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Interview Resource Guide

Part 1: Scheduling Interviews

Before you pick up the phone to schedule an interview with a personal assistant (PA) candidate, consider the following:

  • Figure out logistics for the interview: will it be in person or on the phone? Do you have a quiet, private area available?

  • For safety reasons, we recommend doing at least one telephone pre-screen before interviewing in person. This is a great way to get an idea of the applicant’s personality and whether you think you would like to work with them.

  • Determine what times of day are you feeling the best to conduct an interview.  An interview requires you to fully listen and speak to a potential personal assistant (PA), therefore you should feel alert when interviewing the PA and answering questions. 

  • It is important to schedule the interview at a time when you and the PA candidate are both available. In order to do this, you need to make sure you get their contact information when you first get in touch with them, and ask them the best way to contact them.

  • When scheduling the interview, clearly state who you are and the purpose of your call (to schedule a job interview) to the potential personal assistant.

Part 2: Figuring out your needs ahead of the interview

It is important to be well prepared and organized before the interview begins. If you are unprepared or unable to answer questions, the candidate may not want to work for you.

  • Prepare an effective and thorough job description and have it handy during your interview.

  • Write down what your needs are and the tasks you will need help with. This may seem tedious and time consuming, but you would be surprised how many little things we forget to mention, that we couldn’t do without help.

  • Make a list of what your typical or ideal day includes. Brainstorm what activities and tasks need to happen from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep. If you will need assistance during the night, include that as you create the list.

  • Write down what type of personality traits make you comfortable.  After you write them, number them in order of priority to help you determine the category of importance of your needs. 
  • It’s important to be able to answer questions the potential PA may ask you. Examples: how much does the job pay? Are there any benefits, sick days, paid time off, etc? How many hours or days are you looking for coverage?

  • Consider realistically whether you are willing and capable of training someone with no/limited experience on specialized tasks. Examples: transfers, wound care, ostomy care, working with someone who has Alzheimer’s or dementia.

  • Knowing this information ahead of time will better prepare you to answer their questions. If you are already enrolled with a fiscal intermediary (FI), we also recommend you have the FI’s contact information on hand at the interview, in case you would like to proceed with hiring the person you are interviewing.

Part 3: Starting the interview

There are many ways to start an interview – some better than others. We recommend always beginning with a warm welcome and thanking the person who is being interviewed. Remember, each applicant is a fresh start, and you want them to feel optimistic about the job. Your previous experience with other PAs has nothing to do with the person you are interviewing.

  • “Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.” 
  • “I’d like to start by asking a few questions.”
  • “I would like to share with you what I’m looking for and what would be involved with the job.”

Part 4: What TO ask during the interview

This section covers useful questions you can ask during an interview. You want to make sure you are getting a good picture of who will be working for you, what they can and are willing to learn to do, and whether they will be a good fit.

  • How did you get here today? How would you be getting to and from work each day?

  • Do you have any experience working as a personal assistant or in home care?

If so, ask them: in what capacity & for how long?

If not, you can ask the applicant to share an incident or situation where they had to care or assist someone.

  • During the interview, refer to the list of tasks you prepared ahead of time to make sure that the candidate is comfortable with at least most of them. If the candidate is not comfortable with any of the tasks, you need to make a decision as to whether you can hire them.

  • If given a list of tasks that need to be completed, can you work independently?

  • If you get the job, how long do you see yourself committing to working as a PA?

  • Take a moment to briefly explain what you need assistance with and what it involves. Example: I need assistance with general cleaning, laundry, meal preparation, med prep., bathing, dressing, transferring, running errands, etc. Before the end of every shift I need: Example: all supplies restocked, garbage emptied, counters wiped down, etc.

  • Ask about experience with tasks that require training such as; transfers, glucose checks, blood pressure checks, catheterizations, wound care dressing, etc.

  • Include scenario questions. A few examples:

    • What would you do if asked to do a task that is not mentioned in your job description? 
    • How would you handle a situation where you had an emergency and could not come to work?
    • In the event of a pandemic or natural disaster, what steps would you take to keep us safe?

  • “Is there any aspect of the job/ tasks we’ve discussed that you might have difficulty with?”

  • Be honest with yourself about your preferences. Some consumers will prefer candidates who have less experience because they find it easier to train PAs if they do not already have different or contradictory training from another job. Others may feel the opposite – that it is much easier to train someone who already has experience in healthcare.

Part 5: What NOT to ask at an interview

This is a professional interview, so please structure your interview questions accordingly. All New York State labor laws apply in your home and community.

  • Do not ask applicants about protected topics such as their age, race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.

  • Limit overly personal questions. Remember, although you need assistance with matters that are very personal, the purpose of an interview is to determine if they can do the jobs/ tasks you need done.

  • Do not share or discuss past PAs who have worked for you, whether in a good or bad light. The candidate should not feel like they are being compared to past PAs. This is the equivalent to talking about your ex on a first date.

  • Avoid making the applicant feel like you are trying to find flaws or mistakes during the interview. 

Part 6: How to conclude the interview

Ending an interview is just as important as beginning one. You want the candidate to leave feeling inspired and excited about the prospect of their new job.

  • Ask if the potential PA has any questions. Example: “Following everything we have discussed so far, do you have any questions for me?”

  • Once you’ve addressed their questions, if you find they ask something you don’t know or were not prepared to answer, you can always tell them you will get back to them on that – as long as you follow through.

  • Closing question: “Based on everything we have discussed, is this a job you would be interested in?”

  • Give them a specific date as to when you will make your decision.  

Part 7: Followup and hiring decisions

How you follow up after the interview is of key importance. Understand that home care workers and PAs are in short supply, but they are in high demand. The PA you interviewed a day ago may have already been hired by someone else. The job market is very different from how it was ten years ago, or even three years ago. 

  • A “face to face” followup interview provides everyone a chance to meet and for you to share and demonstrate other tasks that need doing. This is especially important with tasks that require physical strength, such as transfers or lifting, or specialized medical knowledge.

  • If you decide to hire a PA, notify them as soon as possible. The onboarding process can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.

  • No one is 100% perfect. However, if you have a clear understanding of your priorities when hiring, it will be easier to make your decision. 

  • Follow up with each candidate regardless of whether they will get the job offer – unless a candidate made you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Your own safety is always priority #1.