Strong Signs of Leadership in Nursing Candidates

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You have a nursing position to staff, and several of your candidate selection metrics are concrete and firmly in place. For example, your specialty requirements (geriatrics, cardiac peds, OR) and required years of experience (entry, mid-career, etc) may not be flexible. You may also require certain technical specifications (for example, ecmo proficiency) and education cut-offs. But what about metrics that are harder to measure, like leadership? Here are four signs that your interviewee can handle the leadership challenges involved in this specific position.

The candidate can handle hypothetical scenarios.

Throw some hypothetical scenarios at your candidate and make sure they come with high stakes. For
example, ask what she would do first, second, and the third in the event of a natural disaster, a breach of information security, a coding patient, or an interpersonal conflict between members of a patient’s family. Present a challenge involving a mistake made by a direct report, or an incorrect order given by a superior. Keep your question open-ended, and read between the lines as the candidate describes her response.

The candidate meshes well with your established culture.

Ask the candidate to describe his leadership/management style in his own words. As he answers, assess the alignment between his approach and the established culture of your clinic or facility. Don’t provide any leading information; just let him speak.

The candidate speaks with confidence.

Watch the candidate’s word choices and body language. If he hesitates at every turn, speaks in a questioning tone, and constantly checks in for your approval, he may not have the leadership experience this job requires. On the other hand, if he strides forward and presents himself clearly and honestly, that’s a good sign.

Ask for evidence of past leadership behavior.

Present the candidate with behavioral questions that allow her to discuss her past successes. For example, ask her to describe the last time she led a large team. What were the circumstances and how did the story play out? Ask about the last time she had to influence the actions of other people while no holding no direct authority over them. How did she handle this challenge, and what did she learn from the experience?

As your candidate answers, look for signs of confidence, competence, empathy, and self-possession. Even inexperienced candidates who have never had to exercise true leadership may still show strong signs of leadership potential. And some highly experienced candidates may naturally lean away from leadership and toward team positions and supporting roles. Don’t make qualitative judgements; not all great nurses make great leaders, and not all great leaders make great nurses. Just listen carefully and keep the requirements of this specific position in mind.

For more on how to find the right nursing candidates for your facility, contact the Little Rock medical staffing experts at CSS.

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