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How to hire non-clinical staff: 9 interview questions you should ask

December 22, 2016

Whether you’re opening a practice in the New Year, expanding your team or replacing a leaving staff member, finding the right people is a necessary challenge. The right team members equip your practice to thrive and enhance your patients’ experience overall — so there’s a lot riding on the hiring process!

To help you effectively filter candidates and pinpoint those with the most potential for your practice, we’ve gathered an essential list of interview questions to ask healthcare professionals during the hiring process.


Effective interview questions to ask healthcare professionals


The type of interview questions to ask healthcare professionals depends on the role or function they will serve and the unique needs of your practice. In a growing practice, your support staff may need to juggle a number of responsibilities and remain ready to cover a colleague’s responsibilities on short notice. Before beginning your hiring process, consider how well resourced your team is in the areas of:

  • Front desk, phone responsibilities and managing patient information
  • Billing and other financial responsibilities
  • Scheduling tests and results

Standard questions as a useful starting point

We’ve all heard the standard interview questions — a quick checklist of these can give you a starting point, demonstrating potential candidates have the right credentials and the desired years of experience.

Common interview questions include:

  • Tell us about yourself
  • What are your strengths?
  • Tell us about a challenge you faced and how you overcame it
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Do you have any questions?

Dig deeper with unique questions

The standard interview questions cover a good baseline but can often only mirror how well your candidates researched the medical office staff job descriptions you advertised. They may not necessarily uncover what you need to know.

Are your candidates compassionate and empathetic? Will patients feel safe in their care? Will challenging patients overwhelm them? Are they experienced and/or quick to learn new software systems? All of these factors encompass the full scope of skills and characteristics needed to succeed in a fast paced clinical environment.

Stir up the interview with some of these suggested unique questions that’ll help you gain real insights into a candidate’s ability to exceed in the role.


1. Do you consider yourself a patient or tolerant person?

Like every profession, healthcare comes with its challenges. Managing the stresses of the patient and practice relationship in a professional and positive way is essential. Ultimately, patience is key.

Sick patients will need access to facilities, frustrated patients who’ve waited a long time will require assurances they’ll see their specialist soon, crying children and their parents will need quiet spaces to calm down. Promising candidates will convey patience and a realistic and empathetic approach to alleviating patient frustrations.


2. How do you describe your personality? Bubbly? Upbeat? Reserved?

Often your support staff are the first point of contact for your patients. Making a good first impression involves everything from a welcoming smile at the reception desk to a friendly voice over the phone. A bubbly and upbeat personality is beneficial for support staff, in particular those working at the front desk, on the phone or in a managerial role. A positive and warm personality is more important than ever, considering the vulnerable situations that many patients are in when they walk through the door. Take for example an oncology practice — candidates with adapt social skills are more equipped to engage nervous patients in light conversation that’ll help take their minds off the situation and build rapport through human connection.


3. Do you speak any other languages?

“One in four of Australia’s 22 million people were born overseas. 46 per cent have at least one parent who was born overseas.” — Human Rights

Having a bilingual or multilingual individual in your support staff offers a unique advantage for your practice — Australia is a growing nation with increasing diversity. While English remains your common language, your patients may feel more comfortable speaking to support staff in their native tongue. This helps to build rapport and strengthen trust with patients.

Though speaking other languages is a useful skill, it isn’t a necessity. However, a culturally sensitive approach is a must. Consider using this question as a springboard for exploring candidates’ experiences with caring for people with different cultural backgrounds.


4. Are you a multitasker? Tell us about an example of what and how you juggled tasks on an average day

Multitasking done well is a crucial skill in private practice, where the stream of patients and the unique demands of specialised treatments place considerable pressure on staff. It’s crucial to establish up front what candidates view as useful and professional processes for balancing tasks.

In a fast paced clinical environment, positive multitasking often involves “consciously and completely shifting your attention from one task to the next, and focusing on the task at hand” — all in a rapid space of time. Ultimately, intentional task shifting should never come at the cost of patient care; patients are the priority.

The 2012 incident where a man was treated with an excessive amount of blood thinning medicine to the point he required emergency open heart surgery is an example where multitasking has gone wrong. The junior doctor in charge of changing the man’s dose of medicine, using a computerised entry system on her phone, became distracted after receiving a text message on the same device and failed to reduce the man’s prescription as per orders from the senior doctor.


5. With your current employer, what has been your attendance record?

“Absenteeism levels (sick and carer’s leave) rose to 8.93 days per employee per annum. Over 88 million days are lost to the Australian economy due to absenteeism, at a cost of $27.5 billion per annum in sick leave costs and lost productivity.” — Absence Management and Well-being Report

Approach to absenteeism is a useful talking point for any interview, especially for smaller practices where a single absence can wreak havoc on workflows. The cost of absenteeism levels, which are rising in Australia, is considerable on businesses at every level. Often in high stress and burnout specialisations, the rates of sickness are a key consideration.


6. What are the essentials of a positive patient experience?

“Satisfaction with cancer treatment is associated with continuity of care and with treatment compliance. Greater compliance, in turn, is associated with a better clinical outcome.” — Psycho-Oncology Journal

A positive patient experience is far more than a smile when they enter the door and a quick treatment time — it’s about ensuring patients feel they’re getting personalised treatment from trusted individuals. They want to know they’re being cared for properly.

Do your candidates have a holistic view on patient care? This question unravels how candidates see their role of providing patient care, through anything from billing and administration to follow up phone calls.


7. If you were delivering support to someone, how would you maintain their dignity and respect?

“Explain how you would promote the person's independence and help them over time gain the ability to do more for themselves.” — Stephen Wilson

Following on from the previous question that asks candidates to broadly consider patient care, this questions places individuals in a personal context. Ultimately, the heart of supporting patients involves considering how patients are feeling and communicating with them on a personal level.

Social care expert Stephen Wilson examines how patient support strikes a fine balance between remaining an authoritative figure and communicating what needs to be done, while also respecting and promoting the autonomy of all patients — no adult wants to be treated as a child.


8. What made you choose the healthcare industry?

There are many reasons why people are joining the healthcare industry — an expanding sector in Australia. Often it’s a desire to help others and make a difference in the community. It may also be the increasing demand for qualified healthcare professionals that’s driving opportunity for growth and career progression for thousands of Australians.

Whatever the reasons are, this question is an invitation for candidates to share the passion driving them.


9. How important a role do you think technology plays in a thriving practice? What do you consider essential technology for a thriving practice to run efficiently?

Systems like Clinic to Cloud are only as good as the people using them — so make sure to investigate whether your candidates share the same approach to technology. Innovative technology equips and empowers your team to spend less time on administrative tasks and more time providing top patient care and treatment. Candidates, who find technology a hassle and barrier to efficiency, may be unwilling to learn and adapt to new systems.


Over to you

Assembling and growing your staff is an enormous endeavour for any private practice. Investing in a solid team is an essential component for ensuring the long term successes. These unique interview questions to ask healthcare professionals during the hiring process are the starting point — however, a single interview often doesn’t suffice. Starting the hiring process earlier, allowing time for multiple interviews where necessary and seeking advice from trusted individuals are all valuable ways of ensuring you bring on the right team member.

At the end of the day, you want a great team — and a great team needs effective technology to equip and empower. Having worked with thousands of healthcare organisations across Australia, we’ve created an essential evaluation checklist for ensuring your team has the support of the practice management solution it needs to succeed.

Clinic to Cloud does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for independent professional advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. See the Clinic to Cloud Disclaimer for further information.

Ready to transform your medical practice?
Mark Dwyer
With over a decade of experience scaling SaaS companies across the globe, my days are spent helping our teams share the vision, challenge the status quo and delight our customers at every turn. I believe that we are empowered by smart technology and together, we have the responsibility to transform healthcare.