Hiring a Medical Practice Administrator

May 23, 2012

Hiring an administrator or practice manager may be one of the most significant hires you make. But how do you hire one successfully?

Hiring an administrator or practice manager may be one of the most significant hires you make. But how do you hire one successfully? If you get it wrong not only is it expensive to rehire, but you could create quite a bit of discord among staff members! Don't despair; done thoughtfully, it is possible to make a good choice the first time. Here's a roadmap to help you hire successfully.

Construct a wish list

First, you need to properly identify what you are really looking for in a candidate. And that can be a little harder than you think. Determine the needs of your practice by speaking with your partners and your staff. If you have previously had somebody in this position it's a great time to revise the role based on the needs of your practice. For example, you may have had an employee that "grew up" with the practice and was very loyal, however, they may not have had the skill set needed to carry out the job effectively. So determine what the most important elements and aspects of the position are before you go looking for the person to fill it. You may find that what is most important to you may not be most important to your partner. So make a laundry list of all of the characteristics and skills that people in your organization would really like to see. Then you can prioritize traits based on that list to ensure that your next hire meets at least some of what each of your partners would really like to see in this employee.

Write the perfect ad

Second, write a good ad. This is a critical step as your ad will attract your potential candidates. If you put forward something very general such as "practice manager needed for busy practice" you will receive a multitude of unqualified responses. Don't be afraid to describe exactly the sort of person you're looking for. If you advertise for "an articulate, highly personable, experienced manager capable of dealing with multiple personalities" you are much more likely to get responses from candidates that fit that description.

Third, place your ad in the best place possible. Often practices simply run a newspaper ad. But in a newspaper, you have a wide range of people looking for jobs. A much better use of your money is targeting candidates within your industry. For example, the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) has a recruitment section, and candidates searching for jobs through that source are the ones that have experience in management in healthcare. In other words, target only the market where you'll find candidates specific to your needs.

Prescreen candidates

Fourth, screen your candidates carefully. Instead of listing a fax number for candidates to send in resumes, consider having them apply online instead. For example, ZipRecruiter.com is one online source that I use when assisting clients with hiring. This platform allows you to create an online survey for applicants as well as upload their resumes to that site. Using a process like this allows you to get a sense of a candidate prior to spending any time on the phone or in person. For example, you can ask questions such as how candidates might handle their first day on the job, what are the most important aspects of the position to them, and what salary range are they looking for. So instead of being inundated by faxes, you now have a neat, orderly queue of respondents online that you can work through.

Phone interviews first

Once you have a nice pool of candidates to choose from, your next step is planning an in-person interview. Make a shortlist of candidates and set up phone interviews first. If their phone manner is not appropriate, if they sound lackluster, or if you simply do not like their tone or manner, you spent 10 minutes on the phone versus what can be a drawn out interview in person. Once you have done a preliminary screening over the phone you should end up with a very short list of people you actually want to meet.

But don't just stop at the in-person interview. It is hard to determine if they will be a good fit with your practice. So I recommend having that person be "manager for a day." Pay the potential candidate to spend a day on site at your practice speaking with staff and getting a sense of your operations. Poll your staff to see what they thought of the candidate. The feedback you want from the candidate at the end of the day is identification of potential problematic issues in the practice, and thoughts on things that might need to be improved.

Lastly, you want to have some sort of formal written documentation on this employee. At the least, have a written job description that spells out in detail the requirements of the position. Then use that job description to assess your candidate at the end of the trial period.

Hiring the right person is often a game of chance, but you can significantly alter the odds to be in your favor by following the steps outlined here.

Susanne Madden, MBA, is founder and CEO of The Verden Group, a consulting and business intelligence firm that specializes in practice management, physician education, and healthcare policy. She can be reached at madden@theverdengroup.com or by visiting www.theverdengroup.com.