As an experienced interviewing and hiring manager, I keep coming back to the concept that you need to spend more time and energy upfront to hire right in the beginning. Don’t simply hire staff quickly as you’ll most likely regret your hiring decision later on.
Usually, when you start the interviewing and hiring process, you’re in a rush to get a new therapist, or assistant, or clinical director, onboard with your private practice. You’re already operating from a bit of a desperation standpoint. You needed someone yesterday. Furthermore, you needed that person to be up and running in record time with little time set aside for training. So, this may be a mindset shift for you. You’ll have to move more slowly despite your need, and really take time to figure out if this person is a good fit for you and your practice.
Hire Right by Interviewing Right
I have had the experience of hiring good, great, and not-so-good staff through the years. Looking back on the interviews and hiring process, I’ve found that it’s fairly easy to predict whether someone will be a good fit based on the interview. I also look at how that person responds to setting up the interview. That’s why your interview is of the utmost importance in your hiring process.
Before we jump into things, if you have never hired a clinician before, I’d recommend that you first read my 3-part blog series where I detail all the necessary steps when it comes to hiring your first clinician:
Top 2 Things to Attend to During the Interview to Hire Right
Be Clear on What you Want
If you don’t know what you want in your new hire, it will be very difficult to communicate that to your interviewee. Make sure that you take the time to write out what values, skills, and characteristics are important for you, your practice, and for your new staff to embody.
If you want someone who will fit into a well-established work culture of your practice, ask questions that will gauge work culture and fit within a team. If you’re hiring your very first clinician, you’ll want to ensure that that person is flexible, willing to grow with you and your practice, and who does not expect everything to be running smoothly at first.
I usually list out all the characteristics, skills, and values that I want in my new hire. I then develop an interview question or two that matches and assesses each of these points. This is an organized way to develop a nice list of interview questions. You can also usually search and find similar interview questions on the internet if you’re looking for better wording options. If you are clear on what you’re looking for, then it’s much easier to assess the answers to your questions. You’ll also be able to tell whether or not they fit your criteria for a new staff member.
Listen to Red Flags
You’re a therapist, you have a fantastic internal warning system or “gut feeling” already. You use these skills in your counseling sessions. Therefore, you know when something feels off, and you usually would address it in a therapeutic context. Well, you don’t want to do therapy with an interviewee, but you do want your warning system to be in top form during the interview.
Identify Red Flags and Figure out What to do About Them
For example, you’re trying to set up an interview with a potential new clinician. You give them 3 or 4 available times to choose from and they cannot do any of the times. This may suggest some inflexibility on the part of the interviewee. Yes, they may be busy, but it also shows what their priority is. If they really want to work with you, they will find time to do the interview.
Other Red Flags to Pay Attention to:
- Not answering the interview question as asked
- Talking so much that you only get a few of your interview questions answered
- Concerns about their clinical approach if you don’t agree with their clinical work
- Lack of interest or passion for the job you’re hiring for
- Having great experience and training but not in the area you’re looking for
- Not being able to identify areas for growth
- Not asking any questions about the job or your practice
- Unprepared for the interview, such as being late, not presenting professionally, etc.
If a candidate displays one or more Red Flags during the interview process, it’s highly likely that these issues will continue into their work performance. You’ll get a great snapshot of a person and how they work during the interview – but it’s up to you to pay attention to this.
Hire Right By Taking More Time and Effort Upfront
The more time and effort you put into hiring the right person upfront, the less time and effort you’ll expend later when that person is fully trenched into their job with a full caseload. It is awful to terminate employees or contractors, and then you’re left with an even bigger mess on your hands.
Don’t act out of desperation. You’ll eventually find that “unicorn” person that is an excellent clinician and a great fit for your practice!
Shannon Heers is a licensed professional counselor in Colorado. She owns the private-pay group practice Catalyss Counseling in the Denver metro area, focusing on helping adults manage their anxiety, grief, and trauma. Shannon is also an experienced clinical supervisor and manager who offers business consultation services to other therapists. She balances working with raising her two young children.