Making hiring decisions isn't always easy. This is as true of building up a medical staff as it is in any other field. Everyone wants an experienced new hire with all the right credentials, but does that really answer the little questions? Your practice is a high-speed environment where anything can and will happen, so how do you know when a glossy resume is the right overall fit? You'll want to make sure that the candidate fits in with your office culture, but you also need to know if that person can adapt to different situations.
Before you start interviewing, make a list of attributes that your ideal candidate will possess. If there isn't a job description for the position you are trying to fill, now is the time to create one. Form a clear view of exactly what your needs are and check that each candidate fulfills your requirements.
During the interview, ask open-ended, scenario-based questions that will allow you to realistically gauge how the candidate will respond in a medical office environment. This will also provide much more useful information than a simple yes or no question. Take notes during or immediately after the interview to help you remember your initial impressions of each candidate.
To help you along in the hiring process, here are some specific traits you should look for in potential new hires:
- Respect for patient privacy. Every member of your staff must follow HIPAA compliance procedures, so they should be taking the proper steps to keep patients' personal health information (PHI) private and secure. Similarly, staff should know how to handle requests for PHI. Ask if the candidate is familiar with HIPAA or if they have undergone training on HIPAA compliance procedures. A situational question could revolve around what the candidate would tell a family member who calls to check on a patient.
- Customer service. All staff — especially those who deal directly with patients — should possess the proper attitude when it comes to customer service. Ask candidates how they would respond to a patient who has been waiting past their scheduled appointment time or a patient calling about a refill that didn't get sent to the pharmacy. You can also ask candidates how they would assist a patient with a walker or wheelchair or how they would retrieve a patient from the waiting room.
- Conflict management. In a perfect world, all the members of your medical staff would get along all the time. Because your employees are individuals, however, conflicts are bound to arise. Ask candidates how they would handle a disagreement with a co-worker or what they would do if a colleague complained about office policy and procedure. Just as important is asking how they would deal with an annoyed patient.
- Flexibility. Occasionally, you may need a staff member to perform duties outside of regular responsibilities or stay later than usual to complete a project. Ask candidates if they would be willing and able to take on additional tasks if necessary.
For each attribute on your list, have the candidate provide an example from a previous position. Remember to also ask about references at the end of the interview, unless human resources handled that part already. Afterward, discuss the candidate with your colleagues to help you determine if the person would be a good fit. Make sure everyone on the hiring committee agrees before you decide to extend an offer.
Weighing a hiring decision in the medical field is similar to other job areas. Yes, a big piece of the debate revolves around experience and qualifications, but some good qualities are universal across disciplines. Take the time to come up with exactly what you're looking for in a position, and focus your situational questioning so that interviewees can respond with lengthy, revealing answers. If you do your due diligence ahead of time, you'll know what you're looking for and have an easier time selecting a new staff member who will fit right in and contribute.