Many doctors and office managers struggle to find and hire the right employees. From interviewing strategies to prescreening for computer literacy, the process of hiring seems to become more difficult all the time. It is for this reason that we have come together, utilizing our experiences and the experiences of others in our field, to demonstrate and to simplify the art of finding that right fit for your office.
First and foremost, before beginning your search for the newest member of your team, ask yourself what it is you are looking for. Is it someone who will have little patient interaction, where computer skills and typing speed and accuracy are of the utmost importance? Or, is it someone who will be the first face that is seen when your patients enter the office? Of course, basic computer skills are a must in the electronic world we live in, but we must take into consideration what the duties of this employee will be most often. Start with a job description, and take a close look at the top 10 things you will expect of your new hire. If it is someone who will be dealing directly with patients (either front or back office), familiarity with computers may be just as important as empathy, good eye contact and a high energy level. On the other hand, if this person will be more behind the scenes, it may be wiser to choose someone with the ability to hyper focus on the task at hand rather than show off a great smile.
It all starts when you place your "ad." This is a great way to weed out the less than qualified applicants, from the ones that you actually want to interview. (And you all know what we mean!). Your "ad" could say, "Full time medical office, looking for applicants that love working with people. To be an integral part of our team, you must start your day with a smile and end it with an even bigger one. Strong attendance is required, along with basic computer skills. Please email us why you think you are the person we are looking for. Also include your resume, with a subject line "I am your new front office team member." Seems like a bit much, but the key is in the instructions given. A very large percentage of those applying will be unable to follow directions. We all know that past performance is indicative of future performance. With attention to detail being critical in the medical field, applicants who are unable to perform to the letter of your instructions are more likely to have difficulty with direction later. If you’re still unsure of their performance, try customized performance testing, done by companies like Topline-Performance, SmartMoves Inc., and Prove It. The American Academy of Podiatric Practice Management has been working with Jay Henderson (www.dpmhiring.com) who has a simple and well-priced system to analyze a prospective staff member or new podiatrist is the right one to hire for your office.
Otherwise we move on to what we call the "six interview process." This begins with the prospective hires' initial performance via email contact. Take note of if they have followed your explicit directions, and how they present themselves to you. How is their spelling, their grammar and, did they remember to attach the resume you asked for? If any of these areas are lacking now, simply hit DELETE! Step two is phone screening. This begins by making note of the promptness of the call. Did you ask the person to contact you at 1:30 and they called at 1:55? You can also make some good observations about the person's energy level and interest in the position. If you are listening to yawning or you feel like you may fall asleep at any moment during the conversation, simply say, "Thank you for calling" and HANG UP! The third part of the process is the "in person interview." Be very general in your description of the position, and allow the prospective hire to do most of the talking. We all know that certain questions regarding children, age, health issues etc, are not allowed, so let the conversation answer the questions for you. Make sure to ask what they are looking to gain from the position and if they are available for the hours you need to cover. The fourth interview is dependent on how well the in person portion goes (and may take place immediately following). Bring in one of your current employees and have the prospective hire interview them. Help them if need be, by prompting questions like, "how would you describe the dynamic of the office" or "how quickly and easily do problems become resolved." Sit back and watch the interaction and the rest will speak for itself. The fifth interview is the "working interview." Ask the candidate if they would mind coming in for an hour or two to work beside their possible future coworkers. Allow them to greet patients, make appointments and possibly answer the phone (all with the assistance of your current employees). This will give you an idea of the person's people skills as well as how they interact with the current staff. No one is more honest than long term employees when it comes to evaluating a "newbie," so get their feed-forward on any potential employee. Finally, the sixth and final interview consists of reference and background checks. We suggest writing into the education and reference sections of your application, verbiage that allows you to contact former employers and educational institutions with a "no harm clause"(this can be obtained from your local labor board). This way, you are able to ask more specific questions, like was this employee ever tardy to work, or why did they cease employment. If former employers know they are able to speak more frankly with you, more in depth information is given and ultimately you can make a better educated decision before hiring.
In the end, it comes down to diligence. Make sure that your job descriptions are detailed but not entirely limited (so the employee accepts that more responsibility can and may be added at any time) and that your employee handbook is up to date and readily accessible. Make sure your employees (new and old) have read the handbook as well as their job descriptions, and have signed off that they are responsible for understanding the content of these documents. This way, in the event that an employee has to be terminated, you are giving legitimate reasons and both you and your remaining staff can be confident that the rules have been followed. We all have heard the saying "hire slowly and fire quickly." This still remains true, but we would like to add to both processes with education and insight. You are the driving force behind your practice and the people you hire are a direct representation of you and the office as a whole. So, hire with care, and choose wisely. Your patients and your current staff will thank you for it.
Lori Cerami, DPODCS and Cindy Pezza, PMAC