In some ways, interviewing a locum is a lot like interviewing any other potential employee. In others, the process is considerably different. Because locums are found via an agency and they’ll only be with your facility for a set period (as opposed to the semipermanence of a traditional hire), the direction, tone, and priorities behind your questioning may need some adjustment.
Consider the following questions and concepts the next time a short-term staffing agency sends a few locum tenens candidates your way:
1. If we choose you, what can we do to make your arrival and transition easier?
At first blush, this may seem like a bit of a softball question. Look a little deeper, though, and you’ll see its value. The candidates a locums agency provides are chosen in direct accordance with the clinical skills and experiences you requested when you reached out. In most situations, you’ll know more about these important qualities than you would at the start of a permanent-placement candidate’s interview.
Thus, knowing exactly what (minor) alterations you can make to ease the locum’s transition can get them working within your system that much faster. Just as importantly, asking personal-preference questions like these is a key part of setting and managing expectations — and, by proxy, mitigating the chance of misunderstandings — from the onset.
2. How comfortable are you with new EHR/EMR systems?
Considering the temporary nature of their job and their diverse work experience, most locums you work with will be comfortable diving into an unfamiliar electronic health/medical records system. But with many physicians and advanced-practice clinicians citing EMRs/EHRs as a major source of stress and burnout, this is still a question worth asking.
At minimum, this question provides a direct segue into talking about your organization’s own systems and any potential quirks they possess. It also gives you a platform to manage your new temporary hire’s expectations regarding how much/little time they will spend interfacing with the system(s).
3. Can you describe your last one or two assignments?
Here, the goal is to get a feel for the roles your locum has most recently assumed. As in a standard interview, gauging a potential locum’s last couple engagements can help you match their experiences to your needs. If one candidate describes a job that mirrors the duties you’ll have them fulfill, you may have found an optimal match.
Following that logic, this question can also locate candidates who are a better match on paper than they are in person: If something in their answer doesn’t align with what you’ll be having them do, for example, it may be time to consider another candidate.
4. What’s your ideal team structure?
Team makeup and functions can vary quite sharply from state to state and even location to location. Understanding ideal team conditions for your prospective locum may help you draw parallels between their past positions and your current makeup. Even if they aren’t a close match, the question provides an opportunity to talk about your team structure in detail and ensure the locum is comfortable working within it.
5. What were some undesirable aspects of your least favorite assignment?
Given enough experience, almost every locum will encounter a posting or two they consider less desirable than others. Trying to understand the qualities that gave them pause in these assignments is nothing short of smart personnel management. Asking this question can be instrumental in identifying pain points you might not have considered, finding aspects of your role that aren’t necessarily locum-friendly, and (again) setting expectations on both sides of the staffing desk.
To reiterate, your locum tenens interview will be very similar to a standard interview in some ways and quite different in others. Either way, the interview is still one of the most important steps of the locum staffing process. While having the agency as an initial form of quality control is good for peace of mind, doing your due diligence from first contact ensures your organization and their locum have a fruitful, mutually beneficial relationship — the kind that leaves both sides wishing they could spend a little more time together once the assignment ends.