Caregiver Experience: What to Look for When Hiring

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Written by Katherine Zheng, PhD, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A caregiver at a nursing home helps a resident drink his tea.

Professional caregiving has become a vital role in many long-term care settings. Beyond easing the workload of nurses who are often short-staffed, caregivers develop close relationships with residents and provide ongoing companionship. While caregivers can be valuable assets to the healthcare team, this role requires a strong set of soft skills that are important to look out for when hiring.

If you’re a facility leader seeking out a new caregiver, experience on resumes and responses during interviews will help you determine who’s right for the role. We’ll describe top caregiver qualities and how to gauge them throughout the hiring process.

What Is a Caregiver?

A caregiver is a professional who provides hands-on support to residents in long-term care settings, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. They work closely with the nursing team to help residents with activities of daily living (ADLs) like bathing, toileting, eating, dressing, and ambulating. In addition to helping with ADLs, caregivers also play a supportive role in:

  • Encouraging residents to attend wellness programs and classes.
  • Reviewing activity calendars to see what events residents might want to attend.
  • Notifying nurses if a resident experiences sudden changes in health.
  • Accompanying residents during residential activities (games, movies, etc.).
  • Reminding residents about taking medications and attending appointments.

Caregiver Experience: 5 Qualities to Look for

Caregivers don’t typically need a specific degree, so they often come equipped with diverse backgrounds. Even if a candidate doesn’t have direct healthcare experience, they may have other related personal or professional experiences that can make them an effective caregiver.

Below are five essential qualities to look for, along with caregiver experience examples to help you identify these qualities during the hiring process.

1. Informal or Formal Care Experience

First and foremost, you’re going to want to assess whether a candidate has any related experience in personal care. But this doesn’t necessarily mean working professionally as a caregiver at a facility. Some candidates may have experience taking care of others in a volunteer role, their personal lives, or another professional capacity.

Example experiences:

  • Hands-on care roles, such as babysitting
  • Volunteer experience in other care settings
  • Personal experiences caring for family or friends

Certain states also require a caregiver experience certificate to work this role. This means some candidates may also have knowledge about caregiving through accredited courses they’ve taken.

2. Strong Interpersonal Skills

Beyond having familiarity with caretaking, caregivers should also display strong interpersonal skills. They’ll be regularly interacting with residents, likely encountering moments when they must comfort them through stressful situations.

As you assess a candidate’s resume and talk to them during their interview, look for experiences that equip individuals with essential interpersonal skills. This includes things like active listening, good communication, and the ability to convey empathy.

Example experiences:

  • Call center or support line jobs
  • Teaching or tutoring roles
  • Customer service roles
  • Other volunteer/professional experience in healthcare

3. Good Problem-Solving Abilities

Beyond providing companionship, caregivers help the nursing team complete essential care tasks. However, things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes, a resident may refuse to take their medications or there may be a health-related emergency that requires swift action.

To prepare for situations like these, a caregiver must understand how to problem solve and handle tough scenarios in the most appropriate ways possible. These skills are difficult to gauge based solely on a resume, so it’s helpful to ask candidates to describe previous scenarios where they had to think on their feet.

Example experiences:

  • Candidate shares past examples on handling angry or upset customers/patients.
  • Candidate describes personal situations where things didn’t go according to plan.
  • Candidate explains past experiences dealing with emergent situations.

4. Ability to Work Well on a Team

In addition to interacting with residents, caregivers will also need to understand the chain of command and work alongside various members of the healthcare team. Caregivers report primarily to nursing staff, so it’s important to assess whether candidates can work well within a team setting.

Example experiences:

  • Assistive roles (e.g., administrative assistant, healthcare volunteer)
  • Team-oriented extracurriculars (e.g., professional organizations, clubs, sports)
  • Scenarios where the candidate solved problems with a team

5. Professionalism

As with any healthcare role, it’s important to find someone who is trustworthy, dependable, and responsible. In addition to the general expectations of the job — such as showing up on time — caregivers should understand how to be professional in both good and bad situations.

Professionalism is a trait that is built off of all types of work experience. But when it comes to hiring, you can also gauge how a candidate is presenting themselves during their interview and throughout the hiring process. This is your first look into how they might behave on the job.

Example experiences:

  • Candidate shows up to the interview on time and is dressed professionally.
  • Candidate responds to emails and phone calls in a timely and respectful manner.
  • Candidate shares past examples of resolving conflicts with team members/coworkers.

Find Qualified Caregivers to Join Your Healthcare Team

When hiring a caregiver, experience is one of many factors to evaluate among your candidates. Find out how IntelyCare can facilitate the hiring process by connecting your facility to vetted healthcare professionals today.