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[00:00:00] Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Testing Psychologist podcast, the podcast where we talk all about the business and practice of psychological and neuropsychological assessment. I’m your host, Dr. Jeremy Sharp, licensed psychologist, group practice owner, and private practice coach.

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Okay, y’all. Hey, welcome back to another business episode. Today, I’m talking all about hiring. So if you are lucky enough to have found candidates for your open position, this is the episode for you. I have made, I would say a number of mistakes in hiring over the years, and would like to share about some of those mistakes and offer a few tips for [00:01:00] interviewing, how to conduct a good interview, and some additional strategies outside of interviewing to make sure that you are finding the best folks for your open positions.

Before we get to the episode, as you know, I am really moving toward more of a group coaching model and would love to chat with any of you who are interested in some accountability and group coaching as you build your practice. You can get more information at thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting, schedule a pre-group call and figure out which group might be right for you. There’s a beginner group, an advanced group, and an intermediate group. So there should be a group for just about everyone out there if you are looking for some support.

All right, let’s jump to this conversation about hiring and interviewing.

Okay, everyone, here we are. Like I said, we are going to be talking about hiring and interviewing today. As I mentioned, I’ve had a few situations where hiring did not go well. And the difficulty with these situations is that I didn’t know that they weren’t going well in the beginning because the interview process went very well as far as I could tell. But here’s the thing. There is a good deal of research out there to suggest that interviewing is not an effective means of gauging job performance for a number of [00:03:00] reasons.

One, we tend to conduct unstructured interviews. Unstructured interviews are generally easier for the interviewer, the employer, but you probably aren’t getting the best information that you can about your candidate because unstructured interviews lean heavily on first impressions and charisma, and impression management, to be honest.

Some of those things might be helpful as you consider your candidates. In fact, I think some of those things are helpful actually in our field. But if you rely solely on an unstructured interview, by which I mean, you ask questions, maybe you start with a predetermined set of questions but then you sort of riff on those or go off script and ask different [00:04:00] candidates different questions, and you tend to ask questions that don’t actually get at job performance, then what is really happening is you’re just sort of having a conversation with someone and that quickly leads to just figuring out whether you’d like the person or not.  And that’s important but it does not really do anything to predict actual job performance.

So, let’s talk about ways to structure interviews, ways to have a better interviewing process overall. And I’m going to talk about some ways to introduce some processes into your interviewing or hiring sequence that you may not have thought of or may not be implementing regularly.

So, as I said, interviews are [00:05:00] fraught. I think we know this. Trusting our gut or gut feeling is not actually a helpful thing in many cases because people can engage in impression management and put forth a good face during an interview without that relating to their job performance.

Now, I do want to start with some pros, some things that can actually be helpful about interviewing. I don’t want to throw out every aspect of interviewing because, in our field, first impressions are actually really important. They can be really important. Especially with testing, we have a limited number of appointments by which to connect with someone. So, I think an interview can offer a good sense of first impressions and how that may translate to the client relationship. [00:06:00] So I think that’s one pro.

I think that an interview is also just a great qualitative assessment of how responsive someone is to email when you’re trying to schedule the interview, whether they arrive on time, whether they seem prepared, and so forth. So you can get some decent qualitative information from an interview.

Like I said, the way that you connect with someone and sort of your gut feeling with someone could be a good indicator of how well they connect with others. Now that assumption is reliant on another assumption that you have a good sense of other people. So, if you know that you don’t tend to be a good judge of character or you tend to react to people differently than the majority of your friends or family, then that is not going to be as valuable.

[00:07:00] I think it’s helpful too. I mean, an interview can be helpful because the role that we play can be fairly scripted, by which I mean that, we deliver similar information day in and day out. So, if a person can deliver relatively scripted information and present a positive demeanor, then that could translate to the job. That doesn’t say anything about their clinical skill, of course, but it at least says something about the way that they might connect with other people.

Now, what are some downsides to interviews? You may know these things, but I’m going to go over them just in case because a lot of these are cognitive biases that it’s hard to be aware of because they just seem to fly in the face of everything that we feel.

So the first is just [00:08:00] generally speaking that interviews are a biased process. We tend to pick or hire the people that we liked the most. And we tend to like the people the most that tend to be similar to ourselves. So, just in that process, you’re already biased, not toward the best candidate necessarily but the candidate that appears to be most similar to you. Just know that right from the beginning that we are going to be biased in our selection process and we almost can’t help it.

So implicit bias is rampant in the interviewing process. So we start with whatever implicit biases we may have that we are aware of them or not, and then our brains do these really [00:09:00] tricky contortions by which we then bend our impressions after the initial impression to fit the initial impression. So once we decide that we like someone, we look for evidence that confirms that impression. Whether it’s there or not, we bend the evidence to support that impression. And we have a really hard time changing our minds. So that is not helpful. You’re, I’m sure drawing this conclusion. Like if someone presents a really good first impression, that can go a long way towards sealing the deal to being hired. Again, not unimportant, but we just have to be aware that these processes are taking place.

If you’re interested in reading more, I’m sure a lot of you have read Thinking, Fast and Slow by Kahneman. [00:10:00] That book details a lot of these cognitive biases and ways that our brains trick us into thinking all sorts of things, but there is a section in that book on interviewing as well.

So interviews are biased. We don’t do a good job of changing our minds when we need to. We decide if we like someone pretty quickly. That’s based on a gut feeling. That doesn’t really predict their job performance. So a simple unstructured interview on a single occasion is about the worst way to hire someone.

You’re probably saying, “Well, what do we do about that?” Here are some things that I have found to have been super helpful over the years as we’ve continued to refine our hiring process. And this information is also taken from different sources out there [00:11:00] research-wise in the business world.

The first one that I have found that is super helpful and often overlooked part of the process is to check references. Now that might seem simple. I’m sure some of you are saying, “Well, of course, we’re going to check references. That’s a simple part of hiring.” Well, easier said than done. In my experience, it takes some time to track down references and get people to respond. I tend to like to do things over email and it’s really hard to do things over email or get the true sense of a reference over email. So it requires a phone call a lot of the time and that it was some extra effort.  So you got to do it though.

Any of the times when I have been burned with hiring decisions, I did not check [00:12:00] references. Now, when you do check references, I think the way that you do it is important as well. A lot of the time, we might just approach these phone calls and say, “What’s your relationship like? What do you like about this person? Any red flags?” And that’s that. So I would encourage you to be a little bit more detailed and not be afraid to ask explicit questions about the areas that are most important for testing, but also most important for your practice.

We’ve talked a lot about practice values over the course of the podcast. Practice values have to make their way into this conversation as well. So I would ask references about testing specific things like their clinical judgment, their case conceptualization, their ability to write reports and get reports done in [00:13:00] time, their interaction with clients, their writing skills, all of these things are important and specific to testing. So, I definitely want to ask those questions.

But I also know that a major value in our practice is having fun. So I will ask what is this person like on your team? Does this person get along with the other folks in your practice? Do you have any concerns about this person’s personality? Sometimes I’ll be very direct and just say, “Hey, we have a practice where literally everyone gets along and literally everyone likes each other. We like to hang out. We have zero drama. Is this person going to disrupt that in any form or fashion?”

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All right, let’s get back to the podcast.

And in my experience, you can get some pretty valid answers. That’s not the right word. You can get some very illuminating answers [00:15:00] if you ask direct questions like that. I know that there is some confusion out there about what you can or cannot ask. I have chosen to go the route of asking whatever questions you want and then it is on the reference to choose how to answer that question. Occasionally, you will find references who will say, “I can’t really answer those questions. I can only say if this person is eligible for rehire or not.” And that’s totally fine, but like I said, I want to encourage you to really drill down and think about those questions that you find most important that will get at the information that you really need for your practice.

It may be different. I mean, you’re going to have different values than our practice, but you can craft some questions around those values so that you are really digging in and getting to the nitty-gritty of this person’s presentation.

Now, another way to combat some of these [00:16:00] interview pitfalls is to do multiple interviews with multiple members of your team to see how somebody presents in different situations. Now, if you’re a solo practitioner, you at least should do multiple interviews on different days with this individual. This has been so helpful for us because I perceive individuals differently than my assistant director perceives people than our admin team perceives people. And we’ve had a number of situations where somewhat we disagreed and we had to talk through that and it was very helpful.

So as much as you can, do multiple interviews with multiple members of the team. I also recommend a practice that we just started implementing over the last probably six months that’s been super helpful, which is giving the interviewee the chance to [00:17:00] connect with existing team members.

Now, this is informal. It’s not supervised. I don’t give our team members specific questions or anything like that. It’s really structured or presented in a way such that the candidate is able to talk with existing team members informally to get the answers to any of those questions they might be afraid to ask me or the rest of the leadership team. And that way, your other team members get a chance to connect with the candidate. They of course can provide impressions about what that was like, and if they liked that person or got a good sense or whatever it may be. And on the flip side, the candidate gets to sort of get a peek under the hood and connect with some of your staff and get some of those questions answered that may be tougher to ask in an interview. You’ll also get a little bit of a sense of how they come across in a more informal [00:18:00] setting.

Another way that we can combat these interview dangers is to do a more structured interview with questions that actually relate to the job or the role that they’ll be filling. When I say structured interview, I mean, ask every candidate the same questions, first of all. But second of all, really try to devise questions that get at the job roles that there’ll be fulfilling. An example of that might be something like, “How would you handle it if you promise a report by a certain date and discovered that you were not going to be able to meet that deadline?” And see how people answer. So, you can craft questions that actually relate to the job.

That really flows into the last [00:19:00] suggestion which is doing a skills-based interview. If any of you have engineers or computer programmers in your family, you may have heard of skills-based interviewing. These are very popular in other fields, again like engineering and coding, where they will go in and actually have a problem to solve to get a sense of how they do with job-related tasks.

Now, in our situation, that is hard because it’s not like we can parade a client into the interview and see how people interact with them. But what we can do is present case examples. So you can present a vignette and ask how the person might respond and have them do a kind of on the fly case conceptualization just to see if they’re in the ballpark. You can have them devise a battery to test [00:20:00] whatever the referral questions might be. So there are a number of ways to do a case example.

One thing that you should absolutely be doing that’s related to skills-based interviewing is getting a report sample. I always like to make sure, especially if you’re you’re hiring early-career folks to say, please send me a report that was not edited by anyone else. Send me a report that you wrote. I always ask for two examples. I try to get different types of reports, different presenting concerns. I always get report samples as early in the process as possible. So, make sure that they send those to you along with any other introductory materials like a CV or cover letter.

Another example of a skills-based task that you can do [00:21:00] is something simple like just have them send an email to address a specific client question. And this for me, I know that sounds very simple, but we do a lot of communication over email, especially around scheduling and logistics and things like that. And I love to see just how people craft a quick email that needs to be concise and to the point yet also take the client’s feelings into account and be kind and warm and that sort of thing.

So those are just a few examples of skills-based interviewing that you may be able to do. I would love to hear if others have additional ideas for skills-based interviewing, but these are some things that we found helpful.

So again, just to recap, the last thing that you want to do is a single [00:22:00] unstructured interview before you hire someone. Beyond that, you have all sorts of options to increase the efficacy or the predictive value of your interview to see how this person is going to do in the job. So don’t be afraid to put the time and effort into it. Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions of references, and don’t be afraid to say no to people.

That’s one thing that I have to mention is that especially these days hiring is so tough. And I know that myself included, we can get really excited when we find candidates and already start to build a picture of who this person is before we’ve even met them. And then it can be really hard to go back on those expectations or impressions if the person turns out to not be a good fit.

So all that to say, [00:23:00] don’t be afraid to say no, don’t be afraid to turn down candidates if they’re not a great fit for your organization. Don’t be afraid to say no to people and keep on looking and just be patient. I know that’s easier said than done sometimes, but it’s so much more work if you bring someone on board who is not a good fit for your organization and have to backtrack and figure out how to not to let them go.

So hopefully, you’ve taken away some helpful information about interviewing. There’s so much research out there. If you want to dive into it, you certainly can. There are a number of books and other resources to help you become a good interviewer. But the takeaway, I think is just don’t trust your gut. Let other people interview this person and don’t be afraid to [00:24:00] give them some applied case examples and so forth to really test their job skills.

Like I said at the beginning, if you are a practice owner who’s looking for group coaching and accountability, I would love to chat with you about the possibility of joining one of The Testing Psychologist mastermind groups. These are all groups that I facilitate and have a small cohort of other psychologists to go through the process with so you can have support and like I said, accountability as you build your practice. You can get more information at thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting, and I hope to talk to you if you are interested.

All right. That’s it for today. I will be back with you on Monday with a clinical episode. Until then, take care.

[00:25:00] The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologists website are intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast or on the website is intended to be a substitute for professional psychological, psychiatric, or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Please note that no doctor-patient relationship is formed here, and similarly, no supervisory or consultative relationship is formed between the host or guests of this podcast and listeners of this podcast. If you need the qualified advice of any mental health practitioner or medical provider, please seek one in your area. Similarly, if you need supervision on clinical matters, please find a supervisor [00:26:00] with expertise that fits your needs.

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