One Powerful Question To Ask Anyone Interviewing For A Healthcare Position

interviewHere’s a question you should ask anyone who is interviewing for a healthcare position:

“Tell me about a time when you were on a team with a toxic personality. What did they do and how did you handle that situation?”

In my book Cure for the Common Leader, one of the areas of effectiveness identified for leaders who want engaged healthcare teams is to Hire and Onboard Intentionally. This means not prioritizing speed or even experience in a search, but taking the steps to choose the right person for the job based on culture, needs, and “fit.” To do so, healthcare leaders must ask the right questions during selection.

I like the question above for several reasons. First, if interviewing for a management role, the candidate’s answer highlights some of what they see as problematic behavior. You’ll also get insight into how they might respond to varying “difficult” people in your environment.

This question also sets up, right away, that you are concerned with how people show up and interact, every day, in your environment. Furthermore, it implies that everyone, regardless of rank or role, must take on some responsibility for addressing such personalities. That’s why this question can be asked of any candidate.

Also, it’s a behavior-based question. It asks about something that actually happened instead of probing for an idealized “what would you do” answer.

The candidate’s answers will tell you a lot about what to expect from them as an employee. Did they take an active role in addressing the problematic person? Did they go to them directly? Or did they avoid and tolerate, without taking action to prompt any kind of change? The answers they give may be predictive of how they’d handle such persons on your team.

We know that 18% of our workforce is actively disengaged. Sadly this means most candidates will have worked alongside a toxic personality, and will likely have that experience again, in your organization. Ask this question early to help find new hires prepared and motivated to stand up to such behavior and managers equipped to extinguish it.

Joe Mull, M.Ed is a keynote speaker, author, and trainer who teaches healthcare leaders how to be better bosses. His book Cure for the Common Leader: What Physicians & Managers Must Do to Engage & Inspire Healthcare Teams can be found here. To get his regular “Help for Healthcare Leaders” email newsletter, visit


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