There is an old adage, “We hire people for what they know and we fire them for who they are.”  In my own past experience as recruiter, we may tend to target a list of high-value technical skills to expedite the on-boarding process but we may miss the mark sometimes on hiring for “who they are.” Missing the mark can have disastrous consequences on not only the patient experience but also the employee experience.

Many healthcare organizations are currently focusing on hiring for care, concern and compassion, especially now that the CMS is targeting patient satisfaction as a key quality indicator related to reimbursement. I know we all want to bring in those individuals with true service orientation and heartfelt empathy. Above and beyond reimbursement, our patients and families deserve respect, care, concern and compassion.

Although I am a firm believer that compassion and empathy can be learned and hard-wired, I do understand that everyone experiences varying degrees of empathy. For some individuals, the learning curve for moving empathy to a compassionate response is much higher.

Healthcare organizations do not always have the means and capacity to start developing empathy from scratch with new hires, regardless if they are direct or non-direct care positions, therefore, compassion and empathy are essential and must be evaluated in the interview process. Once we have empathy and compassion on board in the organization, we can support the patient experience with service scripts and use personal empathy and compassion to build a connection with the patient.

So how do we explore compassion in an interview?

Certainly candidates can tell us good, detailed stories in response to a behavioral interview question,  but is the story authentic?  Does the story come from the heart? We have to determine that we are not just receiving a highly crafted story, but better, have they and can they demonstrate compassion even with the going gets tough.  As you move through the interview, do you see and feel the compassion and caring from the candidate?  Do they not only know what compassion is, but is it represented in their body language and their response to behavioral, situational and demonstrative interview questions?  Do they know how to connect with a patient through appropriate touch? For some positions, we may take the time to have candidates demonstrate a specific technical skill. Should we not do the same for something as critical as care and compassion?

You can readily teach a service script to a new employee and coach to hard-wire it into daily patient interactions. It can be much harder to teach them the innate internal warmth and satisfaction, the altruism of helping others. We must evaluate not just what is said, but how the words are supported through tone of voice, cadence, facial expressions, compassion “sounds”, body language and touch.

For a sample list of interview questions to explore compassion and empathy during your structured, interview process, please click here for a free download “10 Questions to Explore Compassion and Empathy in an Interview.”

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