Ask staff to flag problem applicants

After an applicant for an emergency department patient access position admitted she had difficulty multi-tasking, it became clear she really wasn't a good fit for the job after all, says Ebony Seymour, CHAM, manager of admissions and registration at Palmetto Health Richland in Columbia, SC.

Seymour didn't learn this directly, however; it was discovered during the department's "peer interview" process. Designated employees from different registration areas and shifts perform their own interviews with prospective applicants after completing a training course.

The peer interviewers ask applicants about actual situations they encountered and how these were handled, such as, "Tell us about a time when your quick response to a problem made a difference." "Once the interview is complete, the peer interview team makes the final decision on which applicant they feel will be the best fit for the team," she says.

Several times, the peer interview group detected unfavorable characteristics in candidates that weren't identified in the initial interview, reports Seymour. "The initial interview with the hiring manager is normally more focused on the applicant's employment history," she explains.

Encourage feedback

When Barbara Novak, revenue cycle manager at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, IL, identifies what she believes is a strong prospective candidate for a patient access position, she does these things before making the final decision to hire:

• Novak asks him or her to "shadow" an experienced staff person.

"This gives the candidate the opportunity to assess if the position is the right match for him or her, as well," she says. One applicant decided she didn't want the job she'd originally applied for, for example, because she realized she wanted to have more direct contact with patients.

• Novak encourages staff to ask the applicant specific questions.

Staff ask applicants, "Do you have any questions for me about the role?" and "Now that you've seen some of the patient encounters, what do you feel are the most important parts of the registration encounter?"

"What we're seeking is a focus on customer satisfaction, as well as accuracy of the registration," says Novak.

• Novak encourages feedback.

On one occasion, she decided not to hire an applicant because staff told her she seemed disinterested in the job. She typically asks her staff whether the applicant displayed professionalism and possessed good customer service skills, based on the brief time he or she spent in the department.

"The staff feel they have had an opportunity to meet the applicant and be a part of the process," she says. "This employee engagement is very valuable."

Staff have final say

Brian Sauders, manager of patient access services at Indiana University Health North Hospital in Carmel and Indiana University Health Saxony Hospital in Fishers, asks frontline staff to interview candidates, but only after patient access leadership has already determined that the individual is an acceptable hire.

"It allows the team to have a voice in the process," Sauders says. "They can pick up on attitudes and behaviors that may have been missed during the initial interview."

If the team recommends someone and leaders subsequently decide against their choice, that can have detrimental effects to their relationship, Sauders explains. "It's very important to be readily willing to extend an offer to any applicants interviewed by the frontline," he says. "We allow them to have the final decision."

Once applicants are hired, they know from the start that their colleagues really wanted them there, "which instantly begins to grow that team relationship," adds Sauders. (See related story, below, on an applicant's customer service skills.)


For more information on involving staff in the interview process, contact:

• Barbara Novak, Revenue Cycle Manager, Central DuPage Hospital, Winfield, IL. Phone: (630) 933-6514. E-mail:

• Brian Sauders, CHAM, Patient Access Services, Indiana University Health North Hospital, Carmel. Phone: (317) 688-3032. E-mail:

• Ebony Seymour, CHAM, Patient Access Manager, Admissions & Registration, Palmetto Health Richland, Columbia, SC. Phone: (803) 434-2244. Fax: (803) 434-7092. E-mail: