Physicians Practice Pearls: Hire Right

July 15, 2008
Karen Zupko

You don’t need an expensive recruiter’s help to make good hiring decisions. Let’s look at the basics.


How can you make a good hiring decision without resorting to an expensive recruiter’s help?

Start off right by having a well-written position description and strategically placed help wanted ads. Also, be prepared to triage to get to five to seven top candidates. To narrow the list to a manageable two or three, conduct prescreening telephone interviews.

To make this an effective tool:

Ask the right questions. Review the résumés more closely, noting both strengths and potential weaknesses. Base many of the questions you ask a candidate during this phone call on specifics drawn from her résumé, or indirectly related to the résumé. Here are a few general questions that have consistently drawn interesting and useful responses for us and our clients:

1. Imagine this scenario: You are at the front desk - the only staff member in the front office at that moment. A patient walks in, obviously very upset about something, and walks up to the front desk. How do you handle this situation?

2. Have you ever not gotten along with an employer, supervisor, and/or coworker? How did you resolve that situation?

3. Tell me about a time when you and your previous physician supervisor disagreed, but you still found a way to get your point across.

Set goals for the prescreening interview. Time is valuable in the interview process; you do not want bad candidates to waste yours. Be prepared for and plot the course of the phone interview so that you can get the information you need quickly and efficiently. A checklist for your phone call should include:

1. Check and clarify information from the candidate’s résumé.

2. Ask for a two-minute version of the candidate’s employment history; take note of instances where this summary does not match the written résumé.

3. Ask about gaps and short stays at jobs listed in the candidate’s résumé. If the candidate doesn’t have any satisfactory explanations, you may not want to invite him to the in-person interview.

4. Assess the candidate’s phone manners, speech habits, and interpersonal skills. Can you see yourself communicating effectively with this candidate on a daily basis? What about your patients?

5. Determine whether the candidate’s availability meets your needs. Does her expected compensation fall within a range you’re comfortable paying (i.e., competitive, but not more than you can afford)?

6. Expand on the résumé’s more technical information by asking about specific software, such as, “Have you ever used XYZ software?” Ask how she would perform a fairly complex function commonly enacted in your office.

7. Use the résumé to frame questions about the candidate’s past interactions with physicians, supervisors, coworkers, and “problem patients.”

Compare notes and decide quickly. Always take notes and compare and contrast candidates. Discuss the candidates with your partners and key staff members in the practice. Remember, speed is important here: Your candidates are certain to be concurrently looking at other practices for jobs. If you wait too long, someone else may get the candidate who would have been best for you.

Karen Zupko has been a consultant in the field of medical practice management since 1974. She can be reached at kzupko@karenzupko.com.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of Physicians Practice.