Increase the Likelihood of a Good Hire at Your Medical Practice

July 1, 2012
Carol Stryker

Poor staff performance and excessive turnover can't be completely eliminated at your medical practice, but here are three principals to reduce these incidents.

Poor staff performance and excessive staff turnover are serious problems for many physicians' practices. Neither can be eliminated, but effective hiring practices are a necessary first step for minimizing them. Adhering to three basic principles will avoid much disappointment and frustration.

Don't succumb to time pressure

In a practice that is already busy and feels stretched to the limit, the natural response is to fill a vacancy as soon as possible. Hiring the first candidate who is clean, reasonably well-groomed and can pass the background check solves two problems: It stops the time drain of the interview process and it fills an obvious resource gap.

All too often, hiring quickly is a huge waste of time and energy. Even with a good hire, it is often several months before any new employee is a net gain to office productivity. If the person is not a good fit, there is the aggravation of the events that prove the point, and the time required to recover from each of them. Depending upon the soft-heartedness and conflict aversion of the decision maker, these events can recur over a long time. Once the decision is made that the person has to go, there is the administrative burden of terminating an unsatisfactory employee. And then the selection and training processes begin again.

The most effective way to resist the temptation of a quick fix is to be mindful of the consequences of a bad decision.

Clearly define requirements and expectation

Most job postings list only the minimum objective requirements of the position, along with meaningless phrases like "patient-centric" and "high energy." They are a good start, and no more. The hiring manager must articulate her subjective expectations before interviews begin. Then each candidate must be evaluated according to those expectations.

Does the position require someone gregarious? Does it need someone who can focus intently for a long period of time, or someone who copes well with interruption? Do you want someone who does what he is told, or someone who understands the standards and priorities and can adjust, as a situation requires? These cannot be part of the job posting or description because they vary by hiring manager, and they vary depending upon the attributes of the existing members of the team.

Most interviewees will meet the requirements and be appealing, especially if you are desperate. That is not enough. While you may have heard, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there," the truth is that, "If you don't know were you are going, NO road will get you there." You are bound to be disappointed.

Give candidates a picture of your requirements and expectations

What does it mean to say "Professional demeanor is very important here?" Does that mean all the MAs wear the same color scrubs by day of the week? Does it mean that the patient is addressed by last name? Does it mean that there are no personal conversations or complaints within hearing of patients? You and the candidate can nod in agreement that professional demeanor is important and have completely different understandings.

It is much more effective to say:
"Our MAs may wear any solid color scrubs they like, as long as they are pressed and fresh. No T-shirts. When they greet a patient, they address her as Ms. Jones, shake her hand and introduce themselves. We are very careful to keep our focus on the patient and her experience in the practice. For that reason we never complain about anything within a patient's hearing and we avoid personal conversation in the common areas."

In the alternative, the hiring manager might say:
"Our MAs wears scrubs and many wear T-shirts. Some of the heavier ladies are more comfortable not tucking in the T-shirts. We know our patients well and we call them by their first names. Shaking hands is way too formal for this office, and it spreads germs."

These descriptions would help a candidate make an informed decision as to how well she would fit into the environment.

Nothing can ensure that each hiring decision will be correct. Increasing the likelihood of a good choice is the best you can do. These three principles, adhered to conscientiously, substantially improve your rate of success.

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