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Hiring for Cultural Fit at Your Medical Practice


Here are some interviewing best practices to help you find the right candidate and right cultural fit for your medical practice.

You have a long list of priorities. Most managers of small practices are at least a little overworked (maybe a lot!) To top it off, if you are worried about profitability you may not want to hire people until absolutely necessary, or more likely until it was absolutely necessary three months ago. Hiring can become a burden when it adds even more to your work load. Many small practice owners struggle to perfect the hiring process because of the time commitment required to get it right.

The only way to ensure that you find the best candidate is to make the hiring process your No. 1 priority. You’ll need to recognize the short-term pain of creating and following a detailed hiring plan for the payoff in future long-term gains, specifically a stronger, healthier practice. The best workplaces are built by having the best and brightest people. You can only attract the best and brightest if you know what that means to you, both in skill and cultural fit.

In my previous post I covered defining your ideal candidate. Today’s post is dedicated solely to taking the profile you’ve created and translating your identified cultural needs into a structured interview process. For us at CompHealth, a new staff member must be a cultural fit, even if it means turning away a highly skilled employee. We take time to ensure all of our candidates have the basic skills necessary but put the most emphasis on culture fit, producing what we feel are the best candidates.

So how do you determine if someone’s the right cultural fit? You can simply trust your gut instincts and take the candidate’s word at face value (not recommended), or you can use hiring practices of best workplaces.

Start with a strong set of core values

Beyond your medical services, what makes your practice different from your competitors? Is it the way you do business, your staff’s professionalism and bedside manner, or something more? If you do not have an articulated set of values, this article by Jim Collins, specifically the section on Identifying Your Core Values, should get you started.

Use the same questions for every candidate

It is easy to get off track during an interview, taking your questions wherever the conversation leads. Those who hire for culture would tell you that is a mistake. Using the same cultural question each time you interview will not only help make good candidate comparisons, but will also help you determine whether your questions are effectively getting the desired result  - it is best to be consistent.

Leverage your team

Not every interview needs to be one-on-one. Create a panel of consisting of 2 interviewers to 3 interviewers taking turns asking questions. If your practice has a collaborative culture, this particular strategy sends the message of teamwork right up front.

Use behavior-based questioning

I can’t imagine you’ve ever conducted an interview where you’ve asked about a person’s integrity and the reply was, "No, no integrity here." Of course, a candidate will know how to answer this eloquently (hopefully, at least), but that’s exactly why you want to avoid any type of questioning that will return a rehearsed answer.

Instead, you’ll want to dig deeper with questions that will help you understand how a candidate behaves day-to-day - because the best predictor of future behavior is past performance. An example of a behavior-based question is: "Tell me about a time you did not agree with something you were asked to do. How did you handle it?"

Let your candidate show you  

In my experience, most interviews are filled with too much talk. The best interviews test the candidate’s behavior. For example:

1. Ask a candidate to help you think through how to improve the effectiveness of a process you are considering changing.

2. Have your candidate work as a locum tenens or on a temporary basis. Thousands of physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers work every day on temporary assignments using the experience as a way to determine if the practice is a good fit. Why not do the same? Check out Dr. Azzazy’s story to see how it works.

Can you imagine any better test for cultural fit than having a couple of weeks to observe a physician candidate on the job interacting with your staff, seeing patients, and making decisions? Me either.

Check references carefully

Don’t let yourself be sold on just the interview or the resume. Some highly skilled professionals are poor communicators, team players, or time managers. Take the time to check references, ensuring that your questions are also aligned with your core values.

What are some other tactics or questions that you’ve already implemented that have helped you find the right fit for your practice?

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