Maybe your medical assistant is also having to check patients out and this pulls her away from her primary duties of assisting you with procedures. Maybe you are missing a medical assistant who knew exactly how you like to handle your patients, which now puts a heavy burden on you and can hinder your ability to provide the best quality care. No matter what the situation, having a vacancy in the office is at the very minimum an inconvenience for you, your staff and your patients. Finding the perfect candidate for that opening as quickly as possible is ideal.
If your practice is like many podiatry offices across the country, you may not have an office manager or a human resources director to assist you with the journey of filling that open position within your office so you have set off on this journey on your own.
You have done everything right. You have crafted the perfect job posting that accurately represents the desired skills you are looking for in the perfect employee. You have posted the open position to multiple online recruiting outlets. You have spent hours of your valuable time sorting through the endless resume submissions, which range from the candidate with 12 years of experience in a podiatry office to the candidate whose only position has been at the local fast food restaurant. You have finally whittled the playing field down to the top three to five candidates and now you are ready to talk with them on the phone or meet them face to face.
Before you set up your first interview, it is critical that you understand that it’s not always best to “wing it” when it comes to a pre-employment interview. Just as there are compliance laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that protect patient privacy, there are specific laws put forth by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), as well as other federal and state laws, that protect potential job candidates in other ways.
What Not To Ask During An Interview
The EEOC has noted specific prohibited employment policies and practices that would violate a candidate’s rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These policies strictly regulate what you can and cannot ask a candidate during the recruiting, application and interview process. A good rule of thumb is that if a question isn’t job-related, it is best to steer clear. One effective way to avoid getting tripped up by some of these seemingly innocent interview “no-no’s” is to write down interview questions beforehand and stick to the script.
Avoid the following topics when preparing your interview questions.
Conversation surrounding race, creed, color, religion or national origin. This is obvious, right? Not so much. It is very easy to slip into a gray area here. Asking a candidate, “Where were you born?” or “Where did you grow up?” seems like an innocent conversation starter, but these types of questions can be construed as inquiries into the candidate’s national origin or race.
Age or date of birth (if interviewing a teen, you can ask if he or she is 16 years old). The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older. The ADEA does not explicitly prohibit an employer from asking an applicant’s age or date of birth. However, such inquiries may deter older workers from applying for employment or may otherwise indicate possible intent to discriminate based on age, contrary to the purposes of the ADEA. If you ask a candidate how old he or she is and then you decline to hire the candidate for the position, it could be interpreted that you chose not to hire him or her based on the candidate’s age. If the age information is needed for a lawful purpose, the practice can obtain it after hiring the employee. Questions to avoid: “Are you a baby boomer/millennial, etc.?”; “What year did you enter the workforce?”; and “What year do you plan to retire?”
Disabilities of any kind. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers generally cannot ask known or assumed disability-related questions until after an applicant has received a conditional job offer. Employers are permitted to ask if an applicant will need an accommodation for a disability if they reasonably believe the applicant may need an accommodation or if the candidate has disclosed a disability. In these cases, it is best if you let the candidate bring it up to avoid any appearance of misconduct on your part. Questions to avoid: “Have you ever filed for worker’s compensation?”; “Have you ever been injured on the job?”; and “Have you ever been treated by a psychologist or psychiatrist?”
Marital status or number of children. Denying employment based on marital status or family size violates a candidate’s rights under Title VII because employers can use these statuses to discriminate against women. This is a large pit that an employer can easily fall into during an interview as questions about a candidate’s family are often conversation pieces. It can take some practice to make sure you don’t fall into that pit. Questions to avoid: “Are you pregnant/Do you plan to become pregnant?”; “How many kids do you have?”; “What is your maiden name?”; and “What is your spouse’s name?”
Other landmines to avoid include questions about a candidates’ height or weight, financial information, medical information, inquiries about organizations, clubs, societies or other social memberships.
What You Can Ask During An Interview
So how do you get to know a candidate if there are so many things about his or her life that you are forbidden to ask about? Employers sometimes feel the only way to get to know a person is to know about her or his personal life. This just isn’t true. There are plenty of things you can discover about a person by simply asking about how she or he would handle hypothetical situations or questions regarding past employment relationships.
Below are three excellent interview questions that give valuable insight into a candidate’s personality.
How would your best friend describe you? Every time we have ever asked this question, the interviewee immediately smiles and sometimes even laughs. Asking this question accomplishes two goals. It lightens the mood and eases some nervousness that naturally comes along with interviewing for a job. This question also lets you know what characteristics that person values in his or her relationships. It will tell you more about what that person wants people to think about him or her than what people actually do think about him or her, and in turn, it will tell you what characteristics that person finds valuable.
If you discovered that you will be unable to complete a task by the deadline, what would you do? The answer to this question would give you an idea about how this person may handle pressure. If the candidate is a team player, her answer may be that she would ask her coworkers for help. If she is honest, she may answer that she would go to her supervisor and ask for guidance on how to prioritize. An overachiever may answer that she would work overtime to get the task completed on time.
Describe the best/worst boss you have ever worked for. This question allows you to see if this person is focused on the positive or negative. (Example: The candidate has 20 terrible things to say about her last boss and only two good things to say about a boss she had five years ago.) It also allows you to see what kind of boss this candidate would work well with. If you are the type of manager who gives your employees space and allows them to take responsibility for their own productivity, and the candidate states that the best boss she ever had met with her every morning to go over daily tasks, this may be a sign that an employment relationship between the two of you may not be the best fit.
On your journey to find the perfect new member of your team, the interview is arguably the most crucial step. Making sure you are prepared will help you avoid the tangled web of problems associated with our lawsuit-happy culture. With just a little understanding of the “do’s and don’ts,” you can stay out of hot water and select a person who will be a good fit and a true asset for your practice.
Ms. Diegert is the Human Resource Manager of InStride Foot and Ankle Specialists in Concord, N.C.
Dr. McDonald is the President of InStride Foot and Ankle Specialists in Concord, N.C.