The 7 Do’s And Don’ts Of Hiring for an RCFE

Starting your first Resident Care Facility or RCFE can be exciting, fulfilling, and daunting all at the same time. Between securing a location and getting your certifications it can be easy to overlook the basics — the essential aspects that will help ensure your RCFE is a success.

Over the years we have worked with hundreds of newly minted RCFE administrators to make sure their facilities, policies, and business strategies are setting them and their residents up for the best possible experience. In that time, we’ve learned a thing or two, particularly about what you should and shouldn’t do when hiring your staff. After all, your employees are the backbone of your RCFE!

Here are the 7 Do’s and Don’ts of hiring staff for a residential care facility for the elderly.


1. Warm body hiring:  hiring in desperation.

It’s one of the biggest mistakes an RCFE administrator can make. In your desperation to put together a staff, you might think that any warm body will do.

Trust us, it won’t! It is completely okay to be patient and take your time to build your ideal team. After all, these are the people you’re going to be working with day in and day out, and they’re the employees you are going to rely on to care for your residents. 

You want to make sure they’re not only qualified in skill, knowledge, temperament (a big one!), and experience but that they also have the capacity to grow into a larger role. Hiring anyone with a pulse out of desperation to fill the role is the perfect way to open yourself up to lawsuits. 

Remember that in the health and senior care industries, you aren’t just hiring an employee:  you’re potentially hiring a liability. That’s a whole lot of trust to place on the first person to walk through the door… who you now have to spend time (and money!) training and fingerprinting.

2. Only interviewing one person.

She’s the first person in for an interview, and you think she’s perfect. She’s warm, she’s qualified, she’s great with the residents, and she has experience to boot. There’s no two ways about it:  she is your dream candidate, so much so that you’re tempted to hire her on the spot.

This scenario is nothing new. It happens all the time in companies across the nation (and the world), but there are a few problems with only interviewing one person. 

Think about it, what are you doing when you interview someone? You’re gathering information. Additional candidates mean more of this information, and thus more context. By allowing yourself the benefit of comparing a wider field of candidates, you’ll be able to make the most qualified choice.

In interviewing a bunch of people, you might also discover that you didn’t actually know what you wanted. It’s a surprising but true phenomenon and the reason why you often see job postings with a seemingly endless list of impossible-to-meet criteria (another big no-no). 

Hiring managers just aren’t sure what they’re looking for. If you’ve ever gone on a date and found yourself struck by someone totally not your type, you’ve seen this phenomenon in action. It’s human nature. We don’t always know, much as we think we do. 

The same can be said for job candidates, though. Hiring is a two-way street. As much as you are interviewing them, they are also interviewing you. That perfect candidate you’re crazy about might have multiple offers, and end up going somewhere else.

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3. Not having updated job descriptions/responsibilities when interviewing a candidate.

The phenomenon continues! How often have you heard about a company deciding to “go a different direction?” In many places, this can be code for “the job we were originally hiring for has now evolved into something totally different.” 

Frequently this takes candidates by surprise and can be super frustrating when everything is in flux — especially for candidates who appeared to be a shoe-in during the interview stage. 

It’s understandable that things change, but if you’re trying to find the right candidate for XYZ open position, you need to know what that role will entail. How will interviewing applicants know what responsibilities they will have if YOU don’t even know?

4. Not asking the same questions of each candidate to gauge their answers.

This harkens back to what we said about comparisons in Don’t #2. In every interview you do for a given role, it’s important to have at least a certain number of questions that you ask consistently. By comparing and contrasting your candidate’s answers, you have a standardized way of judging who is the best fit. 

This doesn’t mean that every interview needs to follow the same script — the best interviews are more like conversations than question and answer sessions. 

Think about how awkward and stilted those Q&As are. Some people are great at interviews, but for most people, they are incredibly stressful. (Who hasn’t completely blanked on even the simplest question?) Allowing some room for deviation (and personality) is a great way to put a candidate at ease, and allow them to give you their best answers. But even as the conversation evolves, always bring it back to your standard.


1. Introducing them to residents to see how they interact.

Your residents are the people they’re going to be caring for every day! It’s important to see how your candidates respond to them. If they are aloof, that tells you a lot about their attitude and how they might be as an employee. You want someone who engages with the residents, talks to them, and is open to hearing their concerns. Someone who is dismissive or disrespectful of the seniors in your care has no business being part of your RCFE staff. Understand the qualities that make a good assisted living administrator.  

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2. Analyzing the 3 C’s:  commitment, caring and culture.

You can’t work at a residential care facility for the elderly if you’re not a team player. Your staff is going to be working closely with one another day in and day out, so it’s important that they make a good fit for the culture

This doesn’t mean that every employee has to be BFFs, but they should be able to work together to get their jobs done. If they can’t put caring for your residents ahead of any interpersonal issues, productivity is going to suffer, and you run the risk of accidental negligence. Make sure you communicate your facility’s culture to prospective hires. 

These attitudes also go towards commitment (or lack thereof). You want someone who doesn’t just show up for work, but who actually shows up for work — someone for who this isn’t just a paycheck. Working at an RCFE doesn’t have to be their life’s calling, but it has to be something they’re committed to. 

The well-being of your residents depends on it! To put it simply, if they don’t care, how will they be able to care? Do they care about seniors, and want to do what’s right by them, or is this just going to be a job for them?

3. Remind them of the qualifications of the job.

We’re not just talking about responsibilities here. There’s more to qualifications than having the experience or abilities to perform the duties adequately (with or without reasonable accommodation).

DSS regulations require staff, persons residing in the facility, and most volunteers to have a criminal background clearance (or exemption) prior to their first day of work. This means that they will need to be electronically fingerprinted, at which point the California DOJ will conduct a background check. 

If the candidate has a criminal history, that won’t necessarily disqualify them. California’s Caregiver Background Check Bureau will review the transcript and decide if the conviction(s) were for crimes that may be exempted. Candidates with non-exemptible convictions will not be eligible to work in your care facility. 

The employee will also need to go to a local healthcare clinic (this is something you can arrange) for a health screening to verify their general well-being, and to demonstrate that their current health condition allows them to perform the type of work required. At the clinic, the physician will fill out and sign LIC 503, the health screening report for facility personnel. As a portion of their health screening, employees will also have test negative for TB.

Are you ready?

The process of successfully opening and staffing an RCFE in California might be a long one, but in the end, it will all be worth it. The senior care industry is among the fastest-growing industries in the country, and California is no different. We must be prepared to meet the needs of seniors with the best care possible. More growth means more new facilities, and more new facilities mean hiring the best employees.

The need is there. Are you ready to provide it?

Assisted Living Education is the premier provider of RCFE classes, licensing, products and services for assisted living. Our teachers are industry professionals with many years of experience that are engaging, entertaining and highly informative. They offer RCFE consulting services and share real RCFE experience that will help you be successful in this fast-growing career industry.

People Also Ask:

How much do RCFE Administrators make? The average salary in California is more than $45,000. On the other hand, for larger facilities to pay $130,000 or more. 

About Assisted Living Education
Assisted Living Education has been operating in and improving the growing senior care industry for over 15 years. Founded by certified RCFE administrators, Jane Van Dyke-Perez and Bill Perez, we have licensed more than 1,100 assisted living facilities and built close relationships with the California Department of Social Services, assisted living managers, owners and industry professionals. As senior living care educators ourselves, we strive to contribute our knowledge and skills to continually improve senior care and the satisfaction of those working in the industry.