Interview Red Flags

2020 and COVID-19 may have altered the dynamics of health care forever but the process of finding the best professional to fill healthcare leadership gaps hasn’t changed all that much whether interviewing is via video or in-person. Altering processes and procedures is not a new concept for healthcare and adaptation continues to be a hallmark. Human resource professionals still rely on their well-honed experience to locate the best candidates. Personal interviews will always be the most efficient screening tool and usually the final hurdle for the hiring process at any level. Many staffing companies offer rigorous interview preparation and in the event a candidate ends up not being the optimum match for a particular position, their resume will be filed as a potential future hire. Human resource professionals have a variety of systems for matching these candidates to new opportunities. Identifying the traits and abilities required for individual jobs and finding the best fit for differing hospital cultures is more of an art than a science. Finding, hiring and growing a talent pool is a challenge for all professions but carries particular urgency in the foreseeable future. Given the current state of affairs, healthcare human resource professionals need to keep top-of-mind certain red flags.

healthcare practice management word-cloud


Candidates should always have their resume and cover letter in hand as a reference or to be able to answer questions about. A basic understanding of the position and hospital’s needs for the role are crucial. If a candidate manifests a disinterest in or confusion about the position it is probably not going to work out.  Hiring professionals should not discount common courtesy and manners. Punctuality, clean, pressed clothes, eye contact, interruptions, please and thank you will never go out of style regardless of the interview venue. For video interviews, setting up your background, lighting and testing your technical system in advance are vital.


Determining someone’s motivation for interviewing is also a key determinant of fit. Most people have experienced positions and worked for companies which were just not a good fit. Like any union, unhealthy relationships can occur in the workplace as well. Personalities, goals, work ethic, management style, growth opportunities and even one’s ability to manage or be managed affect the professional environment. Many people invest so much of themselves in their careers that when things go south, they go way south. Leaving may be the best course for all concerned but this doesn’t give anyone permission to bad-mouth a former employer. A candidate takes a position for a good reason and presumably leaves for a reason as well. Finding a way to explain the end of an assignment or a gap in a resume can be prepared and practiced in order to provide thoughtful and articulate reasons. This demonstrates professionalism or ‘moving forward with grace’ rather than pettiness.

  • Indications of selfishness/indifference: Kindness is not something for outside of work only. A question asking how one responded to a co-worker dealing with a personal issue at a hectic time can speak volumes. Human resources needs to take into account the responsiveness and empathy of a candidate.
  • Avoidance of Responsibility: A candidate who takes responsibility for their work, good, bad and everything in between is gold. Avoidance of responsibility is generally an indication of a lack of self-confidence and self-awareness. A candidate who owns their mistakes demonstrates maturity and a willingness to remain teachable. Questions such as, ‘tell me about the last time something went wrong in your life or career? How did you resolve this?” can help uncover this trait.


By interview time, a candidate’s resume has been properly screened. Video or in-person make little difference at this point but there are several key points to note.

  • Overstating Contributions: Candidates answering questions describing their specific contributions or leadership with vagaries, evasions or uncertainty are red flags. ‘We’ vs ‘I’ or ‘they’ or ‘we all’ should give HR professionals a reason to pause. The use of ‘we’ can also indicate dependence on others to accomplish needed tasks but could equally indicate a team player. Claims that are not verifiable may indicate an attempt to take credit where none is due. Talking the talk is one thing, but demonstrating clear examples of walking the walk is another.
  • Reference Fear: Lack of references can demonstrate evasiveness at best or deceptiveness at worst.  A colorful work history is one thing, but a suspicious one is another.


Human resource managers look to the long term. Discerning a candidate’s intention is an art form. Research, experience and knowledge can combine to give that gut reaction that adds up to ‘something isn’t right here’ feeling or the complete opposite. Intention can be quantified in other ways to determine a sincere interest in the position and your company. The ability to answer questions such as ‘why did you apply’ and ‘why should we consider you?’ as well as thoughtful answers about their potential role and contributions demonstrate a sincere commitment to the long-term. Beware of candidates who appear to be reading a script or using stock answers. A candidate who can’t articulate your mission, culture or current news contrasts sharply with one who pulls out a notebook and references prepared questions.

An ideal candidates will demonstrate appropriate credentials, references, fortitude, stamina and problem-solving skills. They will be pleasant, engaged, committed, trustworthy. The role of the human resource professional is to find the best available candidate to best fit the available position through their vigilance and thoroughness.

The COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered some new and unforeseen challenges for both employers and employees. Many qualified and/or mature professionals have taken a step back career-wise for any number of reasons. These include personal health, care-giving responsibilities, burn-out, pursuit of higher education, or taking a career-pivot to explore new possibilities or follow a dream. This has been a time to ponder the possibilities as well as face new realities. Interim healthcare leadership roles are providing a unique opportunity for trying new things, living in a different location and making a difference. Assignments offer optimal flexibility for healthcare professionals seeking to expand their options while maintaining the ability to take some time off. NHS Solutions is also seeing a growth in candidates’ willingness to take a step back in job title/responsibility in order to remain employed. Contact us to discuss current interim job opportunities at NHS Solutions or upload your resume to start the discussion about your next career move. 




Accessibility Toolbar