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Recruiting is not a one-way street.  No give and take, no tough challenging questions, and no candor and transparency, is a formula for a costly disaster in the waiting.

tough questionsEmployers, their recruiters, and the candidates, all have a responsibility and duty to be completely transparent.  As I have written so often in the past, this degree of candor and honesty before the formal “I Accept” is the least embarrassing time to get all these potentially complicated issues — the good, the bad and the ugly — on the table.

Every organization I know or have worked for has some wonderful attributes, but they also have their warts, their miscalculations, and other issues they wish were not so.  Every candidate has their weaknesses, their mistakes and their personal style quirks that may rub new employers the wrong way.  For either side to pretend otherwise is really a recipe for messy calamity.

The secret to minimizing the risks is for both sides to ask the right tough questions.  Here are some of my thoughts:

Questions for the candidate:

  1. Describe the culture or work environment in which you feel you will do your best work.  Share some examples from prior employers.
  2. Connect your strengths and prior achievements with the needs of our organization in a way that would give us a strong sense that you are the right candidate.
  3. What has been your biggest mistake or miscalculation in your professional career?  (Everyone makes mistakes, this is a great question to test the authenticity of the candidate)
  4. Everyone has areas they work on to improve performance.  What areas do you focus on and what do you do to mitigate any adverse consequences?
  5. Are you someone who takes the initiative and is comfortable asking for forgiveness if you overstep or are you more comfortable asking for permission?
  6. When was the last time you encountered questionable conduct and chose not to say anything to avoid rocking the boat?
  7. We all procrastinate.  What do you procrastinate on?
  8. How do you react when a direct report makes a big mistake, one that could be embarrassing for you and adversely affects your division?
  9. How do you hold people accountable and what steps do you take to improve their performance?  Share some examples of your prior experience in this area.
  10. What do you see as  the biggest risks for you in accepting this position and how would your propose to mitigate them?
  11. How would you like to define success at the end of your first 12 months with our organization?
  12. What have you done, personally as a leader, to foster and improve quality of care and enhanced patient safety?

Questions for the employer:

  1. Describe the organization’s culture and how you think your perception may differ from what employees in nursing, housekeeping and dietary think.
  2. What are the biggest challenges this organization will face over the next five years and how would you assess the enterprise’s progress in addressing these issues?
  3. What are the sensitive issues I will face in this role? Briefly outline the history.
  4. How will you define success for this position at the end of the first 12 months?
  5. Every organization has its unwritten cultural/values guidelines for how things get done. If you were my onboarding coach, what would you tell me?
  6. Where does quality of care and enhanced patient safety rank in this organization’s daily priorities and what should I look for to see these priorities playing out?
  7. Who are the key stakeholders that will be critical to my success and what is the best way to connect with those individuals?
  8. When people fail to fit in here, what are the most common reasons?
  9. (For a new position) Has the senior team supported the creation of this position?  Has any member of the senior team seen their scope of responsibility or span or executive leadership shrink as a result? How do they feel about this development?
  10. (For an existing position) Where is the last person who held this position now?  (If they left the organization) What important lessons can I learn from their performance that will enhance value for the organization?
  11. What is your biggest hot button for your direct reports?
  12. As someone who will have visibility, what are some of the guidelines you can offer to ensure we integrate well?