Although many healthcare organizations leave their reference checks until the end of the recruiting process, these checks may be among the most critical steps in hiring new physicians.
Reference letters from candidates provide helpful insights, but they do not replace the need for in-depth telephone conferences with at least three sources who have knowledge of the candidate’s past clinical experience.
Consulting references early in the recruiting process is valuable not only because these individuals can alert you to potential trouble spots, but also because they enrich the interview process and help you better understand the candidate’s prior clinical and workplace experiences. They can also provide ideas about the areas on which to focus during the face-to-face interview.
Note: Leaving a reference check until the end of the process should occur only in cases in which there are extenuating circumstances and the candidate’s confidentiality must be maintained.
Not all references are alike. Ideally, the references you interview should have recent experience with the candidate and have known him or her for at least a year in a professional capacity.
Once you've introduced yourself to the reference, give him or her only a brief description of the position for which the physician is applying. A “behavioral” interviewing style is effective when querying references. Try asking open-ended questions, such as:
Can you please briefly describe the candidate’s style and approach to making clinical decisions?
What types of office or practice environments and cultures would be the most appropriate for this physician to excel?
Please share any insight as to how the candidate comes across to patients.
Would you feel comfortable having this physician treat a member of your family? Why?
Next, ask the reference to describe a particular situation in which the candidate exhibited certain qualities or behaviors.
While checking references, you may learn negative information about a candidate that may influence your opinion of him or her. However, you should not share this data with others, including the candidate. Doing so violates the confidentiality of the information the reference has shared. Sharing such information could also limit the effectiveness of securing candid assessments from this reference in the future.
Follow the rule of securing references before you interview, and you will increase your ability to assess the hospitalist’s viability as a candidate and the likelihood for a good fit as a potential member of your team.