Canadian HR Reporter featured Holland Bloorview's use of simulation in job interviews

Guest commentary in HR Reporter by Lydia Hanson, Senior Communications Associate, Holland Bloorview

Holland Bloorview’s Interview Simulation Cycle

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital piloted an innovative recruitment process that has led to dramatic efficiencies in the hiring process, better fit for hire and increased employee satisfaction.

Holland Bloorview used the recruitment process, which it called the Interview Simulation Cycle (ISC), to hire 10 seasonal employees for the hospital’s on-site summer arts program for kids with and without disabilities.

Recruiting for fit

ISC builds on the work by McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine’s Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI) process. This process aims to give an authentic representation of a candidate’s suitability and eligibility for admission to academic programs in medicine and other health professions. Holland Bloorview adapted this process as a human resources recruitment tool.

“It can be challenging to find employees who are equipped with the interpersonal skills to successfully interact with children with disabilities,” explained C.J. Curran, the hiring manager for the integrated summer arts program, called Spiral Garden. “We needed a process that could more accurately help us identify fit for hire.”

Kathryn Parker, senior director of Academic Affairs and the hospital’s Teaching and Learning Institute, was aware of C.J.’s concerns and introduced the idea to adapt the MMI model for the 2013 hiring process. She collaborated with C.J.’s team and Human Resources to create mini interview stations to evaluate the candidates’ skills, including critical thinking, behaviour management and decision making.

Role play simulation was also embedded in two of the stations: interpersonal communication and conflict resolution, and patient centred care. The role play helps interviewers better evaluate candidates by watching them demonstrate their skills in action. The simulation scenarios were based on actual experiences from the program in previous years.

The group developed eight stations and each mini-interview lasted five minutes, with two rest stations for candidates to collect their thoughts and prepare for the next stations.

Clients and families were full partners in the process, acting as interviewers and raters, role playing and making decisions about who to hire.

The results

Through the pilot process, 18 candidates were interviewed in three hours, resulting in an 83 per cent reduction in direct interview time compared to traditional interview processes and a 30 per cent increase in efficiency related to pre and post interview activities. In total, 10 people were hired through this process, filling 100 per cent of the vacancies.

Ninety-four per cent of candidates who participated in the ISC process reported that overall they felt the process was very good or excellent.

Kaeleigh Burtch was one of those candidates. Kaeleigh explained that while she was nervous about the new interview process at the start, the interviewers put her at ease because they were relaxed and the questions were straight forward.

Kaeleigh is one of seven people hired through the ISC process who is returning for a second year. “I’ve worked at many summer camp programs and by far Spiral Garden was the best. We all worked really well as a team,” she added.

In order to track the success of the ISC, Holland Bloorview surveyed the 2013 employees about their experience working in Spiral Garden and compared it to the feedback from the 2012 employees, who were hired using more traditional methods.

There was a substantial increase in employee satisfaction across the survey categories. Ninety-two per cent of 2013 Spiral Garden employees felt there was an environment of partnership, shared decision making and collaboration in the program, compared to only 63 per cent in 2012. Similarly, 97 per cent of 2013 employees reported that the team delivered exemplary service to the clients and showed concern for fellow employees, versus only 73 per cent in 2012.

Expanding use of the tool

With the success of the ISC model for the summer arts program, it wasn’t long before other departments within Holland Bloorview expressed interest in using the process.

In 2014, the Volunteer Resources department piloted the ISC to recruit 30 volunteers for the March break program. That campaign was so successful, Volunteer Resources also used ISC to recruit about 100 volunteers for its 2014 summer placements.

The ISC saved a substantial amount of time for Volunteer Resources. The department had been using the traditional one-on-one interview methods, spending 45 minutes with each candidate. The ISC enabled the department to interview 15 candidates within that same timeframe.

“The great thing about the new process is that the interviewers get a sense of all the candidates. With one-on-one interviews, you don’t get to see the full spectrum of who is applying,” said Heather McCann, administrator in Volunteer Resources, adding that another benefit of the ISC was the opportunity to engage current volunteers in the process.

Carolyn Henry, a former Holland Bloorview client and long-time volunteer, participated in the simulation scenario for Volunteer Resources’ summer program recruitment. Carolyn uses an assistive communication device and in the scenario candidates had to role play how they would communicate with Carolyn to help understand her needs and wants.

Carolyn said she enjoyed participating in the simulation and appreciated being part of the process. “It was good to get experience helping out in that way,” she said.

Next steps

“The ISC process could be widely used for recruiting in health care, and beyond,” said Joanne Azulay, senior consultant in Human Resources and the administrative lead for the Spiral Garden hire.

She added that Holland Bloorview is actively exploring ways to expand the use of the Interview Simulation Cycle by helping other hospitals and organizations adopt the process, including through the broad dissemination of a user guide developed in partnership with the Ontario Hospital Association.


For more information, contact Joanne Azulay, senior consultant in Human Resources at