Hiring 101

Develop a comprehensive plan before adding a new staff member.


Hiring 101

Develop a comprehensive plan before targeting a new staff member.



Hiring the wrong person is always more expensive, both financially and emotionally, than hiring no one at all. It pays to have a strategy and a process for recruiting your next team member so that you can be sure you’re hiring the right person.

If you are getting ready to hire a new staff person, do you have a plan? Here is a step-by-step guide to hiring the ideal candidate.

1 Define what you want.

Remember that you are not just hiring for a specific position, but you are also looking to hire someone who compliments your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Not only does the candidate need to have the right skill set, but he/she also needs to have the personality to fit in with the rest of your current team members. Ask yourself the following questions prior to initiation of the recruitment process:

► Will you require licensure or certification?

► Are you willing to train your staff or do you want them already trained?

► How long-term is the role that you’re looking to fill?

► Who will be his/her supervisor and/or trainer?

► Are there any personality issues that need to be considered either for the candidate or within your current team?

2 Develop a job description.

Job descriptions serve as a foundation for the person you intend to hire. They also act as a guide during the recruitment process to make sure the candidate is what you are looking for and not just a person everyone likes. Personality is important, but hiring the right personality with the right skills sets should be your goal. (See page 36 for more on job descriptions)

Once you have developed a job description, it is advisable to pass it around for everyone in the practice to review. This not only sets the stage for the interview process, but it also serves as a great technique to make sure that everyone else on the team knows what you are looking for and how it may affect their positions. Also, a written job description can be useful in future performance reviews, especially if the employee needs improvement in an area. Having this description makes it clear what your expectations are from the start.

3 Develop a position-specific employment application.

The next step is to prepare an employment application that goes beyond the standard application and helps you and your team learn more about the candidate than what is normally obtained. Here are some things to consider putting on your employment application.

1. Basic personal information. Name, address, phone, etc.

2. Type of employment they are seeking.

3. Information about current employment. Example: pay scale, responsibilities, accomplishments.

4. Education and skills relevant to the position.

5. Employment history.

6. Math test. Especially for positions that deal with money, our office asks basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division questions. You would be surprised by how often applicants get these simple questions wrong.

7. Personality test. There are many different tests available that you could find through a quick search. These tests help predict where personality conflicts may arise in your office.

8. Short situational questions. It’s useful to present difficult patient situations to see how the applicant handles them. For example: “A patient asks you a question about his macular degeneration, but you are unsure about the exact answer and the doctor is out of the office. What do you do?”

4 Conduct candidate research.

Next, perform a series of background and reference checks.

1. Basic background check. These days a quick search on Google, Facebook or LinkedIn turns up some very interesting facts about candidates. Do not be afraid to use them.

2. Reference checks. Always call listed references. They should speak highly of the candidate. If not, this is an early warning sign.

3. Position-specific considerations. This includes credit checks for financial positions, driving records for drivers and criminal records checks for unsupervised patient contact.

4. Past-employer checks. It is usually suggested that you perform these calls by phone. Start with dates and position verification, and then get more specific about responsibility and performance if the past employer is willing to disclose them. The purpose of these questions is to check against the statements on the application as well as claims made during the interview process. Other things to verify:

► Dates of employment

► Positions held

► Duties

► Starting and ending salaries

► Eligibility for rehire

► Reason for termination

► General attendance and performance history

► Strengths and weakness

It is critical that you ask the candidates for permission to check references. In most instances, the candidate shows concern or discloses an issue at this stage if he/she has something to hide.

5 Prepare for the interview.

Prior to a candidate arriving for his/her interview, make sure to read the candidate’s resume, application, reference checks and pertinent job description criteria. Develop an agenda for the interview to ensure that you cover all appropriate topics, such as education, training, work history, job-related skills, attitudes and personality assessment. By asking a series of questions, you can use the interview to find out more about the candidate’s personality — what is not on the resume.

Our practice has found it useful to interview each candidate two times — once with the practice staff and once with the doctors. While our team members do not make final decisions regarding new hires, they often catch things about candidates that the doctors may miss. Office staff is very in tune with any potential personality or work ethic problems that the candidates may bring to the table. After all, they are the ones who will be working in close contact with them.

Also, use open-ended questions — those that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer (“What were your duties at your previous job?”). Keep the questions simple and focused, and always confirm key assumptions that you have made, such as the applicant’s skill sets.

It is also very helpful to use an interview rating sheet so you compare all candidates equally and with the same criteria. Use the rating sheet to prioritize the qualities your office is looking for and assign each applicant a grade.

Making your decision

Remember: It is better to be overly picky and thorough when selecting your staff members than to choose someone on a whim. Training new staff is time consuming, and firing a new hire is expensive and disruptive to your office. Preparation during the interview process is an investment that pays off. OM

images Dr. Kiernan is an associate at Eye Consultants of Colorado, a private practice in Conifer, Colo. She has an interest in specialty contact lens fits and practice management. Email her at, or send comments to