Gary Tetz

My long-term care workplace probably looks much like yours, or at least shares the same general features. For instance, a roof, windows, doors and halls that lead to and from places. Navigating these corridors can be dangerous and tricky, with blind corners causing unexpected congestion at peak pedestrian hours.

On one particularly busy day, as I rapidly approached a T-intersection between the elevators and the bathrooms, a fellow hallway traveler suddenly appeared, preparing to take a hard right directly into my lane of traffic. I feared I’d have to either brake or collide, but she accelerated gracefully and completed the maneuver safely, without breaking stride or causing me to make any speed adjustment whatsoever. It was really quite impressive.

Never one to let an achievement go unacknowledged, I congratulated her on this act of rare pedestrian dexterity. “Why, thank you!” she responded. “I’ve been told I’m a very good merger.” It’s a phrase that’s stuck with me ever since.

In these desperate times of staffing shortages, I’m always vigilant for any insight that would help separate one candidate from the rest, or the holy grail that would guarantee they’ll be a good fit and stay for a while. I’ve written about what parking habits, highway aggression or perambulating geese could reveal about the characters and viability of potential hires.

So maybe this hallway encounter could add another important tool to the arsenal?

Because really, not to downplay technical skills and experience, isn’t finding a long-term addition to the team mostly about the culture and the fit? That’s why it’s imperative to find out how he or she is likely to behave on a freeway on-ramp (or office hallway).

Will she selfishly hit the gas and veer in front, forcing everyone else to hit the brakes? Will he slow down timidly to a near stop, signal flashing ineffectively, while other cars drive all over him? Hopefully you’ll find someone in the middle, able to assert themselves when necessary into the traffic of workplace personalities and stresses, or gently adjust as needed in space or time to avoid inconvenience and pain to others.

Maybe my simple hallway encounter won’t transform the interview process for our entire profession, but feel free to try it at your next interview.  “So, I’ve been looking at your resume,” you’ll say to that fresh-faced young candidate. “Sure, you’re smart. But how well do you merge?”

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.