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How to Evaluate Physician Candidates for Organizational Alignment

Jackson Physician Search
September 24, 2023

With concerns about rising physician turnover and more and more physicians reporting burnout, employers are motivated to find ways to improve physician retention. Organizational culture plays a critical role in employee engagement and job satisfaction, directly impacting retention. For this reason, healthcare leaders recognize the importance of hiring candidates for their ability to succeed in the job and their cultural alignment with the organization.  

At Jackson Physician Search, we talk a lot about hiring for cultural alignment, but what exactly does this mean? An organization’s culture is the manifestation of its mission, values, and beliefs. When employees’ behaviors reflect or align with the organization’s mission, values, and beliefs, it creates a positive corporate culture. Alternatively, when behaviors are misaligned, the environment can feel unstable.     

The importance of cultural alignment is paramount, and yet, it is not measured as easily as other job qualifications. Keep reading for ways hiring managers, recruiters, and other interviewers can better evaluate physician candidates for cultural alignment.

Be Clear About the Organization’s Values and Mission

The organization’s mission and values should be conveyed to the candidate before they even apply – not only on the job advertisement but also on the website and through stories shared via social media channels. In this way, candidates have an opportunity to screen themselves for fit and decide if they want to pursue the opportunity further. That said, healthcare leaders must have a clear vision of what alignment looks like in order to determine if applicants are truly compatible. 

Some questions to consider are: Which current employees best represent the organization’s mission and values? What attributes do they have that the ideal candidate should also have? Gain a consensus about the traits of the ideal candidate, and make sure everyone conducting an interview evaluates for those qualities. Also, select physicians who embody the culture to spend time with the candidate – either in an interview or a more casual setting.

Cultural Fit vs. Cultural Add

While it helps to know which characteristics work best in your group, be wary of hiring physicians identical to others on your team. A recent trending topic among hiring professionals is the difference between hiring for cultural fit vs. cultural add, and it’s worth keeping in mind as you explore candidates. 

Core values manifest differently in individuals, so be encouraging of hiring someone with diverse experiences or a unique personality. Inclusivity will enhance the culture and support your organization’s growth in a positive direction. Ask questions that reveal the candidate’s values, beliefs, and priorities, knowing that rare qualities are welcome and are likely to strengthen the culture as long as the values align.

Ask About Their Experience During the Pandemic

Whether in residency or employed at a hospital, private practice, or other, all healthcare providers have stories to tell about their experiences of the pandemic. For many, the situation brought realizations about what was most important to them professionally and personally. Did the physicians have any “Aha!” moments during the pandemic? There is likely no “right” answer here, but how they talk about that time – what was frustrating, what was inspiring, what they wish had been handled differently, etc. will perhaps give you an idea of what candidates prioritize in a professional environment – and how they might fit into yours.

Listen and Observe

Tune into the candidate’s questions, conversation style, and overall demeanor; it will help to see and understand who they are. Do they consistently interrupt questions before you have finished speaking? Can they concisely answer a question, making their point? Do they speak about past coworkers and supervisors with respect? How do they discuss the different patient populations with whom they have worked?

When candidates take the opportunity to ask questions, look for a theme in their areas of interest. Are they primarily focused on compensation and bonuses? Certainly, questions about compensation structure are expected, but what else do they want to know more about? Are they curious about the team dynamic, average physician tenure, or growth opportunities? Candidates will ask questions about what is most important to them, so give them ample time to show you who they are and what they care about.

Be sure also to observe how candidates behave when introduced to other team members, as well. Are they courteous and personable with staff at all levels, or do they dismiss those not seen as decision-makers in the hiring process? If teamwork and respect for others is a value of your organization, be wary of those reluctant to engage with staff members at every level.

Make It a Priority

Determining how candidates will fit into and add to your organization’s culture should be a primary goal of the interview process. Leaders should have a clear idea of the values they seek in candidates and know they can find those values in various personalities and backgrounds. Don’t rule someone out simply because they don’t think or act exactly like other employees. Differences promote growth.  

As you look for values that align with the organization, listen and observe how candidates engage with others and tune into their attitudes about past colleagues and patients. Let their questions show you what is most important to them. Evaluating candidates for cultural alignment is not easy, but by keeping these points in mind and listening to your intuition, the best candidate for your organization will become clear.

If your healthcare organization is seeking assistance in successfully evaluating cultural alignment in the physician hiring process, the physician recruitment team at Jackson Physician Search will first work to understand your organization’s unique culture and then help you identify the candidates who make the best addition. Reach out to Jackson Physician Search today to learn more.

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