Pro Hiring Tips for Medical Practices

This is a guest post from June Hannan at Pro Mentor Coaching.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen in the healthcare industry is turnover and recruitment. Of course, that leads to the question, “How can medical clinics hire the right person the first time?”

I would suggest that it’s a multi-step process. It doesn’t hinge solely on the ad you write, the interviews you conduct, or the methods you use for recruitment. Instead, it’s a combination of those factors and because of the high costs associated with turnover, it’s increasingly important medical practices get it right the first time. To that end, I have some suggestions to help you improve your hiring process, from creating the ad to extending the offer.

Why is hiring the right person so important?

There are several reasons it’s extremely important to hire the right person. For one thing, it costs a lot of money to hire someone. Not only is money spent during the recruitment process, but it’s also spent in the course of training a new employee. After all, during the training process, your new hire—and the staff member they’re shadowing—are not as productive as they could be during the training period.

However, it’s not just the money. High turnover also affects employee morale. While it’s tempting to take this issue lightly and think, “We’ll just hire someone else,” staff begin to get frustrated when you constantly have vacancies to fill. Those times when you’re short-staffed because you have to recruit someone new again means other team members are typically picking up the slack. After a while, this grows tiring.

Hiring the right person is important for your clinic as a whole. Your patients like coming in and seeing the same familiar, smiling faces. When they come in and encounter new staff members on a regular basis because you’re continually hiring the wrong person, they feel less comfortable — and that’s not good for your practice.

Determining what you actually need

While all of the recruitment steps are important, determining exactly what you need will save you a lot of hassle in the long run. So, before you rush to create a job ad for a newly vacant position, take time to do an analysis, asking questions like:

  • Do we really need to hire someone?
  • Can this work be shared among the staff instead?
  • Are there any other alternatives to hiring someone?
  • Can a part-time employee do this work or will we need to hire someone full-time?

If after answering those questions, you decide you still need to hire someone, I encourage you to be very specific about what you need, i.e. which skills will this staff member require? Is there a certain amount of experience you’re looking for? Do they need any specific training or qualifications?

Rather than relying on a previously written job description, I would suggest you begin the process of writing the job requirements from scratch. Positions have a tendency to evolve over time, and a job description written a few years ago may not actually reflect the responsibilities of the job position today.

Also, I recommend that practice managers involve the rest of their staff when determining these requirements. Because they’re on the front lines, they tend to have a really good understanding of what the role involves. So, query those staff members who will be working with your new hire to help you develop the selection criteria. Additionally, if your new hire is replacing someone who’s going on maternity leave or changing careers, definitely have a sit-down with your departing employee so they can help you create the job requirements.

One benefit of doing such a thorough job on this step is that it’s going to make your hiring decision that much easier. Because you’re going to have a very clear picture of what you need, you’re less likely to overlook someone’s subpar qualifications because you’re charmed by their personality.

On the whole, you can expect a fully-fledged job description to run between 3-4 pages. It should include things like: responsibilities, position requirements, who the position reports to, how often reviews occur, the hours the new hire will be expected to work, necessary skills, and any other special training that’s needed.

Writing the job ad and advertising the position

When it comes to writing the job ad, one thing I’ve noticed is that many practices put way too much detail into their ad. Rather than putting your entire job description in the ad, I’d suggest you only use a subset of that information in the ad itself.

I also think that while it’s great to know what you want in an employee, you don’t want to discourage people from applying by listing requirements that aren’t strictly necessary. For example, you may want to ask yourself, “Does the person I hire really need to know how to use XYZ software?” Maybe they do, but could it be possible that as long as they’re computer-literate, they’ll be able to pick that skill up quickly? That said, you’re definitely going to want to sort out the difference between those skills that are nice to have and those skills that are essential.

Once you’ve done that, I would also suggest that you need to carefully explain in your ad what the job position is — whether it’s part-time or full-time, if the practice environment is casual or more formal, and what the minimum conditions are for employment. However, leave the topic of compensation out — at this point, it’s not in your best interest to indicate the salary you’re prepared to offer.

When it comes to writing the ad, I would caution you to stay up-to-date on your legal obligations. In fact, if you’re not sure whether it’s legal to put a certain requirement in your ad, don’t put it in there. It’s always better to err on the side of caution with this topic.

While this isn’t a comprehensive list, your ad should avoid specifying the gender you want to hire, marital status, age, religion, union activity — you also shouldn’t discuss these topics in an interview either. Although you can stipulate certain requirements of the job — for instance, like the ability to lift 75-pound boxes — you can’t specify you want to hire a man.

The final thing I would encourage you to do when you’re creating your ad is to ask the applicants to provide you with a written application. A written cover letter can tell you a lot about an applicant. For instance, you’d be surprised how many people will make mistakes addressing the letter, write run-on sentences, include grammatical errors, or send something with grubby fingerprints on it!

While it’s not strictly necessary that the letter be handwritten, I will say that you seem to get a more comprehensive picture of the applicant when the letter is handwritten, rather than typed. Plus, in the medical field, you tend to rely a lot on handwritten notes so this is a great way to assess an applicant’s job readiness. Anyways, this doesn’t have to be a long letter, it’s just a good opportunity to see if a person’s neat, spells correctly, and uses good grammar.

Once your ad’s been created, I would encourage you to post it internally, as well as advertise it in newspapers, on job boards like, and also with local universities and registered training organisations.

Furthermore, I recommend you ask your staff if they know of anyone who would be a good fit and if so, have them encourage that individual to apply. While you don’t want to give those candidates any special treatment, you may just find a real gem by asking your employees to get the word out about your vacancy.

Conducting preliminary phone interviews

Once you’ve posted your job, the applications will begin to roll in. At this point, I’d recommend you narrow it down to a select few and contact them for phone interviews. Doing this will save you so much time and trouble. Sometimes you get someone on the phone and you can tell more or less immediately that they wouldn’t be a good fit for the job. In many cases, phone skills are a very important part of the job position so this is a great test to see how applicants respond.

When I conduct a phone interview, I’m looking for professionalism and good communication skills. Unfortunately, many times you’ll call someone and they’ll use slang, treat you like a pal rather than a potential employer, or seem to take the process less seriously than they should.

Naturally, I’ll screen those people out, which brings me to an important point — don’t feel like just because you’ve contacted someone for a phone interview, you’re obligated to bring them in for an in-person interview. It’s fine to end a call by saying, “If you’re selected for an in-person interview, we’ll contact you by Friday to arrange a date and time.”

Scheduling in-person interviews

After the phone interviews, you should narrow your candidates down to between 4-5. At this point, I’ll email those candidates and send them the complete 3-4 page job description so they can review it prior to the interview.

Also, while this is fairly uncommon, I’ll check references and police records in advance of in-person interviews. There are two important reasons for this. The first one is to uncover any red flags. For instance, I’ll contact former employers with a list of questions and one thing I always make sure to ask is, “Would you hire this individual again?”

For legal reasons, many people are reluctant to make disparaging remarks about a former employee. However, sometimes a person will hesitate before answering or occasionally, you’ll even get a flat-out no. Of course, those responses are huge red flags.

The other benefit of checking references in advance is that it gives you the opportunity to look for stand-out candidates. Sometimes you’ll interview a few different people and there isn’t always a clear indication as to which one you should hire. In my experience, I’ve found that when that occurs, there is typically one person in the bunch who stands out because of their exceptional references.

Conducting in-person interviews

When it’s time to conduct interviews, I’d suggest that not only should the interviewee prepare, but the interviewer should as well. Definitely create a list of questions so you can stay on track throughout the interview. Also, make sure to schedule enough time for the interview — you don’t want the process to feel rushed. Lastly, I’d encourage you to ask another team member to sit in attendance with you during the interview. The presence of someone else will help you keep the interview from getting side-tracked, as well as make it easier to come to an objective hiring decision.

When it comes time for the interview, I like to begin by introducing myself, describing my business, explaining what it is we do, and then easing into the interview by asking candidates to tell me about their current job.

The goal is to make the conversation a warm and friendly one. Ideally, you want information to flow freely, the interviewee to feel relaxed, and the room to be free of disruptions. In my experience, people are more honest in this type of setting.

Once I’ve gotten the basics out of the way, I begin asking questions about their knowledge, abilities, and attitude toward work. For instance, I’ll ask about their current job, its responsibilities, what they enjoy most about it, why they want to leave it, and what’s appealing to them about the job they’re interviewing for. I’ll also ask them about their key competencies, as well as other skills and relevant experiences. Finally, I’ll question them about their former job positions and ask them to explain any gaps in their work history.

Throughout this process, I’ll jot down notes so I can review it against my selection criteria later. Having said that, sometimes you just know immediately someone won’t be a good fit — either they don’t enunciate, they lack professionalism, or they have hygiene issues which are absolutely unacceptable in the healthcare field.

However, assuming there are none of those red flags, I’ll use my notes to rate them on ten core competencies after the interview — while these vary depending on the position, typically I’m looking at things like skill set, personal presentation, and temperament. I find that numbers are more objective, making it easier to keep emotions out of the hiring process.
Selecting a candidate

When it comes time to select a new hire, sometimes the answer is obvious, and there’s someone who’s clearly the best candidate. But, other times, you need to schedule a second interview. When that occurs, I’ll invite candidates in individually, then walk them through the practice, introduce them to staff members, and allow them to spend a couple minutes talking to staff about the job and what it entails.

At the end of it all, I’ll ask the candidate for his or her impressions, as well as talk to other team members to get their reactions.

I also pay attention to how they treat staff members, the way they handle equipment, and whether they acknowledge patients in the practice. In most cases, this is all you need to reach clarity on a hiring decision.

Making an offer

When it comes time to make an offer, I always do it over the phone. Having said that, I also confirm the offer in writing, including all of the details — things like the salary, start date, the finishing date if it’s a temporary position, and the terms and conditions of employment. Because I want the new hire to have a great impression of my company, I make sure the letter is friendly, positive, welcoming, and easy-to-understand.

That’s it. While I can’t guarantee that doing this will mean you hire the perfect employee every single time, I can promise you that by following these steps, you’ll hire the right person far more often — ultimately, saving you time and money while decreasing your risk of employee turnover.

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