It’s such a simple concept that talent acquisition professionals in long term care sometimes take it for granted – you should hire nice people to work at your communities. My friend/AP Journalist Katie Zeizma travels a lot for her job. She was in the lobby bar at some hotel somewhere in the United States and saw a sign that said “Now Hiring: Nice People.”  That seems like a no-brainer for any hospitality position, which make it kind of funny to see the sign. I know you probably wouldn’t post a big sign at your community’s front desk or on your career website that says, “Now Hiring: Nice People.” You need to hire a person with the right technical skills, which means evaluating “niceness” isn’t necessarily part of the hiring equation. However, while the term “nice” might be too simplistic, at the end of the day you do need employees who are going to treat your residents nicely to ensure resident and family satisfaction. In long term care, being a “nice person” means having compassion, flexibility, a strong work ethic, openness to learning, and so much more. But how do you evaluate the “nice” factor?

Consider Candidate Adaptability

“Adaptability” isn’t a synonym for “nice.” But due to the resident-centered care movement, individualized care is becoming increasingly important, and that kind of care requires adaptability. I recently spoke with Melissa Koehn, Human Resources Director at Newton Presbyterian Manor, about their hiring process. Presbyterian Manor has 18 communities in Kansas and Missouri, and Newton Presbyterian is the first community they established. The community has 130 employees, and in any given month, they have between four and five open positions; these are frequently part-time opportunities. “We want people who don’t just ‘talk the talk’ but who actually ‘walk the walk.’ Just because you get certified to be a CNA doesn’t mean you’re a good CNA for us,” said Koehn. “When we’re interviewing people, we want to evaluate their soft skills, too.” One of the most important traits Newton Presbyterian evaluates is adaptability. “We’re really looking for people who can change on the fly, who can adapt to different residents, because every person is different,” noted Koehn. But this doesn’t just apply to direct caregivers; nearly every employee in every department touches the lives of the residents. Adaptability includes how all of the staff communicates with the residents. “We are looking for people who are very flexible with addressing the same needs for different residents. Many of the resident requests and concerns might be the same, but because everyone’s different those needs are expressed differently.”

Evaluating Soft Skills

So how does Newton Presbyterian evaluate soft skills, like adaptability? They start off by considering how the candidate approaches the application. “The application says a lot to me – how a person fills it out,” said Koehn. “Are they sending me to dig for information in their resume? Or are they putting everything I’ve asked for on the application.” Koehn also considers the completeness of the application and the depth of information provided, in terms of their previous work experience. Those candidates who do well on the application, and have the necessary technical skills and background for the role, are then invited to complete a behavioral assessment online. “It’s not a pass/fail kind of test,” Koehn clarified. “It gives us an overview of whether they might be a good cultural fit for our community.” At Newton Presbyterian, they explain to the candidate the purpose of the behavioral assessment before the candidate takes the online survey at home or onsite at the community. Explaining the assessment helps ensure the candidate is comfortable with the process. Then they let the assessment do its job. One of the best features is that the assessment hones in on critical areas, such as compassion, by asking the same questions in different ways. “This will illicit some really good information about that candidate,” noted Koehn. “Something I really appreciate about the assessment is that it gives you a different way of asking a question to get the behavioral information you need. You can evaluate how candidates answer the survey, and this gives you a more well-rounded view of that person.” thoughtful-thursday

A More Thoughtful Process

Typically, the next step in the application process, for those candidates that Koehn and the hiring manager would like to move forward with, is an in-person interview. This is a good chance for the potential new hire to learn more about the Newton Presbyterian’s employment policies, the role they would be taking on, and the culture at the organization. When it comes to in-person interviews, honesty is the best policy. According to Koehn: “Our honesty with people about exactly what we’re looking for helps them relax during the interview and know that we’re going to share the truth with them no matter what.” Thanks to creating a more structured interview process and being more mindful of the soft skills that are necessary for employees to have before joining their community, Newton Presbyterian is now, “working harder for the right candidate and not just a good candidate.” Koehn said the initial resistance to implementing behavioral assessment software has faded because hiring managers realize they are truly measuring what matters in their candidates. “People who wear their heart on their sleeve; people who give service from the heart ─ that’s who we’re looking for.”

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