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Six Ways to Hire Like an HR Pro at Your Medical Practice


Don't have the resources to employ a hiring professional at your medical practice? Here's how to master the hiring process on your own.

You have the medical knowledge, experience, and skills for opening a private practice. But are you ready for “HR shock”?

That’s how Adam Splaver, a Florida-based cardiologist, described the transition from a larger practice (where dedicated HR staff handled hiring and employment) to his new small practice.

Worried about the lack of human resource policies and benefits in place, Splaver and his business partner contracted out for the initial set-up, but he recently told Physicians Practice that hiring and employment management still need to be more fully addressed.

“Currently, our HR practices are based on what I saw at my former, larger office,” he said. But even the most talented doctors cannot count on whatever human resource acumen they acquired through office osmosis. Splaver added, “I’m a physician; my strength is cardiology and that’s where my focus needs to be ... not on HR.”

Nurse practitioner Sharon Lockridge experienced the other side of HR shock. While looking for a new job, she was disappointed with the hiring process at some of the smaller practices she was interested in; from how interviews were set up to the way things were discussed. At one “mom-and-pop shop practice,” said Lockridge, the understandably limited benefits were presented with no negotiable flexibility, “and kind of an ‘oh well’ shrug on their part. It felt inconsiderate.”

Unfortunately, high-quality new hires don’t just happen through good intentions and luck. If you have no hiring professional on hand, consider these recommendations to bring strong team members aboard:

1. Determine your needs and plan
Nancy Saperstone, a senior HR business partner/communications specialist, told Physicians Practice that clarity is the first step: Determine job competencies - not merely titles - before recruiting begins.

“Spell out your recruiting and interviewing process well in advance of doing either,” she suggested.

2. Ask for referrals
Use current employees as sources; their trusted former colleagues can be your best referrals for fast, strong team-building. On the other hand, Laura Palmer, senior industry analyst with the Medical Group Management Association, said word-of-mouth can backfire if you wind up with another practice’s second choice.

3. Consider the history
Focus on applicant backgrounds - past actions often predict future behavior. Mistakes on a resume may mean there will be more to come. Bruce Clarke, CEO of a human resource management firm, concurred on the importance of the past.

“Emphasize past accomplishments and actions. If possible, use basic assessment tools for an overview of the applicant’s work and communication styles,” Clarke said.

4. Ask the right questions
Ask open-ended, behavioral-based interview questions. Saperstone recommended letting the applicant talk 80 percent of the time, while the interviewer still maintains control of the conversation. Palmer said initial phone calls can be used to hone in on the most eligible candidates. She asks each applicant the same three to five questions, including, “Why are you looking for a job?” Then she uses face-to-face interviews to see how different job-related scenarios would be handled.

5. Ask for staff input
Discuss applicants’ qualifications with staff. Make sure that everyone on the hiring team agrees that there’s a good cultural fit. Don’t move forward with offers until background checks and references are complete.

Clarke added, “The old saying is, ‘People are hired for what they know and fired for who they are.’ The more you know about how they will fit your office culture and whether they will solve more problems than they create, the better your hiring.”

6. Know the laws
Pamela Tahim, a senior associate attorney and specialist in healthcare practices, boiled down complicated hiring laws for Physicians Practice. She said:
• Avoid questions about or refusing to hire someone based on the applicant’s status (i.e. race, color, gender, national origin, religion, age, or disability).
• Avoid asking about prior arrests; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and courts consider that to have a disparate impact on minorities.
• All employers must get I-9 information on all new hires within three business days of hiring regardless of employer size.
• Exercise caution with employment offers and contracts: Do not promise more than can be delivered.
• Never discriminate against an employee based upon his status (i.e. race, color, gender, national origin, religion, age, or disability) whether in hiring, management, or termination.

If you do have the means, consider hiring a professional to assist you with the employee hiring and recruiting process. Splaver is sold on the services of HR professionals, from the initial research of benefits packages to hiring and ongoing management. “Hiring our own HR team member is a decision that’s next up on my ‘to-do’ list," he said.


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