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Photo of a White female medical laboratory manager smiling while conducting a hiring interview with a potential lab candidate.
Hiring decisions are critical to the success of the lab.

Improved Interviewing Techniques Build Stronger Teams

To get better results, design the lab interview process around candidate attitude 

Scott D. Hanton, PhD

Scott D. Hanton, PhD

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Published:May 15, 2024
|3 min read
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Everything the lab delivers is dependent on the team of laboratorians executing the work. One of the primary responsibilities of lab leadership is building the right team. 

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Developing an effective recruiting process and building productive interviewing skills are key approaches to hiring the best talent for the lab. However, while they are highly skilled bench scientists, most lab managers must also learn how to effectively interview candidates. The focus of the Today’s Clinical Lab webinar, “Expert Strategies for Interviewing and Hiring” seeks to empower those hiring managers. 

‘Hire for attitude, train for skill’

Modern lab work is done in teams. The science executed in clinical labs is too complex—and the outcomes are too important—for lone individuals to fully deliver. Bringing new people into the team is a delicate balance of finding candidates with the right approach and skills, along with the attitude and personality to contribute positively to the team. 

According to the late Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, an excellent approach to making hiring decisions is to “hire for attitude, train for skill.” We can’t change people, but we can help them grow and develop. A key part of the interviewing process needs to be evaluating the candidates around how they will positively contribute to the team, the community, and the lab environment. It is not simply about bringing in some additional technical skills. 

Being able to confidently sort resumes and conduct effective interviews will enable lab managers to make good decisions on potential candidates. Hiring the right people will grow the team, add important skills to the lab, and build the positive culture needed for the lab to succeed and thrive. 

We can break the recruiting process down into four components: 

  • reviewing resumes, 
  • conducting phone screen interviews, 
  • conducting face-to-face interviews, and 
  • making hiring decisions.

Reviewing resumes

Resumes come in many different styles, formats, and quality. Quickly determine if a candidate has the needed technical skills or experience. 

Once the resume passes that requirement, focus on candidates whose experience indicates the right attitude for the lab. Look for evidence for good communication, flexibility, agility, teamwork, and leadership. The best resumes share accomplishments rather than activities.

Conducting phone screen interviews

Spend 20 to 30 minutes reviewing the resume during phone screens. Probe the candidate’s technical experience and level of education. 

Key takeaways from phone screen interviews are an understanding of why the candidate made past changes in employment and their motivation for a new opportunity. 

Conducting face-to-face interviews

The primary focus of face-to-face interviews is to evaluate how well the candidate fits the role and the existing team. 

Use a combination of behavioral, individual, and value-based questions to probe attitude and seek responses that match the needs of the lab. Another important aspect is to evaluate the questions they ask as much as the answers they provide.

Making hiring decisions

Consider feedback from everyone involved with the interviews. Don’t settle. Ensure that at least one of the candidates will likely succeed in the role. If not, it’s time to start the process over. 

Don’t rush, either. Hiring decisions are critical to the success of the lab. Take the time required to find the right fit.

As lab managers develop improved interviewing skills, they will have greater confidence to make good hiring decisions that will provide the team to deliver objectives for the lab’s stakeholders. Few lab managers inherit the perfect team. Most need to shape the right team through the decisions they make about who to keep and who to bring into the team. 

During the webinar, participants will have a chance to ask Scott questions during the live Q&A, but you can also submit questions in advance at shanton@labmanager.com or by registering now for this free informative event.

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