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Q:  During the interview process, how can one ensure the prospective executive or physician is a good fit and will prosper within our organizational culture? What should we do, ask or seek?

A: (from Elizabeth B. Hanckel, Senior Vice President) Most of us who have been employed by more than one organization appreciate that no two are alike. Each has its own staff with values, customs, beliefs and behaviors that create a unique environment.

According to Michael D. Watkins, PhD, author of The First 90 Days, Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, “Culture is the organization’s immune system.” Like our own disease-fighting system, the analogy here is that an organization’s immune system may also fight agents. However, some may be needed for change.

Since we’re talking about people, “ensuring” a fit and success with 100 percent probability is unlikely. However, there are ways to maximize the likelihood that your new executive or physician is a match with your organizational culture. 

Reach consensus. Understanding what you desire your new executive or physician to accomplish is not only important to your new hire, but also the stakeholders within the organization. Ensure both parties agree on clear and written job expectations.     

Employ an assessment model. Today’s market offers various instruments that provide insight on one’s behavior, personality and/or cognitive style. Examples include DiSC (which Tyler & Company uses), Hogan Personality Inventory, Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument and Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Assessments can help takers understand their own behavior and learn when and how to adapt it. By learning the various styles that exist within groups (e.g., leadership or a department), organizations can improve communication, reduce conflict and enhance individual and team performance. Please use these tools as instruments to help assess vs. decide. 

Conduct a 360-degree interview. Involve the team that is to work with your new executive or physician. Include the boss (or board), peers and direct reports. Be sure to offer one-on-one meetings as information may be shared more candidly in this format than in group interviews. Obtain clear and concise feedback and share with your candidate using best practices. It may be helpful to ask your candidate to present on collective findings, thoughts and goals. 

Examine employer diversity within experience. Albert Ellis, PhD, said it well – “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” By reviewing your candidate’s track record of accomplishments (especially within a variety of organizations with different cultures), you can gauge competency and his/her adaptability within your institution. Ask behavioral-event interview (BEI) questions, and confirm key achievements with references and sources using best practices.

BEI questions generally begin like this:

  • “Walk me through a situation where you ....”
  • “Please provide a specific example of  how you ....”

Find connections. Look for ties (e.g., cultural or geographical) that your leader-to-be has with your organization and community. Consideration and support also should be afforded to spouses, whose deal-breaking issues may include location and occupation.  

Learn what is important to your candidate. Hearing your candidate’s aspirations can aid in determining whether your organization is the right long-term fit. That is, do opportunities exist that create an environment for your potential leader to grow, build or achieve?

Assess alignment. Which values are most important to your prospective leader? Are they similar to your organization’s values? Is your candidate committed to your organization’s mission and vision? Review achievements and challenges within similar organizations (e.g., academic, for-profit, safety-net) in your candidate’s past. Understanding what your candidate values and wants, and why, is key.    

Always remember that interviews are a two-way street; savvy executives and physicians thoroughly investigate potential employers just as you vet them. When most dots connect, the probability is high that your new hire will not only survive, but thrive.  

Elizabeth B. Hanckel, Senior VP, chairs the firm’s HR Leadership Practice. She offers more than 35 years of healthcare experience — the majority as an HR executive and consultant for a variety of small and large healthcare systems and associations. Reach Hanckel at 970-948-8190 or