Five Common Interviewing Mistakes Made at Medical Practices

August 6, 2014

Hiring mistakes can be costly, resulting in high turnover, reduced productivity, and lackluster moral. Here are some easy ways to refine your interviewing skills.

No medical practice can afford to make hiring mistakes, which can lead to errors, inefficiencies, and costly staff turnover. They also create ripples of negativity that affect teamwork, productivity, and patient satisfaction.

Getting the right people onboard however, is no easy task. Here are five common mistakes made when interviewing and how to avoid them:

1. Failing to establish rapport

It's one of the most common errors in interviewing: the failure to establish rapport. As a result, no substantive discussion takes place; the interviewer learns nothing about the applicant's priorities, expectations, or job-related needs; and the interview never gets off the ground.

Recommendation: Don't be misled or turned off by an applicant who appears nervous - thinking he or she may not be able to cope with a stressful job. The interviewing process itself can cause nervousness and it may have little bearing on a person's ability to perform a job.

The first task therefore, is to put the job applicant at ease. The interview should be a pleasant informal conversation in which the person has an opportunity to talk freely and spontaneously to someone who is genuinely interested.

2. Placing too much emphasis on technical competence

Business office skills or clinical skills are often the most frequently discussed subject during job interviews because they're easy to assess. But such skills alone are a poor predictor of whether a newly hired employee will succeed or fail. Do such skills really matter if the employee alienates coworkers (or worse, patients); lacks motivation; or has the wrong personality or temperament for your practice?

"Beyond skills and experience, what's the most important trait you look for in a new employee?" is a question I've asked countless doctors. The answer given by Steven Garner, a veterinarian in League City, Texas, was, "Nice. We can train people to do almost anything," he said, "but we can't make them nice."

Recommendation: Have in mind the five or so personality traits you deem most important for the smooth running of your practice. Doing so will greatly simplify the task of finding the person you seek.

3. Talking too much

Many interviewers make the mistake of doing most of the talking during job interviews. They mean well - often providing pertinent information about the position or the practice - but in doing so fail to learn what they need to know about job applicants.

Recommendation: A good rule of thumb is to let the applicant talk at least 80 percent of the time. Don't rush to break a silence.

4. Overselling the job

Wanting to hire a highly qualified applicant may lead to promises about job responsibilities, salary increases, vacations, flexible hours, infrequent overtime, etc., that can't be kept, or if kept, would lead to a staff mutiny.

Recommendation: Don't oversell a job by promising more than you can deliver or, conversely, by downplaying the negative aspects of a job. When the facts become known, a new employee will either become demotivated or quit. Face the facts: a job is what it is. One solution: Rethink the position. Can the appealing aspects of the job be broadened? Can less desirable aspects be traded or possibly divided among other staff members or done by part-time staff or perhaps be outsourced?

5. Failing to check references

This seems so obvious but surprisingly, is overlooked in many practices. There are risks involved in not checking references. Eighty percent of all resumes are misleading according to Hire Right, a firm that specializes in employee background checks. Furthermore, 20 percent of resumes state fraudulent degrees; 30 percent show altered employment dates; 40 percent have inflated salary claims; 30 percent have inaccurate job descriptions; and 27 percent give falsified references.

Recommendation: One of the best ways to avoid hiring those who are less qualified than they claim to be or who have falsified their resume in other ways, is to have job applicants sign a waiver that attests to the accuracy of the information they provide and authorizes you to seek relevant background information. In addition, this consent form should also give potential references permission to discuss the person's background with you. A reluctance, let alone a refusal, to sign such a consent form should raise a red flag.

Checking references in this day and age is a "must." If you neglect to do so, don't be surprised if you get surprised.

Reality check: Hiring the right people for your practice is the best present you can give yourself. It will result in happier patients, less turnover, greater productivity, and significantly less stress.

Bob Levoy is the author of seven books and hundreds of articles on human resource and practice management topics. His newest book is "222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices" published by Jones & Bartlett. He can be reached at