How to Hire Healthcare Employees Patients Love

3 min read

Today's healthcare professionals face enormous pressures. Now more than ever, healthcare's hiring managers need to recruit emotionally intelligent talent their patients will love. Here's how to loosen your grip on the hard skills and start screening for soft skills.

The number of patients is up. The number of qualified healthcare professionals is down. Basic math tells us it's getting tougher and tougher out there for healthcare hiring managers.

You need candidates who can follow safe and ethical practices to a 't', have a high level of technical know-how and above all else, a winning bedside manner. Now that patients have more options and less faith, what greater asset is there than a charming candidate who not only knows their stuff but can also connect with patients on a personal level?

Here's how you find them.

Understand the impact of emotional intelligence (EI) on patient care

While we all enjoy watching the brilliant Dr. House on TV, in real life no patient wants to be treated like crap. That’s why soft skills like patience and empathy are must-haves in the healthcare industry.

A 2007 study in the Journal of The Royal Society of Medicine highlights the importance of evaluating and analyzing patient emotions:

"The ability to manage and read emotions would seem to be an important skill for any health professional and might potentially enhance patient-centred care, improve the quality of the professional-patient relationship, and increase patient levels of satisfaction with care and perhaps even concordance."

Yet here we are more than a decade later and the problem of emotionally unskilled healthcare employees hasn't disappeared. If anything, it's gotten worse. And to be fair, it's not all on the employees.

A wave of disruptive technology combined with a fast-changing business climate means healthcare workers are under more pressure to learn, perform and adapt—with no guarantee of job security.

Still, striving to fill your bench with emotionally intelligent healthcare candidates is a noble cause. In fact, 2014 research also shows that strong doctor-patient relationships can improve patient health.

The first thing to do is get clear on why this stuff matters. When you and your entire hiring team are in agreement about putting EI at the top of the list, it's so much easier to make the right hire.

Use video to screen applicants and candidates

Given that so much of a person's charisma comes from their ability to communicate, video interviewing could be a great screening tool for helping you find healthcare candidates with great camera (and bedside) presence.

By scheduling a quick 20-minute video meet and greet with your top applicants, you're informally asking them to showcase their communication skills, without wasting much time.

Emotionally intelligent candidates will be friendly but focused. They're likely to be the ones that have no problem speaking straight into the camera or sharing a laugh, while still keeping it professional. And for positions with a high volume of applicants, you can use video assessments to get a deeper understanding of the person behind the resume before you sit down to interview them.

As a major bonus, the Harvard Business Review found that 87% of remote workers feel more connected when using video conferencing. In addition to being a great screening tool, it might actually enhance the candidate experience and help you create a bond with future employees before a contract is ever even signed.

Dig deeper to uncover behavioral insights

Most of us struggle to assess EI when hiring, mainly because no one ever taught us what to look for.

As the folks at the Harvard Business Review suggest, we’re not really doing a great job at recruiting for EI candidates. Most of us rush into our interviews after insufficient prep. We let candidates hit us with vague responses and we get stuck on how to ask good follow-up questions.

This is why some recruiters like to use behavioral interviewing. Here’s how it typically works.

  • Make sure candidates are as comfortable as possible by setting up an informal environment—we want them to loosen up and be honest.
  • Ask candidates to tell you about a difficult work situation they overcame and were proud of.
  • Then, ask them to describe an unfortunate work case where they fell short and let them tell you about what they learned from it.

By finding out how people behave in both positive and negative contexts we can get a glimpse of how they deal with challenges and, most importantly—how they relate to others. “At the very least this tells if the person is aware of their own feelings and how they manage them (all of which add up to EI),” points out HBR.

Listen well

Vocal cues can give you great insight into a person's personality.

Tone, volume, pace—all of these things can offer up hints about a person's level of interest, enthusiasm and empathy. Because at the end of the day, it’s not just about what they said—but how they say it.

Some companies are even using AI-powered speech analysis tools to help figure out which of their call center employees are most deserving of a promotion.

So go ahead and use tools like video and behavioral interviewing but make sure you also hold up your end of the bargain by really listening to your candidates, not just scanning for the skills and experienced-based answers you've been conditioned to keep an ear out for.

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