Clarice Holden: Navigating the Interview from Both Sides of the Table

The interview is a key tool to both job applicants and employers to assess probable success in an open position at a company or hospital. Due to the scarcity of candidates for some positions, and the scarcity of positions for some candidates, recruiting in the healthcare technology management (HTM) world is often challenging.

Employers—be they hospitals, manufacturers, or third-party repair organizations—struggle to reach qualified candidates and endeavor to post open positions through as many avenues as possible (e.g., job-posting websites, professional organizations, internal announcements). Many positions that open up due to retirements have morphed into specific embodiments that are indistinguishable from the person who performed the job for many years. This is partly a manifestation of the how young the HTM profession is (only 40 years or so), and partly a result of the nature of the jobs themselves. If a hospital has a particularly good year and purchases many new devices, the biomed may experience more installation- and warranty-related issues rather than systematic preventive maintenance.

Employers are challenged to keep position descriptions broad enough to allow for the organic growth of technology and inherent responsibilities and specific enough so that interested, qualified candidates know what to expect from the position. Double-encumbering positions prior to an employee’s retirement (hiring a new employee to be oriented and trained by the soon-to-be retiree for their job) is important for organizations wishing to preserve “institutional knowledge” as well as have new hires learn the “how” of the previous person’s style (unless of course, the employer desires the new hire to change the style!).

On the other side of the coin, candidates often struggle to find positions suited for their experiences; if they are fresh out of school, there can be considerable competition for entry-level jobs if they lack hands on knowledge. If they cannot obtain an entry level job, it becomes nearly impossible to get a mid-level position. Candidates can also be challenged to diversify their skills in their current jobs—do one task well, and it may become permanently adhered to that employee, keeping others from being exposed to it and the employee from continuously learning—and employees may seek new positions at other employers in order to obtain diverse experience.

The significance of the interview process is clear: matching applicants to employers and jobs keeps the engine of the HTM profession running. For both sides of the job interview, proper preparation and forethought provide huge benefits. Developing sharp interview skills is essential to employers desiring to select the right candidate and, for a candidate, picking the right job.

Preparation for Recruitment

Preparation benefits both sides, and it is a necessary exercise in the race of hiring and job finding. For the employer, getting prepared for the interview means having a diverse panel. That panel should consist of at least a boss and a coworker for the position and no less than two people (for legal reasons). Interviews should be scheduled with enough time in between (15 minutes, generally), and the panel must be assembled early on the day of with the interview score sheets printed and ready to go.

For the applicant, being prepared starts with mentally trying out the job (imagine yourself working there) and researching the organization to understand its goals and priorities. An applicant should always arrive early for an interview no matter how it’s conducted (over the phone, in-person, or video conference), have a copy of his or her resume handy (as a reminder of accomplishments, and potential questions from the panel), bring a pen and paper to take notes, and prepare questions for the panel. It is always good to have at least one or two questions prewritten. These can be simple, such as “What is the biggest challenge in your organization?” or “What is the highest priority of the department?”

Strategies for During the Interview

No matter the interview type, the employer panel should be engaging. Make eye contact when possible (in-person and video conference interviews), smile, take clear notes, and try to bring out the best in the candidate by being professionally friendly and polite.

Applicants should strive to be professional in their answers and look professional. Dressing up for an interview (no matter its format) is appropriate. Always be courteous and positive in your responses, think before speaking, and take responsibility in your answers even if explaining a negative experience. A candidate should not hesitate to ask the panel to repeat a question, if needed, and should be sure to answer all parts of a question.

Interview Questions: Construction and Execution

Making sure candidates possess the needed technical ability is key, as well as a good personality fit for the organization. Even the most technically astute person will have to interact with others in the hospital setting, so interview questions that reveal a candidate’s personality are important.

Employers should build their interview questions for all aspects of the job, including technical ability and personality fit with your organization. Performance-based interview questions (PBIs) can help offer insight into how candidates think. These types of questions involve a candidate critically connecting who, what, and how a task is completed. For example, “Describe the process for installing a new CT scanner. Who would be involved, and how would you ensure you were successful?” It is important to not make your questions too long or complex, or the interviewee may run out of time before answering them all.

Candidates should aim to reveal their personalities in a professional way, but are also responsible for researching the culture and mission of an organization to which they are applying, so they understand how they would feel/fit in there.

What Not to Do

Employers should not leave an open microphone before or after an interview (not muting a telephone line or covering a video conference feed), decide on their choice before interviewing all the candidates, or use the same call-in information for all the candidates.

Candidates should make sure that they do not call into a telephone interview while driving or have a raucous background (especially for video conference interviews) or speak-off topic from a question.

Conclusion

For an employer to succeed in hiring the right HTM professional, and for an HTM applicant to find the most meaningful job for them, is essential to establishing and maintaining an ideal work environment. For both sides of the interview table, the best way to help find this balance is to always be well-prepared.

Clarice M.L. Holden is chief biomedical engineer at VA North Texas Health Care System.

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