By T. “Massey” Arrington, RPSGT, MBA, RST
Directing and managing a sleep disorders center team can be simultaneously rewarding and challenging, but how smoothly this goes depends on who is on your team of technologists. One of the most daunting tasks sleep lab managers face is hiring techs. How does a lab manager find the most clinically qualified candidate? And how does a manager balance clinical excellence with personality fit within an organization, or, more importantly, with their management style? Properly using the resume, interview, and personality tests can answer these questions and make certain the candidate fits the job.
Resume Review: Spotting Clinical Excellence
Sleep medicine is highly technical and requires years of training and experience. When analyzing a resume, managers should look for credentials and years of experience. Managers also should look for total number of successful PAP titrations and the diagnostic equipment with which the candidate is familiar. Applicants should tailor resumes to the specific job; if it is a pediatric unit, then the technologist should emphasize experience with children and child PAP titrations, for example.
Employers should look for familiarity with current technology and the ability to troubleshoot and score on the fly. Techs who are trained on paper polygraphs need to reveal their ability to work with the latest diagnostic software. Excellent candidates will often also be published, have received awards, participate in community education events about sleep, and are typically members of local, state, or national societies.
Frequent job-hopping or having too many employers can be a red flag; however, in the ever-changing, dynamic health care field, it is not uncommon to see techs who have worked at more than one lab every 2 years or have multiple PRN jobs listed. Sleep technologists may have a lot of experience across multiple locations, and there could be any number of reasons for holding numerous positions from low census to center closures and hospital mergers.
The Interview: Pinpointing Patient Interaction Skills
Clinical information found in an applicant’s resume is both important and helpful, but does it convey how a candidate interacts within a team and with patients? These important components will more than likely be determined during the interview process.
Dreaded by many managers, the interview is the best chance to get to know a potential hire—to see them face-to-face and interact. When interviewing potential sleep technologists, managers should provide candidates with real “on the job” questions. Managers should ask candidates about the worst night the tech has ever worked (if they have experience) or to imagine what a rough night in a sleep center would be like (if they have no experience). The intent is to see how they handled or would handle difficult situations or disgruntled patients. Interviewees should be given a scenario to process. The interviewer can say, “Pretend I am a patient returning for CPAP and I am about to leave and give up on the therapy. Convince me to stay.”
When being interviewed, techs can be asked about a prior job unrelated to sleep or medicine. Often hiring managers can identify skills that would be great in the lab environment. A high performing technologist that I had the pleasure of working with back in 1992 was a former janitor at a high school and was constantly interacting with students, parents, kids, teachers, etc. Although he had little to no sleep background, he was unbelievably personable and ended up being an excellent tech who still works in sleep to this day. Clinical skills often can be improved with education, but if someone is not friendly to patients, that is difficult to fix.
Since adjusting an employee’s patient interaction ability is not easy, managers need to do their best to identify quality technologists as early as possible. Candidates show up for an interview with their best “game face”; skillful managers should attempt to get underneath that façade to the real employee. A simple question to ask all potential hires is “Tell me about yourself.” Hiring managers will be amazed at the responses and often will be one step closer to identifying if the candidate should really be part of the team. When I look back on bad hires, I always relied too heavily on the resume and did not get a feel for how the applicant was going to fit in with our patient population or other employees. That being said, managers should always try to get a second interview that involves a panel of coworkers if time permits.
Personality Tests: Finding the Right Fit
In order to determine if a candidate is going to be a good fit in an organization, many companies utilize personality tests. There are numerous tests in use across the United States today, but the most popular are the Sixteen Personality Factor (16PF) Questionnaire,1 the DISC assessment, Caliper Profile,2 and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
The 16PF is a personality inventory that measures the 16 normal-range personality traits identified by psychologist Raymond B. Cattell and includes five global (or second-order) factors.3 The 16PF assessment scores both the broader, second-order traits as well as the more detailed traits.4 This type of assessment often is used in counseling scenarios and many educational institutions. This test focuses on factors such as “warmth” and “reasoning.” It can help in determining potential anxiety levels in applicants as well as potential for problem solving.5 The ability to remain calm when dealing with anxious patients is an invaluable tool for sleep center team members. Problem-solving skills come up often during the night, especially when dealing with faulty equipment, damaged sensors, or potential electrical interference, and this index can predict an applicant’s ability to handle unexpected issues that arise.
The DISC assessment is another widely used personality test. It is a group of psychological inventories developed by John Geier and others, and is rooted in the work of psychologist William Moulton Marston and Walter V. Clarke.6 The assessment essentially places candidates’ personalities into a four-quadrant diagram based on Dominant (or often you will see it listed as “Drive”), Inducement, Submission, and Compliance. Scores can then yield an identifiable pattern out of 15 possibilities. This tool is highly useful when workers will be functioning in a team environment as managers will want to match patterns that will complement each other.7 The DISC assessment works well with sleep technologists who often will be working in very close quarters with one another, or when you have a large facility working with more than six patients per night.
The Caliper Profile is the tool most commonly used by hospitals and larger corporations. It is a very detailed questionnaire that measures 25 personality traits related to job performance.8 It attempts to match the job with the applicant. This one can be a challenge and often takes about 2 hours to complete. There is an even lengthier version used to determine sales effectiveness. One area that sets the Caliper tool apart from some of the other tools is that it attempts to identify dormant traits or possible strengths in applicants who are currently untapped. Hiring managers may find that a technologist has fewer years of experience than other candidates, but scores high in some of the Caliper areas such as self-structure/self-discipline and thoroughness, which may make them an excellent fit. Managers also may find that candidates who score high in “service” are better suited for a position that involves patient interaction.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is commonly found in health care environments, the government, and military companies. It was developed in the United States by the mother-daughter team of Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers.9 Built upon the personality theory of psychologist Carl Jung,10 the MBTI breaks down traits between polarizing areas—how a person is motivated: externally or internally (extraversion vs introversion); what a person thinks should be the primary focus: information gathered from the senses (sensing) or from one’s own interpretation (intuition); how a person comes to a final decision: logically based (thinking) on data or how they feel (feeling); and finally a person’s overall view of life in general: well planned (judging) or spontaneous (perceiving).11 Candidates will fall into one of 16 possible “types.” There is no specific right type for sleep technologists, but it can be very useful for managers to know the personality of the potential hire.
All of these personality tools can be useful, but only if the manager has utilized the same tool for themselves and the other applicants or team members. Knowing one’s own style of leadership can help when making the hiring decision. It is vital to recognize these personality tests as merely tools. They should not be the only factor when making a hiring decision. The data can be invalid or misleading as well, if the candidate is not honest. Technologists seeking a position should be as honest and forthright as possible rather than trying to answer questions in a manner that they “think” the employer is looking for.
There isn’t a perfect equation for finding the best technologist to hire. However, leaders can make the hiring task easier by strategically fitting the puzzle pieces of the resume, the interview, and the personality test together to find “the” technologist they most need and want as part of their team.
T. “Massey” Arrington, RPSGT, MBA, is technical director and manager of DeKalb Medical Sleep Disorders Center, Decatur, Ga. Questions for the author can be submitted to email@example.com.
1. 16PF is a trademark of the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, see IPAT.com.
2. Caliper is a trademark of the Caliper Corporation, see www.calipercorp.com.
3. Donston-Miller D. Top Personality Tests Used in Hiring. TheLadders. http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/top-personality-tests-hiring. July 2011. Accessed August 2012.
4. Cattell RB. The Description and Measurement of Personality. New York: World Book; 1946.
5. Cattell RB, Cattell AK, Cattell HEP. 16PF Fifth Edition Questionnaire. Champaign, Ill: Institute for Personality and Ability Testing; 1993.
6. Marston WM. Emotions of Normal People. London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co Ltd; 1928:405. http://www.archive.org/stream/emotionsofnormal032195mbp/emotionsofnormal032195mbp_djvu.txt.
7. Rom R. A Powerful Way To Understand People. Personality Insights Inc. http://www.personalityinsights.com/DISC_overview.pdf. 2010. Accessed July 2012.
8. Tea A. How to Hire & Retain the Right People. Caliper Inc. http://www.acra.gov.sg/NR/rdonlyres/F394A87E-D95E-44C1-A79A-0EB54CDB89A9/9465/HowToHireandRetaintheRightPeople1.pdf. November 19, 2008. Accessed September 2012.
9. Myers IB with Myers PB. Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type. Mountain View, Calif: Davies-Black Publishing; 1980, 1995. ISBN 0-89106-074-X.
10. Jung CG (August 1, 1971). Psychological Types. Collected Works of C.G. Jung. Volume 6. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-09774.
11. Schieltz M. How Have Myers Briggs Personality Tests Helped in the Workplace? Demand Media Inc. http://smallbusiness.chron.com/myersbriggs-personality-tests-helped-workplace-13205.html. July 2012. Accessed September 2012.