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Hiring Practices

Hiring Practices

The CARF® manual defines personnel, working in the Behavioral Health, Child and Youth Services, or Opioid Treatment programs, as individuals who provide services in a program on a part- or full-time basis as staff members, independent contractors, volunteers, students, trainees, or interns.  Therefore, stringent hiring practices are needed for all of these categories. When hiring new personnel, CARF® recognizes the importance of hiring persons who reflect the demographics of the persons served, to assist in meeting cultural competency and diversity strategies.

It is important to know which qualifications and traits are required and desired before beginning a search for a candidate.  A well written job description will define these characteristics.  (See CARF® Compliant Job Descriptions {hotlink}). Qualifications are determined by the job title, federal, state and local laws, as well as internal policies.

Qualifications might include:

  • Level of Education
  • Experience
  • Scheduling Flexibility
  • Technical Knowledge
  • Licensing Requirements

Traits might include:

  • Strong Work Ethic
  • Empathy
  • Communication Skills
  • Self-Confidence
  • Honesty
  • Dependability
  • Positive Attitude
  • Self-Motivated
  • Leadership skills
  • Team Oriented
  • Resourceful
  • Motivated
  • Willingness to Learn

Promoting From Within

Filling a position with an individual that is currently employed with your organization offers many benefits.  You have already assessed the strengths and weaknesses and know how they interact as a team. Promoting from within increases morale, indicating an appreciation for valued personnel. It saves money in both advertising and training expenses.  The individual only need be trained for the specific position, rather than company training as a whole.  Most paperwork and background checks are already on file.  The potential downside shouldn’t be overlooked.  Before promoting an individual, thorough consideration should be given to the individual’s ability to perform well in the new position. It’s much easier to promote than it is to demote.  An employee that does a great job in one area might not do as well in another.  Promoting from within also limits the pool of available candidates.


Where you advertise for personnel will depend largely on the position being filled. Higher level positions may warrant a professional or executive recruitment company.  Unskilled or semi-skilled workers are easier to locate through a variety of low- or no-cost advertising options.  You may want to give current personnel the opportunity to earn a referral bonus for recommending candidates. It’s a good idea to keep an updated “Careers” page on your website. There are many websites offering employment services for a fee.  Check industry specific job boards. Your social media outlets can provide free job opening announcements. Local colleges and job fairs are excellent for locating volunteers and interns. In addition, there are many non-profit organizations seeking employment for their clients.

There are many advantages to hiring individuals with special needs.  By accessing a largely overlooked pool of candidates, you increase the likelihood of discovering talented individuals, unrecognized by other organizations. You may qualify for work opportunity credits while creating a positive image for your organization.

Interviewing Skills

The main priorities of the interview are twofold. Do you want the individual to work for your organization and (just as important) does the individual want to work for your organization?

Prepare – Prior to the interview, familiarize yourself with the application or resume of the interviewee. Note any lapses or weaknesses that should be explained, as well as any strengths to be expounded upon. Reading the resume allows you to customize your prepared questions. Check their social and professional media sites to learn more about them.

Prior to the interview you should offer something to drink.  Candidates will be nervous to varying degrees, and nervousness can cause the mouth to dry.  Interviews are most successful when all parties are at a certain level of ease. Prepare an outline and standard list of questions that should be asked, in the same order, for each candidate.  This allows you to more easily compare answers later. Your outline should include a brief description of the organization and the job description. Follow with questions for the candidate. Finally, be prepared to answer any questions the candidate may have.

Be on time.  It is just as important the interviewer arrive on time as it is the candidate do so.

Interview – Educate yourself on illegal interview questions. Do not ask questions that may appear discriminatory. It is illegal to discriminate against individuals based on age, race, ethnicity, color, gender or sex, country of national origin, religion, disability, marital or family status. In addition, federal and state laws may limit the type of questions that can be asked regarding military service or criminal background.

Include open ended questions to help gage the individual’s communication skills, as well as, learn more about the candidate.


The level of background check will depend on the type of organization, position considered and legal requirements.  At a minimum, past employers, educational facilities and references should be checked.  There are several online background check options available, for a fee. The CARF® manual specifies that federally funded programs must address exclusions.  Utilize this website to verify individuals or entities at the organization are not on the List of Excluded Individuals/Entities (LEIE).


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