Behavioral Interviewing Questions Part Two: How RTs Can Find the Right Answers

Behavioral Interviewing Questions

If you read our first article in this edition of Career News, you know why RT managers are so set on asking behavioral questions during job interviews.

The problem is preparing to give the right answers because these types of questions — which often start with “Tell me about a time . . .” or “Describe a project or situation . . .” — can strike fear in even the most seasoned job seeker.

Managers have some tips for getting it right too.

Avoid vague generalizations

According to Robert Drumm, BA, RRT-NPS, RRT-ACCS, operations manager at UCHealth Memorial Hospital in Colorado Spring, CO, prospective employees need to zero in on the exact information being solicited by the question.

“They need to focus on specific examples and try to avoid vague generalizations,” Drumm said.

Brenda Wilkerson, a cardiopulmonary supervisor at Johnson Memorial Hospital in Franklin, IN, urges job seekers to stay focused too.

“I think applicants need to realize that behavioral questions are going to be asked, and they need to think about what the focus might be — customer service, working well as a team, etc., and be prepared to speak to these topics,” Wilkerson said.

This is especially true for people who have been in the profession for many years now and haven’t ventured out into the job market in decades.

“They might not be prepared for these behavior-based questions,” Wilkerson said.

Mary Lou Guy, MBA, RRT, cardiopulmonary manager at St. Luke’s Health System in Kansas City, MO, uses these questions because she believes past experience predicts future behavior and her advice to job seekers is to realize they must have something concrete to say.

For example, if she asks a candidate how he has dealt with someone he didn’t get along with and the answer is, “I avoided the person,” then she sees red flags.

“The chance that the individual will be able to work on a diverse team effectively is poor,” Guy said.

Take your time

“The best advice I can give,” said Ryan Bellomy, MBA, RRT, director of respiratory care at Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women & Children in Honolulu, HI, “is be open and honest.” He doesn’t want to hear “I would” or “I could” but “here’s what I did in a similar situation.”

He encourages job seekers to take their time when answering too.

“There is nothing wrong with silence in the interview while you think,” Bellomy said.

Kathy Hogan, BA, RRT, respiratory care director at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, MS, agrees.

“They need to listen closely to the questions and pause before answering. You would be surprised how many people do not even answer the question that was asked,” Hogan said.

Of course, being too quiet won’t work either.

“In an interview, I try to have the individual talk 90% of the time. Prospective employees need to sell themselves,” said John Campbell, MA, MBA, RRT-NPS, RPFT, FACHE, pulmonary services director at St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital in Jackson, MS.

Don’t make up responses

Real-life examples mean the most to Karen Goodison, MS, RRT-NPS, RPFT, director of respiratory, clinical transport and lung/kidney transplant services and administrative director of biomedical engineering at UCMC in Bel Air, MD.

“Don’t try to make something up to give me what you think I am looking for — I can tell,” Goodison said. “I am not looking for the candidate to be perfect, I am looking for someone to be honest in how they reacted.” It’s okay to talk about a situation that didn’t go the job seeker’s way, as long as the person can also articulate what she learned from the experience.

Jack Fried, MA, RRT, director of respiratory care and neurodiagnostic services at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, UT, urges prospective employees to be honest too — and to realize not every answer to every question needs to be related to working as an RT.

“The best way to improve skill at answering these questions is to be honest and to have a track record,” said Fried. “Even new graduates have a record as a student.”

Keep your eye on the ball

Jeffrey Davis, BS, RRT, director of respiratory care services and pulmonary function at UCLA Health, Ronald Reagan Medical Center, in Los Angeles, CA, uses behavioral questions to draw out the real person lurking in the job interviewee — something he says is often masked by nerves and preparation.

“Come in confident and tell me why I need you and how you can make my department a better place to work,” Davis said. “In the end I will ask you ‘why should I hire you?’ Tell me about how you will fit and be a productive team member. Do not tell me this job has been your lifelong dream.”

Paul Nuccio, MS, RRT, FAARC, director of pulmonary services at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA, advises job seekers to keep their eye on the ball when answering these questions — and for him “the ball” is always putting the patient first and leaving drama out of the situation entirely.

“One of the most difficult issues that a manager faces is that of drama in the workplace,” Nuccio said. ”Drama is unfortunately very contagious and can easily bring the department morale down.”

And now, here’s the list!

That was all good advice from long-time managers who are experts in using behavioral interviewing questions to look beneath the surface and find the right employees for their departments. But if you are one of those job seekers, most likely what you really want is a list of these types of questions so you can think about how you might answer them in advance.

Kim Bennion, MHS, BSRT, RRT, CHC, corporate respiratory care QA manager at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, UT, knows exactly where you’re coming from. She helps new grads in her area prepare for behavioral interviewing questions by providing them with a comprehensive list of these questions she uses in her own facility.

Now she’s sharing that list with all of us too.

“I share these questions with the RT students who rotate with me at the corporate office after each student gets the chance to practice interview in a group setting,” Bennion said. Then she helps the students craft their “story” and practice how they will use it in a real interview setting.

“Students almost always come to realize they have more meaningful experiences than they previously thought,” she said. “When I get return clinical rotation evaluations, this activity ranks number one every semester.”

Heading to the New Era

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