July 11, 2013By Lance Baily

Great Interview Questions When Hiring a Sim Tech

Looking to hire a Medical Simulation Technician? Like many others, Jackelyn Csank, Manager of the Simulation Center at The MetroHealth System in Ohio wrote in to HealthySim asking:
“I am going to be interviewing for a sim tech position in our simulation center.  I am the manager and currently the only employee!  So, I am excited to be getting some additional help in the center.  I wanted to ask if anyone had some good interview questions to ask the candidates? I want to make sure I can get someone qualified and able to do the job.  Any assistance would be greatly appreciated!”
That’s a great question! Here are some tips off the top of my head:
  1. Read my article What To REALLY Look for When Hiring A Sim Tech, and note that hiring for someone eager to “learn new skills” every day and who understands they are there to get the technology out of the way – is really the best way to go. Don’t hire for medical experience, that can be trained through your team and by absorption from the environment, whereas IT and A/V training will be harder to come by. (Read the article above to learn why).
  2. Get someone from the IT department to help in the hiring process, preferably the person this new Sim Tech will be coordinating with in the future – that way, the IT department can help to select a qualified and cooperative candidate. This individual can:
    1. Help to develop the job description knowing what the IT issues will be.
    2. Help to screen candidates resumes and during phone calls for appropriate experience.
    3. Provide initial orientation to collaborative work accomplished so far between your program and the IT department.
  3. After prioritizing resumes, setup phone calls. After phone calls invite candidates in for an interview. If there is enough candidates, bring top performers in for a second interview with your boss and other educators they will be working with. Take your time with each step – hiring the wrong person can cost your program a huge amount of money.
  4. Look for people who like to teach others about technology, not just make technology work. Some IT-based folks are not the best communicators because they work in closed rooms with just computers and networks. Simulation requires collaborative discussion for success. Consider A/V a strong background, because productions require an understanding of technology and the ability to communicate collaborative with others (you) to tell a story to an audience (in this case to the learners).
  5. Train the new hire by sending them to The Gathering of Healthcare Simulation Technology Specialists, an annual hands-on training event that specifically focuses on Sim Tech responsibilities! Check out the online resources of previously recorded events ands learn more at SimGHOSTS.Org!
  6. During HealthySimAdmin, a two day recorded event which brought administrators of various types of simulation programs together to share and discuss best management strategies, Sim Tech James Cypert recommended that you have your candidate teach you about a certain peice of technology based equipment or platform. Coordinate with your IT partner to come up with something basic any technology driven candidate should know (like how to check RAM on a computer), and then have them teach you, over the phone or in-person, how to check the RAM. James was right, this will provide you with an opportunity to see how the candidate will explain how technology works to you – and thus, how they will be at communicating more complicated technical issues in the future.
  7. As well, you can have your IT partner come up with 3 more advanced questions, which the candidates should be able to provide some strong answers to. We did this at the Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas when hiring our IT/Simulation Technician with fantastic results. These were questions were great ways to vet out who really knows the material.
  8. Consider these typical interview questions to see how your candidate will respond:
    1. Tell us about a time there was a conflict at your previous workplace and what you did to solve it. (Shows how they deal with conflict).
    2. It’s 3pm and you are scheduled until 5pm but the educator calls in and says simulation in cancelled for the day – what do you do now? (Shows what their priorities are for themselves and your program).
    3. Tell them about a scenario where two simulation techs are scheduled for two simulation experiences at the same time – and the other sim tech has called in sick. Ask them what they would do? (This shows how they communicate with administration, attempt to support other groups but also know their responsibility is to their assigned group first and foremost).
    4. Ask them if they will be willing to work nights and weekends if needed? (Sometimes simulations can be scheduled at off times – and this is good to know ahead of time).
    5. Ask them if they have questions for you? (This shows they are thinking about working with you so seriously that they want to make sure you are just as good a fit for them as they are for you!)
    6. Ask them how they feel about learning new things? (4 years into our program one of our staff was tired of new changes, but I reminded them our program was a technology-based center and technology was always changing. Disruption could be minimized but will never go away). Seek a candidate who expects and in-fact enjoys change.
    7. Ask them how they plan to record the knowledge and procedures they will gain while working to the lab to future subordinate staff, and to your program, should they one day decide to leave (This will show them you expect them to build SOPs or other data sets as they work to help make sure the program retains knowledge gained).
    8. Ask them if they have been a supervisor in any capacity before – and if so, about a time when they had to bring in their staff for a difficult conversation and how they handled it. Your Sim Tech may become a manager of volunteer or student workers – and so an understanding of their management style would be a good thing to know now. If they have not ever been a manager, ask them why that opportunity has not come up before and would they be comfortable with it?
    9. Ask them what they think will be most challenging for them about this position will be – and why specifically you should consider them over other leading candidates?
  9. Watch HealthySimAdmin for more great hiring tips!
Lastly, consider working with an outside group such as SimStaff, who provide specialized hiring services in medical simulation including job description development, posting, screening and interviewing. Learn all about their strategies from my SimStaff article on Best Practices for Hiring Medical Simulation Staff.
*Update* Nick Bennett, Head of Simulation at St. Helens & Knowsley Teaching Hospital in Merseyside England wrote in recommending you ask interview candidates to “list the three areas of simulation that excite you the most and why?” I agree! It’s great to bring folks in that really appreciate the technology and methodology of simulation – as they will be more likely to stay enthusiastic with the program throughout the duration of their career.
Email Lance if you have more great tips on hiring a Sim Tech!

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