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Tool: Guide for Assessing Lab Director Candidates

by | Feb 26, 2024 | Employment-lca, Essential, Lab Industry Advisor, Tool

Key areas to address when reviewing CLIA lab director applicants and developing interview questions.

When assessing lab director candidates, here are some key areas to address when reviewing applicants and developing interview questions to ensure the selection of the best person for your organization:

1. Education, specialties, and experience are imperative to get accurate

What qualifications does the director candidate you’re considering possess? Much of this information can be gained by reviewing their resume, but it’s also a good idea to test candidates’ expertise to ensure alignment with your lab’s operations and future goals. If any of the hard qualifications set forth by CLIA, your accrediting body, or your state (such as education), are not a match, the candidate in question should be vetoed as a potential option; it does no good for you to secure a director that is ultimately rejected by the CLIA office due to insufficient credentials.

2. Inquire about CLIA laboratory director experience

How many labs have they served in this capacity? For what duration? You shouldn’t necessarily eliminate candidates who have had no CLIA director experience to date. Everyone needs to start somewhere and gain experience, but if you have multiple candidates from which to choose and one of them has considerable CLIA director experience while the other has none, your lab will likely benefit from a smoother transition by working with the candidate who possesses experience and has overseen other transitions previously. For candidate directors with experience, asking about deficiencies received during previous inspections is also a good idea. Having few to no deficiencies during inspections is a good indicator that the director was doing his or her job well.

3. Always ask about leadership experience

Have they supported and managed direct reports before? If so, how many? On a remote basis? Remote oversight and management can be very different than on-site leadership, so this is particularly important if you’re hiring a part-time CLIA lab director.

4. Communication is one of the most important things to assess

Ask about the candidate’s communication style, and communicate with them in various ways during your interactions with them pre-hire (i.e., calls, video conferencing, in-person/on-site, text, email, etc.). Ask how they prefer to communicate. This will need to mesh well with your current operations’ communication tools. For example, if you want your staff to email with your director regularly to ensure documentation of their interactions, training, etc., for use with other employees or for records, you don’t want to hire someone who only opens their email twice per year.

5. Prior to making a formal offer, set expectations clearly

For example, “We are looking for a part-time CLIA lab director who will spend about an hour each week reviewing things remotely via email, who will log in to DocuSign once per month to sign off on QA/QC reports, and who will visit our facility on-site once per quarter for about two hours.” This is especially important when hiring a part-time director, as full-time staff requirements are usually less open to interpretation. In clearly verbalizing your expectations, you are stating the basic requirements you need this candidate to complete in order for this collaboration to be effective. Any candidates who are not willing to meet your minimum expectations are not going to be a good long-term fit for your facility. A lab director who is unwilling to be available by email each week, sign documents once per month, and visit at least twice per year (which is now the CLIA mandated requirement) at a minimum is not going to lead your facility well. Remember: this person’s main job is compliance, and while they can be successful working very part-time hours, it is not in the lab’s or their patients’ best interest to employ a ‘ghost’ laboratory director who is basically just a name on paper. As the CLIA requirements convey, labs and their patients truly benefit from and need the oversight of a qualified and competent laboratory director.

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