There’s a great deal of talk today about the difficulties of finding a job, but any ENT physician in private practice knows that hiring someone for a position can be an equally daunting task. For a practice owner, new faces are always a welcome addition to the office, but when there are more physicians and administrative staff coming and going in your practice than patients, there’s likely a problem with the hiring process.
Susanne Madden can attest to that fact. As president and CEO of The Verden Group, a practice management consulting firm in the medical sector, she’s witnessed issues with nonstop physician turnover firsthand, particularly among solo practitioners. “We had a client who had hired and fired and hired and fired … and it didn’t work out because there were mixed expectations,” she said. “They were each on two totally different pages.”
Making sure a new hire is on the same page as the decision makers in the practice is a step that starts in the candidacy stage, and by recognizing certain red flags from the gate, practice owners can eliminate the employee revolving door.
Watch Out for the Bouncers
A resume, typically your first introduction to a candidate, often contains glaring indicators that suggest a person may not be a good fit for your practice. The biggest of these is a candidate who has had multiple jobs in a short period of time. This is a red flag physicians should inquire about immediately to make sure the candidate isn’t simply interested in increasing his salary, rather than growing a practice, Madden said. “That’s so important with physician practices, because they require everybody to be very focused on the patients in order to build a healthy practice. These days there is a real squeeze on physicians; everybody is feeling the pinch.
“If you hire someone who’s in it for the highest bidder, they’re not going to be focused on practice building,” she added. “They’ll be focused on punching the clock and getting out of there, and that can be really unhealthy and have knockdown consequences on the practice, including fracturing cohesiveness.”
Job hopping isn’t the only indicator that a potential employee is just in it for the salary. A candidate’s questions during the interview can also expose a greater focus on pay than on the practice. “During the interview, if they have no questions at all about the job, or if their only question is about benefits, that’s a red flag,” said Michael Grubb, executive director of Charleston Ear, Nose and Throat Associates in South Carolina. “We want people who have done some research on the practice, who ask what they will be doing and who can relate their past experiences and show an interest and passion for wanting to interact with patients.”
Fill In Those Gaps
In the same way that too many jobs in a short period of time can indicate a potential problem, multiple periods of unemployment is also something hiring practitioners should be wary of. “One should also look for any time gaps in a person’s resume and ask for an explanation,” Grubb said. “There may be legitimate reasons these exist, but it is important to know why someone did not move from one job directly to another. It can be a sign of being terminated.”
Similarly, when it comes to physician hires, ask about gaps in education, Madden said. “You want to see that this person has either written something, presented something or is actively doing their CME, and they should put that on a resume. You want to get a sense that this person is actively engaged in their specialty and keeping their skills up to date. If that’s missing, I would be concerned about that.”
Make Them Prove It
—Michael Grubb, executive director, Charleston Ear, Nose and Throat Associates
At ENT and Allergy Associates in Tarrytown, N.Y., interviewers don’t just take a candidate’s—or their references’—word for it, they make them prove what’s on their resume. “We like to try to poke holes,” said Nicole Monti-Spadaccini, the practice’s chief operating officer, noting that people tend to exaggerate on their resume. “When people come in and they don’t interview as well as they present themselves on paper, that’s a red flag, because here you are saying all of these beautiful things about yourself, but you’re not portraying that.”
Going a step further, ENT and Allergy Associates prefers to role play with front office staff during the interview process to test their customer service skills, rather than simply interviewing candidates based on their resumes. They also quiz prospective hires for their marketing and billing departments right on the spot. “If I say, ‘What is an EOB?” which is an explanation of benefits, and they don’t know what that is, then we’re in trouble,” said Monti-Spadaccini.
Though none of the experts interviewed relies heavily on social media checks during the hiring process, they do agree that it’s worth asking whether the interviewee has Facebook and Twitter pages and whether the sites are used personally or professionally. When it comes to physicians, it’s even more crucial to know whether or not they engage with patients on such sites, to be aware of any potential liabilities from the get go.
More telling than social media use, though, is a physician’s patient ratings on websites such as healthgrades.com, Madden said. Though you shouldn’t eliminate a candidate solely on the basis of poor patient grades, hiring managers should absolutely inquire about any negative feedback. If bad ratings are minimal or the result of a smear campaign by a competitor, the prospective hire may still be a good candidate. But if it’s clear poor grades are a reflection of poor physician practice, the candidate may do more harm than good to the practice’s reputation.
“What you don’t want to do is bring somebody new into your practice, and market that to your patients, then your patients do a Google search and see all of these terrible things,” Madden said. “That will turn the patient off to the practice entirely, not just to that one physician.”
The bottom line, the experts agreed, is that the right hire for one’s practice is going to encompass not just the required set of professional skills but also the personality that fits the practice culture. Finding that individual will likely be a tedious process, but it’s one practice owners should lend considerable time to and proceed through with caution because, as Madden said, “It’s much more difficult to fire somebody than it is to not hire them in the first place.”