Employee Selection in Clinical Laboratory
Over the past few decades, there have been significant changes in employee selection in clinical laboratories. The style of employee selection has evolved over the years, taking into cultural, environmental, and governmental trends. Clinical research centers aim to provide proper patient care through competent and cost-effective laboratory operations. As a result of these efforts, it is estimated that 70% of all medical decision-making by primary care facilities now depends on the results from clinical laboratories. However, the need for an adequate number of trained laboratory employees is still a problem. Over the past several decades, many training courses have been closed, resulting in a decline in the number of graduates. This problem has been partially resolved through the efforts of professional organizations and related institutions.
The US Census Bureau predicts that the number of people aged 65 and over will double in the next few decades. They make up the most significant proportion of the population and will therefore have increased demand for the healthcare system, ultimately requiring more healthcare professionals. Information collection, testing, test result monitoring, analysis, and data dissemination are the main focus for many new graduates. In addition, clinical laboratory supervisors/managers will need the best and brightest to handle the challenges of advanced technologies, such as molecular-based testing. Attracting and retaining these employees will require collective effort between managers and employees so that both can benefit from the relationship.
Criterion-Based Job Description Requirements
A criterion-based job description is a clear and comprehensive format of the expectations the employer sets for potential employees. Criterion-based job descriptions are usually based on educational background, certification requirements, job-related tasks, legal regulations, and work environment needs. In the job description, each duty can be defined as a primary core task, an advanced technical skill, or the responsibilities of a supervisor.
Five common sections in most job descriptions are:
- Job position
- Minimum skills and qualifications required
- Job responsibilities
- Accountability and responsibilities
- Work relationships
Job titles should be accurate and take account of any relevant or official titles that may be used to describe the work in the research institution. Incorrect use of titles may confuse research center employees and hospital staff. To avoid accidental rejection of suitable candidates, minimum qualifications (education, experience, etc.) should be indicated in the job description provided. Other sections can be added to reflect other professional or personal qualities required, e.g., “preferably holding a graduate degree”, “management experience strongly considered,” and “must demonstrate commitment and reliability.”
It is essential to document the range of expected responsibilities and include the latter qualities in case of disciplinary issues. Attracting candidates with the right qualifications starts with developing an appropriate model for achieving the clinical laboratory’s objectives. Finding the ‘right’ person in education, apparent professional competence, and experience is essential. Understanding the nature of the teamwork required is equally important. Qualities such as reliability, motivation, morale, dependability, and attitude are abstract. They cannot be effectively assessed or measured in substance. There is no trick to choosing the ideal employee, but some rules can help you make the right decision.
Overview of Expected Responsibilities
When conducting a needs assessment, the job description should be carefully reviewed to ensure that the listed job duties are relevant to the clinical laboratory’s policies and criteria. This is an essential step since this document is an informal “contract” between the employee and the management by defining the employer’s expectations for the employees. A balanced detail needs to be included in job descriptions. Those lacking clarity will recruit unqualified candidates. On the other hand, too detailed or restrictive requirements may deter the best competitors from applying. Financial difficulties have forced some research centers to reduce staff, consolidate some areas at headquarters, combine different laboratories and medical clinics into one, and outsource laboratory tests. As a result of these changes, laboratories have added or related some job-related duties and adjusted the corresponding number of employees.
Search Process for the Right Employee
The search process can be simple or complex, depending on the following levels of the job:
- For entry-level positions, interviews should only include managers and supervisors.
- For supervisory or management level appointments, it is practical to form a formal search committee.
- While the committee should remain small (five to seven people), its structure should reflect the desired diversity of the organization.
- Consider including a physician, a director from another department, and a staff member during interviews.
- By having some front-line staff at the meetings, the subtle nuances of the job can be revealed. It also provides a sense of contributing to the workforce. It offers training opportunities for those who need to acquire interviewing skills.
- It is also essential to consider the appropriate mix of gender, ethnicity, race, and age in the group to avoid any apparent bias in the selection of employees.
- Where no committee is formed, arrange at least two people to review the CVs, interview the candidates, and contribute in some way to decision making.
Organizations should make reasonable efforts to ensure equal opportunities for all qualified candidates. They can be informed about vacancies in the following way:
- Advertisements should be concise, and mention the job title, educational requirements, certification requirements, and a brief description of the main job duties.
- Advertisements should include only minimum qualifications.
- Avoid listing preferred qualifications as requirements, which may turn away some potential candidates.
- The expected salary should not be expressed as it may turn away good candidates from the job or invite less qualified people. It may also conflict with existing workers, mainly if the salary advertised is higher than the current employees’ salary or is not considered suitable for the job’s position level. Salary can be discussed as part of the interview process. Still, it is usually best to make it an element of the final negotiation.
- Consideration should also be given to where to advertise. Searching for internal and external candidates offers the broadest range of options and should be used if possible.
- Advertising in local newspapers is usually more modest and often generates a faster response than advertising in national newspapers.
- Almost all clinics have their website with a vacancy section. Many, if not most, now only accept emailed CVs and applications, further reducing advertising costs and registration times.
Hiring & Screening CVs
Depending on the number of CVs received, checking for the right skills can be tedious and done correctly. While there is no single way to check CVs, they are usually divided into three groups:
- Group 1 consists of people with exceptional skills who are serious candidates.
- Group 2 is made up of people with only basic skills. If no one in group 1 is practical, those in group 2 are placed at the top of the list.
- Group 3 includes people who do not fit at least one of these skills.
The following must be considered when reviewing CVs:
- Informal words, abbreviations, and misuse of expressions. These suggest unprofessional candidates.
- Handwritten or photocopied CVs. They show that the candidate is not interested in the job.
- The CV should be presentable, use good quality white paper and not be too long (no more than two pages). Different text fonts, inconsistent font sizes, or inappropriate bolding, underlining, capitals, or italics can be distracting and make the CV challenging to assess.
- Colored paper, decorative symbols, watermarks, or scented paper are not related to the candidate’s competencies and do not help in the selection process.
- Allowing a candidate who does not meet the published minimum qualifications but has other valuable skills may lead to legal concerns involving inappropriate hiring practices.
- Mention of personal matters such as marital status, children, political activities, etc., may inadvertently enable prejudices. Warning signs include information about the candidate’s last job (why he was fired, why he had a “bad manager,” the manager was biased, “several employees did not like me,” etc.).
- Avoid prejudging candidates because of their names, such as peculiar spellings, unfamiliar or ethnic terms, or prejudices linked to sexual orientation.
- Discrepancies in work history, education, or other events that are time-related. However, inconsistencies in these should not be the only reason for not hiring candidates but may serve as a deciding factor.
Interviews can be done using a variety of questions, usually grouped into five categories.
- Leading questions are simple and include obvious answers. They do not provide much information and should not be used. For example: “Would you say that you are a hard worker?
- Direct questions require short or straightforward answers such as ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The information received is limited, but these questions help obtain specific information.
- Open-ended questions are more difficult for interviewers to make and require a more complex answer from the interviewee. Ask candidates to describe their relationship with a current or former colleague so that they can express themselves. Once the candidate has answered a question, another question can follow based on what they have mentioned to reveal more information. For example, “How does your education match the job offered?”.
- Hypothetical questions can be valuable and are often asked at the end of the interview to examine how quickly the candidate responds. These are critical thinking questions in which candidates must use their education or experience to find the right answers. For example, “If you had to reduce your budget by 20%, what would you do?” This question allows the interviewee to demonstrate planning, budgeting, accounting, and other related skills. Random questions such as “psychological” or “stressful environment” are inappropriate. For example, “What is the biggest lab mistake you’ve ever made?”
Interview “What to do and what not to do.”
Before the interview, the CV should be reviewed based on the criterion-based job description, the CV, and a list of structured questions. Then, take the candidate to a quiet, private area. Guide the newcomer through the process by asking a non-work-related question such as the weather, arriving at the venue, or any other simple topic. This will help build rapport and put the candidate at ease. What not to do:
- Do not comment on clothing, hairstyles, body grooming, jewelry, or other personal attributes not related to the job.
- Questions about marital status, age, race, family, sexual orientation, religion, politics, or social connections are inappropriate.
- It is essential to identify gaps in work experience, lack of work experience, or responsibilities in the candidate’s CV or attendance record.
- Arrest record questions are unnecessary and illegal as anyone can be arrested but cannot be held responsible until proven guilty.
- Managers should also be aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to avoid any issues that may be detrimental to people with physical or mental disabilities.
- Managers can ask if there are duties listed in the job description that the person cannot perform, but they cannot discriminate based on their impression of the candidate that they do not meet the job requirements. Those who appear to have a disability may choose to complete tasks using technological aids or modify the workplace to make it more accessible.
The Recruitment Process
You need to assess the abilities of the candidate you meet: training, skills, experience, and answers to interview questions. A fixed ranking system can be devised to help all interview panel members assess candidates based on their objectives. The most important thing to do before extending any job offer is to check all candidates’ references. Unless the candidate clarifies this in the meeting, it is prudent to check references that do not come from a manager or someone else in a higher position.
Garcia, L. S., Bachner P., Baselski, V. S., Lewis, M. R., Linscott, A.J., Schwab, D. A., Steel Jr., J. C. H., Weissfed, A., Wilkinson, D. S., & Wolk, D. M. (Eds.). (2014). Clinical laboratory management (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: ASM Press.