How to Hire Bench or Bedside Support: 3 Fundamental Questions for the Interviewer

November 1, 2013 at 12:00 am


Angela C. Wang, MD

By Angela C. Wang, MD

Having excellent support staff is a key but often overlooked part of achieving professional success. Choosing the right people to help you accomplish your goals, whether it is a nurse manager, lab technician, or nanny, will help you get things done. A reliable, trustworthy employee who has the ability to troubleshoot small problems can free you from distracting interruptions, thus enabling you to focus on the “big picture.” In contrast, someone who cannot get along with the rest of your team members or who is unable to listen and follow directions may make your life miserable.

Before beginning the hiring process make sure that you can answer these three fundamental questions.

1. What are your goals and performance expectations for this position?

For instance, what schedule is the person expected to work? If you are looking for a lab technician, what sort of skills will this person need? Cell culture? Molecular biology skills? Will this person be expected to have any supervisory or managerial duties? Keep a budget? Be available via cellphone and/or work weekends?

Think about what is essential. Are you willing to train a recent graduate or are you looking for someone with experience? Keep in mind that technical skills can be taught, but that character traits come well established. It is best to know ahead of time whether you can’t stand someone being late or who keeps a messy desk. Perhaps, you are willing to compromise on certain traits in exchange for honesty or good humor.

You must also consider the personalities and needs of the other people on your team. People do not have to socialize with each other, but they have to be able to work together. Having a team of highly skilled individuals who are constantly bickering detracts from the overall team mission. In contrast, the intellectual and emotional synergy that results when a group of people work together and encourage each other’s efforts not only facilitates success but also produces results that exceed expectations.

2. What questions will you be asking?

Make sure you ask the questions that permit you to screen individuals for the specific qualifications and attributes needed to be successful in the position you are seeking to fill. Hence, it is also important to know what answers you are looking for.

3. Where are you going to conduct the interview?

This is especially important for junior faculty who may be sharing office space. The personal interview may be the most important part of the entire process. The one-on-one interaction provides an opportunity to find out unique information about the potential employee before you make your decision (or mistake!). Make sure you have access to someplace quiet that will enable you to conduct the interview uninterrupted.

Angela Wang, MD, is a specialist in pulmonary disease and critical care medicine at Scripps Clinic Medical Group in La Jolla, CA. The article above is an excerpt from the Career Talk Series initiated by the ATS Women’s Mentoring Program.

Keep in mind that technical skills can be taught, but that character traits come well established.-Angela C. Wang, MD


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