Gary Tetz

At the risk of shameless self-promotion, I’m quite sure I’ve just solved one of the great challenges facing long-term care providers — hiring the right frontline caregivers.

It’s not rocket science to find any old warm body to fill a spot. It’s the fit that’s often most problematic: making certain the candidate really cares about serving people and cheerfully meeting actual human needs.

That’s why we tend to turn to all the traditional applicant screening methods, like personality tests, body language evaluation, resume review, reference checks, handwriting analysis, polygraph exams, medieval witch identification processes, enhanced interrogation, truth serum, etc. You know, the usual.

But even then, with all these sophisticated tools at our disposal, subjectively judging levels of presence, patience and kindness can be a little dicey. Until that new employee is actually interacting with residents, family members and co-workers in the frenzy of a typical facility day, you simply can’t know whether his or her professed passion for service was real, or just a rapidly cracking facade.

Well, my dear long-term care friends, fret no longer. I’ve developed a revolutionary interview procedure designed to weed out the genuinely compassionate, mission-driven individual from the merely job-seeking, ladder-climbing pretender. I call it the Waddling Goose Character Evaluation Technique™, and I offer it free of charge, plus a reasonable consulting fee.

Here’s the back story, a tale of serendipitous discovery and insight that is certain to be glowingly retold from the podium just before I’m handed the American Health Care Association’s prestigious “Undeniable Genius Award” at the next annual convention.

Where I work, we’re inundated with geese. They’re everywhere, literally hundreds sometimes, wandering the lawns, sidewalks and parking lots. Inevitably, goose destiny seems to call, and a driving force within compels them, individually or as a gaggle, to brazenly cross the busy road in front of our office building, often obstructing all lanes.

In careful scientific study from our lobby window, I’ve observed that when unsuspecting drivers are suddenly presented with lines of slow-moving geese blocking their urgent journeys, they fall into one of two categories: honkers or waiters. It is in that moment of unexpected conflict — stress-addled human versus oblivious goose, that this essence of character is inevitably revealed.

Honkers, my research suggests, are impatient and angry on a cellular level. They’re likely to see life’s unforeseen challenges like they do those inconvenient geese, as obstacles on the path to future happiness, and the present moment merely as an inconvenient and annoying stepping-stone to something more enticing.

Waiters, however, are patient and present. They seem to innately understand that now is all we have, and that no matter what happens, life is to be actively and intentionally experienced.

That’s the core of my Waddling Goose philosophy. Incorporating this essential insight into your hiring strategies is a relatively simple, three-step process. First, on the day of the interview, procure a goose, ideally several. Second, set it/them loose on the road when you see your applicant’s car approaching. Third, seek concealment behind any available shrubs or structures and pay careful attention.

If your candidate honks impatiently, hits the steering wheel with his or her fists or, God forbid, accelerates the car forward in a goose-threatening fashion, you should abruptly cancel the interview. You don’t want this person on your team, pretending to care about anything but himself or herself.

However, if your candidate patiently waits, posture relaxed, and perhaps even smiles as the birds waddle leisurely across, you’ve found your employee. The rest of the interview will be a mere formality.

So let the honkers go be hedge-fund managers or politicians. It’s the waiters you’re really looking for.

Your residents deserve caregivers who intuitively exist in the now, are energized by serving others, and simply enjoy the journey — because of the geese, not in spite of them.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.