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

Okay, so your practice is growing—and you need to hire a new physical therapist to join your ranks. Congratulations! That’s a great problem to have. But now, you have to figure out how to go about hiring the best—because whether you’ve experienced the fallout from a bad hire yourself or only heard horror stories from your colleagues, you know you want to avoid falling into that trap at all costs. Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to walk you through everything you need to know about physical therapy hiring so you can do it right the first time—and that includes providing specific interview questions for physical therapists. Ready? Here are the four things you must to do to hire the best PT:

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1. Get clear about your culture.

“The best” is relative, which means that the best PT for your clinic might be an absolutely terrible hire for another. And a lot of that has to do with cultural fit. The only way for you to suss out whether what your clinic has to offer is a match for what a potential physical therapist is looking for is to get clear about your office culture—which includes things like your shared values, beliefs, and principles. After doing so, you’ll be in a much better position to identify the candidate who not only has the technical know-how to succeed in his or her role, but also the ability to mesh with—and improve upon—your clinic’s overall vibe. As WebPT President Heidi Jannenga says, “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 improvements now.

If, in the process of getting clear about your culture, you realize there’s some room for improvement, do the work to fix it now—before it becomes problematic. After all, the best PTs want to work at the best clinics, and a subpar company culture can be a serious deterrent for top talent. According to Jannenga, there are no inherently good or bad cultures, but there are a few characteristics that are common to the world’s most successful companies (both in terms of profitability and employee happiness). These are the ones she kept in mind when starting WebPT (you can see how these have evolved over the years here):

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

2. Write a stellar job description.

You don’t have to wait until a candidate comes in for an interview to begin communicating your culture—or screening for fit. Take some extra time to craft a well-written job description that not only conveys the skills, responsibilities, and educational requirements of the job, but also demonstrates your clinic’s values, personality, and heart. As Charlotte Bohnett explains in this post, generic job descriptions won’t do you any favors when it comes to attracting the best—at least not according to HR consulting company 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.”

Not sure how to let your personality shine when writing about roles and responsibilities? Take a peek at these job descriptions to see how WebPT infuses its personality into everything it does.

3. Conduct a great interview.

Once you have some interested candidates you think may be a good fit, let the interviews commence. We recommend scheduling at least one one-on-one and one team session to ensure the candidate jibes with the group. It’s important to note that interviews can be nerve-wracking for everyone involved. So, before it begins, take a deep breath, do a quick presence exercise, and remember that this could be the start of a long professional relationship. It’s a conversation—not an interrogation. And interviews are two-way streets; if you’re sitting across from the best, he or she is assessing you and your practice, too.

Ask the right questions.

Now, on to those 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 may 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 25 more interview questions to consider (adapted from this source, this one, this one, and our very own interviewing and hiring experience):

  1. Why did you decide to become a physical therapist? What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of the job?
  2. Why are you interested in joining our company? What makes you an especially good fit for our team?
  3. How do you handle stress?
  4. If I asked one of your colleagues to describe you in three adjectives, what would he or she say?
  5. What are you reading right now?
  6. What are your clinical and non-clinical strengths? In what areas do you hope to grow in the next year?
  7. What can your hobbies tell me that your résumé can’t?
  8. Tell me about a time when you provided patient care—or service—that went beyond what was expected of you.
  9. How do you determine whether the plan of care you choose for a given patient is the best one available?
  10. How do you stay up-to-date 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 was angry?
  13. What has been your most challenging case to date, and why? What did you learn from it?
  14. What is the last gift you gave someone?
  15. Tell me about the most gratifying 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. Tell me about a time you—or your clinic—implemented a suggestion of yours to make a situation better.
  19. What are your career goals? What are the three steps you’ve taken this year to help you achieve them?
  20. What motivates you?
  21. What was your favorite—and least favorite—aspect of your previous (or current) job?
  22. 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?
  23. What was the best thing a previous manager did that you wish everyone did?
  24. What three factors are crucial within a clinic and must be present for you to work most effectively?
  25. Describe your ideal work day.

4. Make a fair offer.

Once you’ve found the best PT, it’s time to make him or her an offer. To entice top talent—but avoid blowing your budget—the package you present must be fair for everyone involved. As I discussed in this article, that means you’ve got to:

  1. do your research to understand fair market value in your region, and
  2. consider the benefits you have to offer.

When Jannenga was a clinic director, she not only provided employees with standard health, dental, vision, life, and disability insurance, but also paid for their APTA memberships and CEUs. “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.

Expect negotiation.

Once she pinpointed fair market value and determined her benefits package, Jannenga was able to calculate a salary range for every position she was hiring for; then, based on the results of the interview, she identified where within that range that particular candidate landed, leaving enough wiggle room to allow for negotiation: “I like to screen first for the basics,” she says. “For a physical 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.

For more information on determining what constitutes fair compensation, check out the Private Practice Owner’s Guide to Fair Compensation.

With these four strategies—plus your own great judgement and instincts—you’ll know exactly who to bring on board (and who to turn away). Have any great strategies of your own for hiring the best PTs? 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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