Hiring Dietitians, Professional Development | May 18 2022

7 questions to ask when interviewing a dietitian

interviewing a dietitian

Interviews seem to be a necessary evil when hiring a new dietitian. (Yes, I said evil.) Most interviews last no more than an hour, and when deciding who you want to work with every day for the next several months to years, an hour seems woefully inadequate. So how do you get to know a complete stranger in an hour and decide if he/she is the right person for your business? Here are some of the best questions to maximize your interview and find the best dietitian.

1. Tell me about some of your achievements at your previous job (or internship).

This is a great way to find out the candidate’s strengths. Perhaps he excels at communicating with other clinicians on clinical matters. Maybe he has an acute attention to detail. Or, he can develop creative solutions to problems. What specific skills would bring value to your vacant position?

2. How do you build rapport with your patients/clients?

Knowing that your dietitians can quickly build trust with their patients is a must. Although a challenging question to answer, the best dietitians will know how to make a connection with clients that ultimately boosts their credibility and effectiveness of their nutrition interventions.

3. Tell me about your professional goals.

This is a version of, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” It invites the candidate to discuss the goals that complement her career, rather than her job trajectory. In addition to working at your facility, maybe this dietitian really wants to collaborate on a research study, present at a professional conference, or earn a specialty certification. The candidate’s answer can help you determine not only if she is a good fit for your company, but if your company is a good fit for her.

4. Give me an example of how you handled a disagreement with a colleague or a service recovery for a dissatisfied patient.

In hospitals and long-term care facilities, dietitians are often the face of the nutrition department. Knowing how the candidate will handle a testy physician or a patient who has received cold eggs (again) will give you peace of mind, knowing that he can navigate difficult situations professionally.

5. What do you do when you are in unfamiliar territory?

No matter how long the candidate has been practicing as a dietitian, there is bound to be a time when she is faced with an unfamiliar medication, surgical procedure, food allergy, etc. In times like these, what does she do? Who does she ask? How does she find out what to do? This question is particularly important to ask when interviewing for a single-site dietitian.

6. How do you stay up to date with the latest research in nutrition?

Nutrition is a science-based discipline and is always changing. Best practice evolves. Having a dietitian who stays up to date on nutrition research is critically important to provide the best care to your patients/clients.

7. How would you navigate [insert job-specific scenario]?

Always, always, always pose job-specific scenarios and ask the candidate what to do. For example, maybe you are planning to transition from a traditional trayline foodservice model to room service. This candidate would be managing the transition. How would he handle a system downtime when diet orders cannot be transferred automatically to the diet office? Or maybe the dietitians at your facility manage all enteral and parenteral nutrition order-writing. What’s the best approach when a patient has high liver enzymes while receiving parenteral nutrition?

Oftentimes, there are no right or wrong answers to these types of questions. You simply want to know if the candidate can think critically and solve the problems he or she is likely to encounter on the job.

Dietitians On Demand is a nationwide staffing and recruiting company for registered dietitians, specializing in short-term, temporary and permanent-hire positions in acute care, long term care and food service positions. We’re dedicated to dietitians and helping them enhance their practice and excel in the workplace. Check out our job openingsrequest your coverage or visit our store today!

Sara Glanz, registered dietitian

About Sara Glanz

Sara Glanz, MS, RD, LD, CNSC worked as a traveling dietitian for Dietitians On Demand for two years before joining the corporate team. In her current role as Director of Clinical Education, she has championed the continuing education program to empower dietitians everywhere to achieve their professional goals.

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