recruiter questions

Why Recruiters Should Ask Physician Candidates Behavioral Interview Questions

In today’s fast-paced hospitals and clinics, it takes more than just clinical skills for a physician to truly excel. You’re not just looking for someone with the right skill set—you’re also looking for a leader who can quickly adapt to changes, respond well to stress, work compatibly with others, be flexible in a multidisciplinary environment, communicate warmly and effectively with patients, and foster a patient-centric environment. In short, you’re looking for someone who exhibits the right behaviors, as well as skills.

That’s where behavioral interview questions come in.


“The best predictor of future behaviour is past behavior,” says a common adage, and that’s the basic idea behind behavioral interviewing questions. These types of questions are used by employers in all disciplines to assess how a potential candidate will behave on the job, based on his or her past experiences.

Today, according to the Association of Staff Physician Recruiters (ASPR), nearly 60% of in-house physician recruiters are using behavioral interview questions to determine things like:

  • a physician candidate’s leadership skills
  • how he or she handles stress in a fast-paced environment
  • his or her empathy levels
  • communication skills
  • problem-solving skills
  • the degree to which the physician candidate is patient-focused

… and so on.

Here are some examples of behavioral interview questions used by in-house physician recruiters.

  • Give me an example of a goal you reached on the job, and how you achieved it.
  • Describe a high-stress situation on the job that required you to use coping skills.
  • Describe a time when you had a dispute with a colleague and how you handled it.
  • Describe a time when you had a dispute with a patient and how you handled it.
  • Recount a time when you and a colleague had a dispute and what you did about it.
  • What is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made on the job, and what did you learn from it?
  • Have you ever had conflict with a supervisor? Describe the situation and how you handled it.
  • Describe a situation where an interaction with a patient had a strong impact on you, and what you learned from it.

If your physician candidates have done their homework, they’ll likely recognize the questions as behavioral ones and will answer them with the BAR approach, offering you:

    • the situation’s Background 
  • the Action they took
  • and the overall Result of the situation.

To conclude, behavioral interview questions are very powerful, because even if a physician knows the textbook answer to a situational question, having to draw from their history requires them to tell you how they would truly behave. Moreover, it gives them the opportunity to frame their strengths, weaknesses, and accomplishments using real-life, situational anecdotes—which brings you one step closer to determining if they’re the right person for the job.