Nurses, Interview Your Prospective Manager!

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    Warning: Please be advised that while the tone of this particular article is a bit biting and sarcastic, (I had a little fun poking and painting a picture of a manager I think we have all at least once encountered), professionalism, warmth, honesty, respect and open communication are keys to a successful relationship with your manager. Off we go.

    Well, congratulations! You made it through your first interview with the clicky - heeled - human - resources specialist. Now, you are about to be escorted (or not ) to visit the unit to which you have applied. On top of this fireball of excitement, you will be interviewed by your prospective unit manager. Isn't that fantastic. A job! You are perhaps nervous, and rightfully so. You actively sought this position, cleaned up your resume, cleared your mind and prepared your responses so that anyone who wouldn't hire you could be easily considered a blockhead. This individual is a blockhead if they don't expect you to be sizing them up as well.

    You know the saying that is really appropriate for a health care workplace setting, "Um, stuff trickles downhill"? It does, and we all know it, no matter where on the hill your vantage point may be. By nature in any corporate hierarchical environment, this just is what is is. What I am getting at is this: If your to-be manager lacks what you feel to be a sense of boundaries, is wishy-washy, gets easily caught up in manipulation or becomes all giggly and excited about silly things, then, beware, oh, yes indeed, beware.

    These behaviors are indicative of a dreadfully weak leader who needs your energy in order to survive and feel liked.. In this case, this manager's modus operandi (which they are usually unaware of) is to obtain their sense of self esteem extrinsically, through you, when it should be to set an example through strength. You as a staff level employee will end up catching all the flies, get knotted up in their dysfunction, become marinated in muddy toxicity and be forced to partake the "he said she said game" of professional codependent hopscotch. Your position is difficult and challenging under the best of circumstances, let alone having to function in an unhealthy health care work environment by being responsible for your manager's feelings. Seriously, beware. The unit manager sets the tone for the unit. The unit manager is not only responsible to manage and oversee the daily operations of the unit but in a very real sense, manages the flow and the energy of the work environment as well.

    I think back to an interview for a nursing position that I had during my active nursing career. One of the questions posed to me was, "what are your expectations of me as your unit manager"? I thought, that is a good question. My response was, for you to be a strong leader, to be supportive of your staff. The look on her face was one of, "this chick must be crazy". I was offered the position however, and in observing her role as my unit manager over the proceeding three years, it was clear that the word "supportive" is what choked her, as she didn't know how I defined it. I felt the word "supportive" spoke for itself. She perceived that I felt that for her to be supportive meant a free ticket for me not to be accountable. Wow, Oh Brother, and other expletives. This was a valuable lesson.

    In addition to the obvious discussions which are part of the interview process, such as staff/patient ratios, unit policies, etc., here are some diagnostic concepts and questions which you can use in order to identify potential red flags in the psyche of your prospective manager. Tap into your instinctual stethoscope and never, ever discount your intuition, as this is why you have been attracted to the healing arts. Your intuition is impeccable. You hear me? Alright, onward.

    1. Request that the manager take you on a tour of the unit, if it is not offered to you.
    2. Observe the interactions (verbal and non-verbal) between the manager, staff, patients and family members.
    3. Ask your interviewer who their manager is and what this individual's interactions are with the unit.
    4. Beware of compliments. Statements such as, "I really like you already" only indicates the individual's desire for you to "like" them already.
    5. Ask what they feel makes them an effective manager.
    6. Professionally communicate what your expectations are in a manager.
    7. If the manager does not do this, incorporate the word "supportive" into the conversation. Make sure you define what this word means to you. Professionally inquire what it means to them.
    8. Ask about staff turn over rates.
    9. Know your innate sense of self worth and above all;
    10. Walk confidently on your healing path, and hold your head high.
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    About Doc Lori, R.N.

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  3. by   ANnot4me
    In my experience, my manager will make or break a job for me. I took one or two jobs (had a few in my time) with managers who gave me bad vibes and I lived to regret taking the jobs.
  4. by   fungez
    Me too. In one interview the manager was 10 minutes late (and didn't apologize) and was snotty to a delivery person. Oh, well, she's gone now.

    Management sets the emotional tone for the entire unit. If there's a lot of drama in a unit it's because the manager allows or even condones this behavior (divide and conquer). Hospital jobs are all pretty much the same. It's your coworkers and your boss who will make or break your job satisfaction.
  5. by   mamamerlee
    I once took a job on a med/med-psych unit (not a choice I may have made otherwise) because the manager was so dynamic that I knew she would be great to work for. And she was. I was there about 11 months when she took another position in the same hospital. I was heart-broken. The new manager was a staff nurse who wasn't eager for the job but who had been there a long. long time.

    Although I asked for my yearly review to be done by the manager who was leaving, they decided to let the new one do it. It was so bad that I barely recognized the person on the page. I wrote tons of objections all over it. I applied for a transfer as soon as I could - - a good manager makes all the difference.

    Ask all those questions, and more. Go in with your own scenarios, and ask what she would do if such-and-such happened.
    MD complaints? Difficult patient or family? New equipment without an inservice? Think of your own, as well.

    Best wishes!
  6. by   Jellicoe13
    Great interview tips for the job-changer or new grad....the unit manager can make or break a job, and most of us don't quit jobs....we quit bad managers.
  7. by   Mijourney
    I agree with the previous posters. This is good information for any nurse changing jobs. It's also good for any nurse who is on a panel interviewing managment applicants. You want a good manager, but you particularly want someone with good leadership and mentoring qualities.
  8. by   VivaLasViejas
    Fabulous advice, especially for the newly unemployed (like me) who are so desperate to find another job that we might otherwise overlook a toxic environment that's right in our faces. Thank you!!
  9. by   Doc Lori, R.N.
    I am so inspired by you all, and I am so honored that I can share what I am passionate about here. Much Love all around, and again, many thanks! Nurses, like..entirely rock
  10. by   qaqueen
    This is wonderful advice. Here is one more piece that I learned the HARD way.

    Even if a manager interviews well, do not accept everything at face value. As a late in life career changer, I did interview my first manager. She said all the right things. I asked about turnover rates/longevity on the unit, she told me the average was 15 years. The truth is more like 2 to 3 years. With people trying to get out of the department within 6 months of joining. I asked about her expectations, what she said and what I experienced... not even close.

    So yes, interview your prospective manager, but don't forget to use the assessment skills you have learned. Be aware of body language, and situations that sound too good to be true. As this job was quite far from my home, I did not know anyone at the facilty that I could ask questions about my manager-to-be. If you have an opportunity to get inside information, do it, then you have the option of making a decision with your eyes open. Even if that means taking a less than ideal position because you need to work. At least you will know what you are getting into.
  11. by   Doc Lori, R.N.
    Right on, qaqueen... you are so right.
  12. by   madwife2002
    I just interviewed for a managers position and I asked the District Supervisor and HR Director

    "what are your expectations of me as a manager?"

    I wish you could have seen their faces because I doubt they had ever been asked that question before!

    I am still waiting to hear if I got the job or not!
  13. by   Mijourney
    As I understand it, an increasing number of schools and employers are interviewing by phone. What is the best way to interview the manager in that scenario. What about if it's a panel that you're being interviewed by. It's not like you can see each other.
  14. by   Nurse Smiley
    Wow, thank you everyone! As a newer nurse, I have been afraid to ask an interviewer about turn over for fear of being seen as too inquisitive and not minding my own business. I read on a website not to ask about it because if it is a sore spot for the interviewer the negative energy might turn to us. Also, I know that people transfer, leave, and whatever else.

    I called a company once and the nurse said "I will pass on your resume because you seem like a nice person; but I'm outta here"! I was lucky enough to get the job and a few months later, I resigned for something better, and often thought of her and because I had experienced her same emotion; "I got outta there".

    Happy Summer Everyone,
    Nurse Smiley