July 9, 2015

The Best Interview Question Ever

a man wearing a suit sitting in a desk holding a signboard with a question mark representing the best interview questions
What’s the very best interview question out there? What questions will reveal exactly which candidates will excel and thrive at your practice?

You only need one. Or, at least, you only need one question framework. It’s the “tell me about” technique.

Here are some common question variants that use it:


  • Tell me about a time when…
  • Can you give me an example of…
  • Explain what it was like to…



And so forth.

I’m serious. That’s all you need to get the ball rolling on a behavioral interview. Behavioral interview questions are phrased so that they require more than a yes or no response. And because past behavior is a good predictor of how people will continue to act and react, you can use behavioral questions to reveal a candidate’s real-world experience and how they are likely to behave in situations relevant to a particular job.

You can also use behavioral interview questions to give the candidate a sense of how they will be utilized and how they can excel within your own medical or dental practice, making it easier for both of you to see if they are a good fit. Even better, behavioral questions make it much harder for your candidate to exaggerate or misrepresent their attributes, skills, and overall work ethic.

Using the secret formula

Think of the top five or six job scenarios that the position in question will involve, or the top issues you want to solve for as you hire. Then, phrase your questions so that you zero in on those topics.

Here are some sample questions you might use:

  • What do you feel is the hardest part of working with patients in this type of practice?
  • Have you ever been left in a room with a patient and had them ask you what you would do, regarding their recommended treatment plan? Yes? Can you tell me how you handled that?
  • Have you ever had a patient or customer get upset, and felt like you were the reason they finally calmed down? Can you highlight some methods you like to use to accomplish that?
  • Have you ever been responsible for ensuring that all of the patient’s payment arrangements are taken care of before treatment? Yes? Can you describe how that worked in your last office?
  • Your resume says you worked in a call center and at Big Smiles Practice answering phones. Think back to one of your busiest days there and give me a quick synopsis of what your day was like.
  • Can you describe some of the biggest challenges you faced when working billings and collections at your last position?
  • Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with your manager or a fellow worker, and how you handled it.
  • What do you do for fun outside of work? What makes you happy?
  • Can you tell me what you are going to be absolutely the best at, here? I mean, when it comes to your job and the job description we gave you before coming in, and thinking about your talents and our needs, where are you going to knock it out of the park?
  • Speaking of the job description, is there anything in there that you are going to have trouble with? (DO NOT FORGET TO ASK THIS.)
  • We won’t ask you that clichéd “what are your weaknesses” question, but we do have a similar one. Everyone needs to improve in some area or other. For example, a person might know they need to improve how they work on a team, they might want to improve the quality of the work they’re doing now, or there might be a new skill they want to develop. What do you want to get better at? (If your candidate struggles to answer this question, give them an example of something you or one of your team members has done to improve.)

As you go through your questions, keep in mind that some answers may contain a yes or a no, but a proper behavioral interview question cannot be answered in full without elaborating further.

Don’t forget the practical side

Each time you interview, plan your questions in advance, and make a note of which ones work best. You’ll soon have a set you love, that you can easily adapt any time your requirements change.

While you’re interviewing, you also want to ask a few things that help you ensure the candidate’s viability to move forward in your hiring process:

  • Have you seen the pay range in our ad? Is that acceptable? (Don’t waste your time with someone who wants way more than you are willing to pay. And be careful about hiring for “how much they will take” as opposed to how much they are worth.)
  • Are you willing to undergo a background check? (…and, if the position includes handling money or accessing credit info, a credit check where permissible.)

Keep a “batter on deck”

Once your interviews are complete, if you find you have two or more exceptional candidates, treat the ones who do not get the job well. You may need them sooner than you think!

We call this type of candidate your “batter on deck.” They’re your first contact(s) if your primary choice doesn’t wind up taking your offer, if something goes wrong during onboarding, or if you suddenly lose another employee two weeks (or two months, or two years) later. Even if the person you hired works out great, I am always amazed at how often that second batter eventually winds up securing a position as well, whether of the same type, or one they are even better suited for.

More awesome hiring techniques

I hope behavioral interviewing and the “best question ever” changes your life for the better, but it’s always good to have a whole collection of tricks up your sleeve. Here at CEDR, we also deploy a secret weapon in our job ads—a filter to eliminate most candidates who are just click-click-clicking—before we even get to the interview stage. You can check it out on our job ad infographic.

And if you have any hiring-related HR questions, and you’re the doctor, practice owner, or office manager, give us a call at 866-414-6056—we can help!

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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Please note: CEDR Solutions specializes in providing expert HR support to owners and operators of independently owned medical and dental practices.