Acing the Staff Interview

When you apply for a job you expect to go through an extensive interviewing process. For many, it begins with a brief telephone chat with someone from the HR department to see if you meet the basic qualifications. If you do, you may move to the next phase, wherein you are asked to meet with the hiring manager in the respiratory care department. Most of the time that’s the department director, and if you’re just starting out in the field, you might go in thinking that’s really the only person you need to impress.

Wrong! In many departments, hiring managers will want you to talk with other members of the respiratory care staff as well, and how you come across during those interviews may be the deciding factor in whether you get the job offer or not.

It’s unanimous

“We do group interviews at shift change for all applicants,” said Jack Fried, MA, RRT, director of respiratory care and neurodiagnostic services at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, UT. “There must be a unanimous vote to hire an applicant.”

Yes, you heard that right. In his department even one “no” vote would be enough to crater your chances at the job.

At St. Mark’s, Fried says the group interview takes place after both he and his staff coordinators have discussed the applicant and decided the person shows promise and should speak to the rest of the staff. Many times, the interviewee is someone the department already has experience with because he or she did a student internship at the hospital.

What do Fried and his staff look for in a job candidate?

“The key to a successful interview is candor,” he said. “Applicants must demonstrate a good work ethic, dependability, flexibility, problem solving skills, and that they ‘play well with others.’”

Basically, he says, they are looking for someone who is a good fit.

Six tips

How can you ace interviews conducted by the people who will become your fellow staff members on the job? Here are six tips to consider –

  1. Be prepared: Realize that the sales pitch you had ready for the hiring manager might not work as well with people who will work side by side with you if you get the job. Come up with some topics to talk about that drill down to the individual role you will be playing and how you will be interacting with other members of the team.
  2. Listen and learn: The staff members you talk to can provide a wealth of information about what it’s like to work for the department, so take in everything they tell you and use it to decide whether or not you will feel comfortable working there and can truly add value to the team.
  3. Be friendly and personable: Remember that a staff interview takes place after the hiring manager has vetted your education, experience, and skills. These people will be looking at your personality and your overall fit with the department. Now is the time to let them know you are a reliable team player who is easy to get along with and will have their backs when they need you to.
  4. Maintain your professionalism: Even though staff will want to get to know you, remember to maintain a professional demeanor throughout the interview. Don’t overshare things about your personal life, try to uncover negative aspects of the department, or let yourself segue into grievances you had on other jobs.
  5. Take your cues from the team: Some departments may structure staff interviews in a more formal way, while others may make them more casual. Recognize which situation you are in and gear the tone you take with your questions and answers accordingly.
  6. Say thanks: Just as you would after an interview with a hiring manager, be sure to send a thank-you email letting the staff know you appreciate the time they took to talk with you and that you are excited for the opportunity to join their team. If you don’t have an email address for one of the staff, then you can send this email to the hiring manager, requesting that he or she circulate it among the staff members you spoke with.

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