3 Interview Questions to Help Understand Candidate Empathy

A patient’s view of the medical industry is most often shaped by their encounters with healthcare staff such as nurses and doctors. Nobody wants to be at the doctor’s office or hospital. But, when your nurse or doctor has a caring personality, the experience is much more pleasant. And when you’re evaluating applicants for roles with your organization, evaluating candidate empathy is key.


What Is Candidate Empathy, and Why Is It Important?

Empathy refers to an individual’s capacity to step into someone else’s shoes and consider their point of view. It is a crucial component in the medical industry, particularly for nurses who deal with a wide range of patients every day.

For nurses, they must be able to see, understand, and share patients’ viewpoints without judgment. In doing so, they can provide patients with the care and support they deserve.

Furthermore, empathy has emotional, behavioral, and cognitive implications. Thus, if you assess candidate empathy during the interview process, you can find out if an individual is capable of displaying empathy in their daily work. If you hire this individual, you can reap the benefits of a nurse who does everything in their power to help patients. This nurse will be able to work in conjunction with patients to achieve the best possible outcomes. Plus, the nurse will have no trouble partnering with their peers to assist patients.


How Do You Find Caring Nursing Staff for Your Organization?

You may search far and wide for caring nursing job candidates. Despite your best efforts to date, you may come up short in your search. However, if you evaluate candidate empathy during the interview process, you’re better equipped than ever before to find caring nursing staff for your organization. You’ll also be able to boost nursing staff retention.


3 Questions to Ask During an Interview to Find Empathetic Employees


1. Describe a time when you had to deliver difficult news. How did you go about it?

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. How a candidate goes about delivering bad news has a direct correlation to how well they are able to adapt and understand situations from how the recipient of the communication will receive them. Are they so blunt that they cause patients to become angry and anxious? Or, do they get too emotionally attached and aren’t comfortable delivering less than ideal news?

Encourage the interviewee to share multiple stories of previous situations. Jot down notes and ask follow-up questions regarding these situations as needed. Remember, the more information a candidate provides you about their ability to deliver difficult news, the better you’ll understand the candidate’s ability to show empathy toward patients.


2. What do you do when someone comes to you with a problem?

The purpose of this question is to evaluate the candidate’s ability to listen to a problem and use their reasoning ability, judgment, and problem-solving skills to mitigate the issue. A red flag in this situation would be a candidate who can’t come up with an answer or immediately takes defense and directs the blame to someone else. Meanwhile, a decent candidate will listen to the problem and make a reason-based recommendation. And a truly empathetic candidate will listen to the problem, ask questions, and make an interpersonal recommendation on how to address the issue.

Consider how a candidate approaches this question. If a candidate struggles to answer it, this individual may be a poor fit for a nursing role with your organization. Comparatively, if a candidate shows he or she is willing to work with patients or coworkers to understand and resolve problems, this individual is likely empathetic. In this scenario, the candidate may be a great addition to your team.


3. Tell me about the last time you got angry at work. How did you deal with your anger?

Asking about what’s made the candidate angry in the workplace helps evaluate their ability to deal with conflict. Make sure you find out why they got angry, what they did in response to that anger, and how it turned out in the end. If the candidate starts to place their blame on others, that’s a big red flag that they may lose their temper around patients. A strong, empathetic candidate will recognize that they were in the wrong, took responsibility, and worked to make a bad situation better.

A candidate should be willing to discuss situations in which he or she felt angry, too. Many nurses feel angry or frustrated at times. If a candidate indicates he or she never has felt angry at work, this may be a sign that the individual is unwilling to address issues directly. As a result, you may want to look elsewhere to find an empathetic nurse to add to your team.

Ultimately, few candidates can bluff their way through these behavioral questions. You’ll be able to spot a caring, empathetic employee just by listening to their answers.


Currently Hiring Within the Healthcare Industry?

Let the experienced team at BOS Medical help! The need for talented, dedicated healthcare professionals is growing, and we’ve got a talented pool of candidates. Team up with BOS to find just the right employee — whether you’re looking for long- or short-term staff, we have a variety of nursing jobs and employment opportunities in Athens, GA, Gainesville, GA, and beyond. Contact a recruiter today to talk about customized staffing solutions for your organization.


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