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This may surprise some in healthcare, but dozens upon dozens of health system and hospital CEOs and other senior executives have admitted to me in my more than 20+ years in executive search that they are not that good at conducting interviews.

I have heard a version of this story many times: the candidate comes in, pleasantries are exchanged. A few typical questions are asked — why do you want to work for us? is the most frequentand then the 30 to 45 minutes is over and they are off to meet other members of the team.   These busy executives say that their schedule keeps them from spending too much time with candidates and, when they are particularly honest about this shortcoming, they admit that they have done little homework to prepare for the meeting, save briefly scanning the resume.

One CEO I know – unless he is out of town or in a board meeting – tries to interview every candidate for employment. For lower level hires, it may be a brief 10 to 15 minutes. “I want the best people in the market working for our organization and I spend my time asking a couple of questions about themselves and then emphasizing our values. I tell them that if they cannot live with those values, they cannot work here.” His is a 275-bed hospital. For most CEOs, that approach is not possible.

Given that employees are an organization’s most important asset, CEOs and other executives must do a better job interviewing. Here are five points to consider:

  1. Review the resume in advance . Highlight points that interest you. Review the recruiter’s notes regarding their likes and dislikes.
  2. Do not “wing it” in the interview. Develop five to seven key questions that focus on the candidate’s values and probe to measure their reaction to the organization’s cultural indicators. These are questions that should be used in every interview and should be crafted to elicit specific insights because this is the issue that trips up most new hires – bad fit.
  3. If you are interviewing a potential direct report, prepare five to seven questions that zero in on relevant experience and their quantifiable accomplishments with those issues.
  4. Use some form of behavior and values screening tool. Do not interview candidates who are too far apart from your profile. It probably will not be a sustainable, productive relationship.
  5. It takes more than one hour to get the right feel for a candidate. You certainly wouldn’t marry someone you spent an hour with, so do not be in a hurry to fill the job. A miss-hire is a very costly mistake to make.