Article Date: 8/1/2002

staffing solutions
Avoiding Costly Hiring Mistakes

Six missteps to recognize and avoid.

People who are ill-suited to their jobs or to your practice can wreak havoc, leading to costly errors, poor office morale, loss of patients and daily stress for everyone. In many cases, faulty hiring decisions are the result of poor interviews with job applicants.

Inevitably, poorly chosen employees quit or are let go. This is bound to happen occasionally, even with the most competent of interviewers. However, frequent staff turnover can prove disruptive to the day-to-day operation of a practice. Here are some ideas of what not to do when hiring.

Dodging common pitfalls

Here are the six most common interviewing and hiring errors -- and how to avoid them.

1 Hiring under pressure. You're overworked and understaffed. The pool of applicants is small and out of desperation, you take the best of the batch. I call this the "buy now, pay later" approach.

Recommendation: Don't compromise your standards for the sake of expediency. Hang in there until you can find the right person.

Perhaps an employment agency can provide a temporary employee or you can call a former employee to fill in. Also, employees who know each others' jobs can take up the slack so you can keep looking.

An added thought: If the salary and benefits you're offering are less than the going rate in your area, then you might want to offer a higher salary and perhaps more flexible benefits to produce more and better-qualified applicants.

2 Talking too much. O.D.s often spend so much time telling applicants about the practice and the job that they don't learn what they need to about them.

Recommendation: Jim Kennedy, author of Getting Behind the Resume, says that when assessing a job applicant, you should listen about 80% of the time.

3 Succumbing to the "halo effect." There's a tendency to be so dazzled by one quality of a candidate (e.g., computer literacy, friendliness, language fluency) that you lose sight of the job's other requirements.

Recommendation: Note the applicant's qualities that impressed you, then compare them to the requirements of the job.

4 Overselling the job. Wanting to hire a highly qualified applicant may lead you to make promises (e.g., job responsibilities, salary increases, vacations) that you can't keep without inviting staff mutiny.

Recommendation: Don't oversell a job by promising more than you can deliver or by downplaying the negative aspects of a job. When the facts become known, a new employee will either lose motivation or quit.

One solution is to rethink the position. Can you broaden the appealing aspects of the job? Can you trade less-desirable aspects of the job, divide them out among other employees or outsource them?

5 Asking yes-or-no questions. Such answers tell you nothing about the job applicant.

Recommendation: Use questions that begin with "why," "what," "how" or "describe to me." For best results, probe with a follow-up request such as, "That's interesting, tell me more."

6 Hiring someone who's not quite right for the job but whom you hope will change. Do you believe that if you're persuasive and persistent enough, you can really change another person? Do you think, for example, that you can convince an employee to be friendlier? Eager to learn new skills? Willing to work late on busy days? It's possible, but unlikely.

Recommendation: Accept that there's a limit to how much you can change other people.

Get it right the first time

By incorporating these recommendations into your practice, you're more likely to get the right people on board to ensure a smooth-running office, patient satisfaction and steady growth. Take this advice and you'll probably get it right the first time.



Optometric Management, Issue: August 2002