(Looking to hire the best PT or SLP. We have articles addressing both. Click the respective links to learn how to fill those positions with the best, too.)

If you’re on the hunt for a new occupational therapist to join your clinic’s ranks, you came to the right place—because we’re walking you through everything you need to know to hire the very best OT. We’re even giving you specific interview questions for occupational therapists. After all, we know you don’t want to suffer the consequences of a bad hire. No one does. So, without further ado, here are the four things you must do to hire well—the first time around:

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1. Understand your culture.

The best OT for the clinic down the street might be a terrible fit for yours—after all, “the best” is relative. And a lot of that has to do with cultural fit. The only way to determine whether a potential occupational therapist is a good fit for your practice is to first understand your practice’s culture—which includes things like your shared values, beliefs, and principles. After getting clear on your culture, you’ll be in a much better position to identify the candidate who has the technical know-how to succeed in his or her role and the ability to mesh with—and improve upon—your clinic’s vibe. According to Heidi Jannenga, the president of WebPT, “The core of any business is its people, so hire for culture, because you can teach people new skills and concepts, but you can’t teach personality; you can’t teach values; and you certainly can’t teach passion.”

Make it better—now.

Once you have a better understanding of your clinic’s culture, you’ll also be in a better position to identify opportunities for improvement. And if you find any, address them now—before they become problematic. After all, the best OTs want to work at the best clinics, and a subpar company culture can be a serious deterrent. According to Jannenga, there are no intrinsically good or bad cultures, but there are four characteristics that the world’s best companies share. These are the ones she kept in mind when starting WebPT (you can see how they’ve evolved over the years here):

  1. Collaboration
  2. Hands-off Management
  3. Rejection of Perfection
  4. Transparency

2. Put a little personality in your job descriptions.

There’s no need to wait until a candidate arrives for an interview to begin communicating your culture—and screening for cultural fit. Take the time to craft a well-written job description that not only conveys the skills, responsibilities, and educational requirements of the role, but also demonstrates your clinic’s personality and values. As Charlotte Bohnett explains in this article, generic job descriptions won’t help you attract the cream of the crop—at least not according to Insperity. “Your culture can set the tone of your messaging to prospective employees, and that should be your goal for your advertised job openings,” Insperity advises. “This involves letting your company’s personality come through in your descriptions...With a clear and precise job description, you can eliminate any confusion about what's expected of the applicant right off the bat.”

Wondering how best to let your personality shine when writing a job description? Check out these job descriptions to see how WebPT infuses its personality into even the most mundane of tasks. For example, instead of writing “Must understand ICD-10 and CPT codes as well as insurance guidelines, especially those associated with Medicare and Medicaid,” WebPT writes, “Talk nerdy to me—er, all of us. Know your stuff and talk about it confidently, accurately, and honestly. This is especially important when it comes to insurance guidelines—namely, those associated with Medicare and Medicaid—as well as ICD-10 and CPT codes.” Feel the difference? Candidates do, too.

3. Conduct great interviews.

Once you find a candidate you think might be a good fit, let the interviews commence. We recommend scheduling at least one one-on-one and one team session (the latter is crucial for ensuring the candidate jibes with the group). Interviews can be nerve-wracking for everyone involved. So, before you start firing off questions, take a few deep breaths, do a quick presence exercise, and remember that this could be the start of a long—and wonderful—professional relationship. Treat the interview like a conversation—never an interrogation. Remember, great interviews go both ways; if you’re sitting across from the best, chances are good that he or she is assessing you and your practice for fit, too.

Ask the right questions.

When it comes to interview questions, Jannenga suggests including “direct, relevant, and experiential questions” that address both competency and cultural fit. Examples include:

  1. “How would you handle a situation in which [give a specific situation that someone in this role might face]? And what criteria would you use to determine whether you succeeded or failed?
  2. “Let’s role-play an example of how you would approach a performance review discussion.”

Here are 26 more interview questions to consider (adapted from this source, this one, this one, and this one—as well as our very own extensive interviewing and hiring experience):

  1. Why did you decide to become an occupational therapist? What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of the job?
  2. Why are you interested in joining our clinic? What makes you an especially good fit for our team?
  3. What three factors are crucial within a clinic and must be present for you to work most effectively?
  4. What can your hobbies tell me that your résumé can’t?
  5. How do you handle stress and pressure?
  6. If I asked one of your colleagues to describe you in three adjectives, what would he or she say?
  7. What are you reading right now?
  8. What has been your most challenging case to date—and why? What did you learn from it?
  9. Tell me about a time when you provided patient care that went beyond what was expected of you.
  10. How do you stay current on research in your field?
  11. Tell me about a time when you acted as an advocate on behalf of your patient. What about on behalf of the profession?
  12. How would you handle a situation in which a patient is angry or frustrated?
  13. Describe your ideal work day.
  14. What is the last gift you gave someone? Why?
  15. Tell me about the most fulfilling case you’ve ever worked on. What happened, and what made it special for you?
  16. What does evidence-based practice mean to you?
  17. Have you ever received a request for treatment that you didn’t agree with? If so, how did you handle it?
  18. What are your clinical and non-clinical strengths? In what areas do you hope to grow in the next year?
  19. How do you determine whether the plan of care you choose for a given patient is the best one available?
  20. Tell me about a time you—or your clinic—implemented a suggestion of yours to make a situation better.
  21. What motivates you?
  22. What was your favorite—and least favorite—aspect of your previous (or current) job?
  23. On a scale of 1–10, how comfortable are you with using an electronic medical record for documentation? Which software have you used in the past?
  24. What was the best thing a previous manager did that you wish everyone did? What about the worst—something you hope no one does again?
  25. What are your career goals? What are the three steps you’ve taken this year to help you achieve them?
  26. What are your three greatest accomplishments to date?

4. Present a fair offer.

To entice top talent—and still keep your budget intact—the offer you present must be fair for everyone involved. As I discussed in this article, that means you must:

  1. do your research to determine fair market value in your area, and
  2. consider the benefits and perks you could offer.

When Jannenga was a clinic director, she paid for her employees’ professional memberships and CEUs—and that was in addition to providing them with standard health, dental, vision, life, and disability insurance. “To me, a good benefit package satisfies the needs of your employees and puts your company at a competitive advantage to other similar companies in your market,” she says.

What’s a fair OT salary in your region?

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Expect negotiation.

Once you pinpoint fair market value and determine your benefits package, you’ll be able to calculate a salary range for your open OT position; then, based on the results of the interview, you can identify where within that range that particular candidate should fall—leaving room for negotiation, of course. Jannenga likes “to screen first for the basics.” For an occupational therapist, “that would include education, clinical knowledge, continuing education credits, licensure, work history, and specialization.” Jannenga then factors in emotional intelligence: “How do they think? How do they go about solving problems? How well do they communicate? How well do they mesh with the current team? And how well does the team accept them?” While Jannenga weighs all factors more or less equally, she places the most emphasis on cultural fit. Remember, you can’t teach that stuff.

To learn more about what constitutes fair compensation, check out the Private Practice Owner’s Guide to Fair Compensation.

Implement these four strategies—along with your own exemplary judgement and gut instincts—and you’ll know exactly who to bring on board (and who to politely dismiss). Have any great strategies of your own for hiring the best OTs? I know we—and your fellow clinic managers, directors, and owners—would love to hear them. Tell us what’s worked—and what hasn’t—in the comment section below.

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