The Art of Hiring a Caregiver

Thoughtware Article Published: Aug 20, 2018
Compassionate Care Series

Ten “Out-of-the-Box” Interview Questions to Try

Finding and hiring compassionate caregivers is an ongoing struggle for skilled nursing facilities (SNF). The duties of a front-line caregiver can be mentally and physically exhausting, and often for less pay than other positions within the SNF team. However, compassionate employees are a vital element to serving the diverse and sometimes challenging needs of an aging resident population. Anyone in SNF management knows you can teach individuals how to “do,” but how do you teach them to care?

Hiring is the first key to identifying and onboarding compassionate caregivers. However, it can be difficult to determine in a 30-minute interview if potential candidates will align with your SNF team and culture. To better identify applicants who are well-suited to be a caregiver, SNFs should consider implementing new and different interview methods that can provide more insight into applicants’ personalities. One suggestion might be for management to consider taking several applicants out for lunch instead of completing one-on-one interviews in the facility for a real-life example of their interpersonal skills. In addition, management could consider bringing a front-line caregiver along for the outing and allowing him or her to explain the details of the job and why your SNF is their chosen workplace. This would allow management to observe each applicant’s interactions with not only the restaurant staff but also with the current employee and the other applicants. The current employee also may be able to provide some observations of his or her own and can be involved in the creation and development of his or her own team by providing feedback to management.

Another suggestion might be to develop some out-of-the-box questions for the applicants to address during the interview process. The best interview questions will provide insight into each applicant’s skills and problem-solving abilities and whether their values align with those of your current work culture. For example, inquiring about applicants’ greatest achievements might give insight into what they value. Inquiring about what prompted applicants to apply for this position might give insight into what motivates them. Asking applicants which animal they would choose if they could be any animal could give you some insight into their perception of themselves. There certainly is no right or wrong answer with this type of question, but it can be fun and may provide different insights into the personality of potential caregivers than standard, expected interview questions. By asking something unexpected, you also may get to see how the applicants perform under pressure or how they react to surprises—which inevitably arise in the SNF setting.


The current unemployment rate is low, which often leaves a smaller pool of qualified applicants from which SNFs can draw. If not already in place, management may want to consider cultivating a social media presence and expanding its hiring practices on various platforms to identify additional qualified applicants. Partnering with local health care training facilities, such as nursing schools, also may be an option depending on geographical location. Things management may need to consider when hiring those still in pursuit of a health care degree include the necessity for more flexible scheduling, which may require alternatives to eight- or 12-hour shifts. However, thinking outside the box and striving to meet the needs of potential caregivers can lead to positive, long-term additions to the SNF team. 

A final suggestion might be for managers to consider generational differences in the workplace and educate themselves, which can help develop hiring strategies that are sensitive to the different priorities, needs and desires of the diverse applicant pool. Management should strive to educate SNF team members on these generational differences to create an inclusive environment for a variety of demographics and a more seamless transition into the provider’s culture. 

SNF management should take the interview process seriously and work to identify the best hire for all positions. Identifying compassionate caregivers and putting them in the “right seat on the bus” is a big step in the right direction of building a team of cohesive and talented individuals. However, hiring is only the first step in the process. Managing turnover requires an ongoing effort to motivate and maintain employees once they become a part of the SNF team. 

The next installments of the Compassionate Care Series will address:

•    Coaching:  Your First Line of Defense in Retaining Quality Staff
•    Cultivating a Culture of Care

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