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

Whether you’re actively growing your clinic—or simply backfilling an existing position—you, as an SLP clinic owner, director, and manager, will need to go through the hiring process at some point. And that process can go one of two ways: awesome or awful. After all, a bad hire can wreak havoc on even the most successful clinic. It’s a good thing, then, that there are things you can do to ensure you hire the best—including specific interview questions to ask speech language pathologists. Here are four of those must-dos:

10 Signs Your Current Physical Therapy Software is Bad for Business - Regular Banner10 Signs Your Current Physical Therapy Software is Bad for Business - Small Banner

1. Assess your culture.

While there are many great speech language pathologists in the world, not every great SLP is going to be the best one for your practice—because a lot of it comes down to cultural fit. Before you can determine whether a candidate embodies your clinic’s culture, though, you must first know that culture—and that includes nailing down things like shared values, beliefs, and principles. Once you know these, you’ll be in a much better position to identify the candidate who not only has the technical expertise to succeed in your open SLP role, but also the ability to jibe with—and improve upon—your clinic’s energy. According to WebPT’s president, Heidi Jannenga, “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.”

Identify—and fix—culture snags.

When you understand your clinic’s culture as it stands, you’ll be in a much better position to identify—and fix—snags before they become real problems. That’s important, because the best SLPs want to work at the best clinics, and a subpar culture can be a serious deterrent. Jannenga says that there are no inherently good or bad cultures. However, there are four characteristics that many of the world’s best companies share—and these are the ones she kept in mind when starting her company (you can see how they’ve evolved since then here):

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

2. Infuse your job descriptions with personality.

Don’t wait until a candidate arrives for his or her interview to begin communicating—and screening for—culture. Instead, take the time to write a well-written job description that not only conveys the skills, responsibilities, and educational requirements of the role, but also speaks to your practice’s values and personality. In other words, be sure candidates get a sense of your culture before they even send in their résumés. As Charlotte Bohnett explains in this post, generic job descriptions aren’t going to do you any favors when it comes to attracting top talent—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.”

Wondering how to infuse your job description with personality? Check out these job descriptions to see how WebPT does it.

3. Bolster your interview skills.

Ready to bring someone in for an interview? Great! We recommend scheduling at least one one-on-one and one team session to ensure that the candidate jibes with the group. Interviews can be nerve-wracking for everyone involved, so before one begins, take a deep breath—or three—do a brief presence exercise, and remember that this could be the start of a long professional relationship. Remember to make it a conversation—not an interrogation. The best interviews are two-way streets; if you’re sitting across from the best, he or she is assessing you and your practice, too.

Ask good questions.

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

  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 27 more interview questions to consider (adapted from this source, this one, this one, this one, and our very own interviewing and hiring experience):

  1. Why did you decide to become a speech language pathologist? 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 that 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 was 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. Tell me about a time you got colleagues of dissimilar backgrounds, interests, and goals to collaborate productively on something.
  22. What are your three greatest accomplishments to date?
  23. What motivates you?
  24. What was your favorite—and least favorite—aspect of your previous (or current) job?
  25. 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?
  26. 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?
  27. What are your career goals? What are three steps you’ve taken this year to help you achieve them?

4. Make a good offer.

To bring on the best (and still keep your budget intact) you must make a good offer—one that’s 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 not only provided her employees with standard health, dental, vision, life, and disability insurance, but also paid for their professional 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 you identify the fair market value in your region—and determine your benefits package—you’ll be able to calculate a salary range for the SLP position. Then, after the interview, you can identify where within that range a particular candidate should fall. Just be sure to leave some room for negotiation. Jannenga “screen[s] first for the basics.” For a speech language pathologist, “that would include education, clinical knowledge, continuing education credits, licensure, work history, and specialization.” Then, Jannenga 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 prioritizes cultural fit. Remember, that stuff isn’t teachable.

To learn more about fair compensation, read the Private Practice Owner’s Guide to Fair Compensation.

If you adhere to these four must-dos—and leverage your own stellar judgement—you’ll know exactly who to hire (and who to politely send on his or her way). Have any strategies of your own for hiring the best SLPs? 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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