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Staffing is a common frustration for many home care providers. In fact, according to the 2014 Private Duty Benchmarking Study, nearly 50% of providers reported caregiver shortages as the single greatest threat to the growth of their business. The pressure associated with having enough caregivers can lead to filling positions with people who can do the job, as opposed to those who should. While training goes a long way and can never be replaced, the natural abilities and character traits of your applicants should always be a top consideration, and your hiring process should reflect this focus. Here are just a few suggestions of things to gauge with your potential new hires:

Is the applicant emotionally stable?

Many of your clients are experiencing a lot of change. The person they used to be has changed. They’re no longer able to care for themselves the way they used to, and they may feel the “best years” of their life are behind them. Overcoming these thoughts and beating back the tendency for depression are immeasurably important steps to encouraging good health, and a negative or emotionally unstable caregiver could potentially make it worse. A positive attitude fuels a caregiver’s ability to bring clients out of depressive moods and improve their quality of life.

Will the applicant bring drama with them?

Your clients are hiring you to make their lives easier and less stressful. They’re placing a lot of trust in you, and your caregivers are arguably the most important part of that. If a caregiver brings their personal drama to work, not only could it break trust, but if the caregiver is distracted or inattentive it could put your clients in danger as well. New hires need to understand that it’s unacceptable to allow their personal lives to interfere with the care they provide, and you need to be aware of potential issues in the applicant’s personal life. While there are certain things you can’t legally ask, find out as much as you appropriately can about their personal life so you can understand how dependable they would be as a caregiver.

Can the applicant think on their feet?

When most people are looking for a job, they’ll often interview at several places before receiving an offer. The more interviews they go through, the more crafted their responses to the standard questions will be. Questions like “How do you handle someone who is upset at you?” are mostly useless. Nobody is going to say, “I’m not very good at it.” They want the job you’re offering, so they’re going to give you the answer they think you want to hear. Leave out the standard questions and ask things that show you the qualities you need to see. Caregivers need to be positive, cool under pressure and think on their feet. By asking questions that can’t be predicted, you’ll get more honest and accurate responses, which in turn gives you greater insight into the applicant. A few examples might be:

  • If you were a pizza deliveryman, how would you benefit from scissors?
  • What’s something useful you could do with a stapler that has no staples in it?
  • How many quarters would you need to line the Empire State building?

Yes, it sounds silly but what you learn from asking these questions is invariably more valuable than the same old easy-to-lie-about checklist. And it’s important to note, the actual answers to these types of questions are less important than the way applicants handle them.

Gaining deeper insight into the natural traits of your applicants is critical to selecting and hiring top-quality caregivers. And while many things can be learned in training, genuine care and concern are difficult to teach. Resist the pressure to just fill positions, and focus on getting the right people on your team. While this takes longer in the short term, over time these employees are the ones who will experience more satisfaction with their work. You’ll see lower caregiver turnover, higher client satisfaction, and fewer employer-related stresses in your own life.