cueing the applicant on the desired answer.

A good rule of thumb in interviewing is for the interviewer to talk only about 20 percent of the time. The only way to really get to the essence of an applicant’s qualifications is to listen carefully and use your talk time primarily to ask probing questions. Being comfortable with silence after asking a question takes some getting used to, but it’s important. Interviewers are often too quick to jump in when there’s an uncomfortable silence, and stifle what could end up being a thoughtful response or a telling gap in the applicant’s qualifications.

Be very observant during the interview. Remember, you’re looking for patient-centered individuals. Behaviors to look for during an interview include:

  • Does the applicant make appropriate eye contact? Or are his or her eyes constantly moving around to the point where you are wondering what he or she’s looking for? We’ve all dealt with service providers who never really look at us.
  • Does the applicant demonstrate appropriate enthusiasm? An applicant who can’t be enthusiastic during an interview is unlikely to be enthusiastic eight hours per day, five days per week. On the other hand, does the applicant exhaust you with enthusiasm? We’ve all dealt with service providers who are too enthusiastic to the point of being irritating.
  • Does the applicant smile often? If you’re looking for friendly, approachable employees, you had better see that natural smile. Sound trivial? How many times have you thought, “It wouldn’t hurt her to smile once in a while?”
  • Does the applicant use positive, upbeat language? Do you feel engaged by what the applicant is saying? Or does the applicant use negative, downbeat language? The likelihood is that this is how he or she will talk with fellow employees and patients.

Take plenty of notes throughout the interview. You should note the applicant’s responses to key questions as well as your observations.


Hear more from Teri and learn how you can unleash excellence at your healthcare organization when she presents the keynote at Talent Symposium 2017. Register today!HealthcareSource Talent Symposium

Teri Yanovitch, Author & Talent Symposium 2017 Keynote Speaker

About Teri Yanovitch, Author & Talent Symposium 2017 Keynote Speaker

Customer service expert Teri Yanovitch has been on the frontline of the customer experience for more than three decades. Author of the acclaimed "Unleashing Excellence - The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service", she is a former customer service ambassador for the Walt Disney Company (a gold standard in customer service). She is also a former regional trainer of the southeast U.S. for the Hertz Corporation and is widely regarded as a leading authority in the field. Teri's passion is to engrain service excellence into the fabric of the organization so that every employee understands customer service is not an either/or proposition, nor an add-on to their job, but it IS their job. Combining a memorable customer experience with giving the customer what was promised is a winning combination that Teri honed while working with the noted guru of quality management, Philip Crosby and the Quality College, and her years as a seminar speaker at the Disney Institute. Today, she instills the service excellence culture within organizations to enhance the customer experience.