American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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Tips and tricks for hiring the right people

From the May ACP Internist, copyright 2011 by the American College of Physicians

Survey most practice owners and managers about what aspect of practice management takes the most time, effort, and energy, and the answer is likely managing the people in the practice. It’s critically important, then, to build a great team of employees who do good work, are reliable, and work well together. Hiring new staff costs both time and money, and frequently a 30- to 45-minute interview is the only opportunity to determine whether a person will succeed in your practice. Here are some tips on ways to increase the odds of making a good hire.

  • Take your time. Avoid hiring the wrong person because you are desperate to fill the job. You waste precious time attempting to train the wrong person and then you have to start over anyway.
  • Hire for good character over skills. Skills can be learned, but the personality can’t change. A good “fit” can be better than just the right skills and work experience.
  • Offer your practice to a local community college or allied health school as a site for students to do clinical rotations or internships. This allows you to evaluate their work and work ethic, and if you work with the faculty you may get the better students.
  • Consider “temp to hire” for replacements, especially in medical assistant positions. It can be worth the buyout and higher hourly wage to test out new employees.
  • Involve staff in the recruitment process. Have appropriate staff screen the top resumes, do a phone interview, and, with leadership approval, schedule top candidates for on-site interviews. Ultimately the hiring decision is yours, but if the people with whom the person will be working feel invested in the process, the likelihood of success is greater.
  • Check references. Offer the job contingent on pre-employment screens, credit check and driving record (if appropriate).
  • Prepare a set of questions in advance and ask all candidates the same questions during each interview. That way you can compare apples to apples as you compare candidates. It doesn’t mean you can’t ask other questions as well, but it makes comparing candidates much easier.
  • Use behavioral interviewing techniques. The idea of behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. For example, ask the interviewee, “Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way. Or “Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.” Or “Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.”
  • Provide the candidate with a job description. Discuss expectations and practice philosophy and ask if the candidate can support them. Encourage questions.
  • After hiring, train, monitor, give feedback often, and hold people accountable.
  • Do exit interviews to learn what your practice does well and not so well in hiring and retention.

Finally, listen to your gut. If something inside is making you feel hesitant, it is probably best to keep looking. For more human resources information, go to ACP’s practice management section.

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