Interviews: Part 4 of a series on Personal Care Assistants: A Guide to Hiring, Training, and Firing

The Hard Part

This is part four of a series on Personal Care Assistants: Hiring, Training, and Firing.  It's time for the actual interviews.  I've determined what I want a PCA to do, how much to pay them, when I want them to work, and I’ve placed a classified ad.  Now is the time for the interview.  I have always found interviewing to be the most exhausting part of this process. 

As you can tell from my previous hubs, I am not a warm and fuzzy person.  I'm not real fond of people and I've been told that my directness can be intimidating.  I don't mean for it to be so but that is often the effect.  I tend to grow on people over time.

When I conduct interviews, I have to work really hard to dial back my natural personality.  I put on my "perky paralyzed person" persona.  Cheery and "upbeat." After all, I want these ladies to want to work for me and not to run screaming from the house.

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Tips on Interviewing

Be Welcoming

All that being said, here is the process. The response to the advertisement tends to be in line with unemployment figures. Low unemployment generally means a low turnout. I have had occasions where no one shows up and where as many as 30 show up.

Women will start arriving about 30 minutes before the time I've set for the interviews. We make sure the dogs are locked up about 45 minutes early. As the applicants arrive, one of my PCAs will bring them to the kitchen and have them start on the application. There will be a link at the bottom of this hub so you can download the job application I use. I always supply several telephone books, writing pads, and pencils. Coffee doesn't hurt either.

I have put some videos into this hub to give you an idea about how to conduct an interview. These videos are meant for a business but the general idea is the same. You can go to youtube.com and see the whole series.

Questions about Resume

Questions

I found over the years that applicants will ask my PCAs things they will not ask me. I have always asked "my ladies" to be completely honest in their answers. Tell the people what I'm like and what it is like to work this house.

If I have more than five or six women show up then I will talk to them all as a group. I have a rehearsed "job pitch" that I can repeat at the drop of a hat. By telling them all the same thing at one time, I make sure everyone has the same information and it moves the interviews along more quickly. Of course, I keep printed copies of my complete job description on the table for each one to read.

After I've spoken to all as a group, then I bring them in one at a time. I quickly review my complete job description, take a look at the job application they have completed for me, and ask a few questions.

I try to keep the questions open ended and get the applicant to talk as much as possible.

  • Do you have any questions about the job description?
  • I see by your application that you have done this sort of work before, can you tell me about that?
  • I see by your application that you have never done this sort of work before, why are you interested in this job?
  • Do you think you would be available to work for at least a year?
  • What do you want me to know about you?

I try to take notes as the interview progresses. In recent years, I've also taken a photograph of each woman that I speak to. If there are very many, I get lost. By attaching a photograph to each application, I can remember more about that person.

At the end of each individual interview, I give them a card with my full name and telephone number. I asked that they call me if they change their mind about wanting the job. That way I don't waste my time or the time of the references. I also try to give them some idea how long it will take me to make a decision. It is my policy to call each applicant at the end of the process to let them know that I've hired someone else.

Deal Breakers

Sometimes I can eliminate someone within five minutes of meeting them. There are a few "deal breakers."

  • Can I bring my children with me to work?
  • I can't work all the hours or days listed in the advertisement. For example, I can't work Wednesday nights because of church.
  • Will I have time to study while I'm here?
  • I have an allergy to dogs.
  • I can't do lifting because I have a bad back.
  • I don't cook.
  • Speaking, reading, or writing English will be a problem.
  • I was looking for a live-in position.
  • The job application is incomplete: without telephone numbers for references.

I also eliminate anyone who gives me an odd feeling. I believe in paying attention to my instincts. The person I hire will be coming to my house and working with me one-on-one for several hours a day. If I don't think I can get along with them or they with me then I'll remove them from the pool of possibles.

Warning Flags

There are some issues that come up during the interview that can raise a flag but may not be deal breakers.  Things like

  • ·I'm pregnant.  Pregnancy can be a problem for a lot of reasons.  First, doing the kind of work I will need done can damage a pregnancy.  If I consider hiring someone who is pregnant then I will need a doctor's note or letter certifying that they are fit for the job.  Secondly, they are not going to be available for the whole year.  At some point that woman will need to be off work for six to eight weeks.  That puts me back where I started -- looking for a PCA.
  • I'm leaving at the end of the semester.  Same problem as above.  I want to hire someone who will be working for me for at least a year.  The process is too expensive and involved for less than that.
  • My husband and I separated the day before yesterday.  Regardless of how sympathetic I am to a woman in that situation, it has almost always meant some sort of drama that interferes with work.  Experience makes me cautious.
  • I don't have a car.  In the long run, this can also be a problem.  Eventually the spouse, parent, cousin, or significant other will be tired of chauffeuring. 
  • I don't need to give notice at my other job.  I have to wonder if that person will give me notice if they don't respect their current employers enough to give them notice.
  • Large gaps in the resume under "previous jobs" or a whole lot of jobs listed during a short period of time.  Why haven't they been working?  Why did they change jobs so often?

I realize many of the things I've mentioned here are not politically correct but they are practical considerations that can have a profound effect on my life.  I depend heavily on my PCAs.  I need them to be reliable to the nth degree. Everyone is going to have their own issues.  Experience will teach you.

I set a two hour window for interviews but it almost always takes three or four hours.  If someone took the time to come for an interview then it is only polite of me to respect them enough to conduct a thorough interview.  If, however, a deal breaker does come up then I address that immediately.  I think it's unfair to the applicant to leave them hanging when I know that I will not be hiring them.

Be sure to check the links below for a downloadable job application.  I'll cover reference checking in the next part of this series.

How Do You Do It?

Please let me know if this information is helpful or if you do it a different way.  I'd love to learn how other folks manage.

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