Making the Good Hire and the Part You’re Overlooking
August 5, 2015
Most ODs are very cautious to not hire a job candidate who will not work out. We go to great lengths to screen out the wrong type of employees during the interview process. This is understandable, of course, but I think we should be just as concerned about missing out on a good hire. Most employers don’t think about that aspect as they recruit job candidates. It is just as problematic if we pass on a person who would have been a good employee based on assumptions that are inaccurate. In spite of our best efforts, both of these situations occur: we occasionally hire the wrong person and we occasionally reject a good person. Being aware of both possibilities will help you improve your chances of finding good employees.
How we hire a bad person
Most of the current strategies we use in the recruiting and hiring process are geared to prevent an employer from making a bad hire. In spite of all this effort, experienced managers will agree that we never really know a new employee until he or she has worked the job for a few weeks. Eventually, the true work ethic, job skills and personality traits come out, but job applicants can become masters at not revealing their true selves during an interview. People always put their best foot forward and suppress their negative traits in order to get a job offer.
The interview is still the best tool we can use to select the best person for the job, but it is far from foolproof.
I’ve hired employees who seemed extremely happy and pleasant in the interview, only to have them never smile at patients and actually be quite rude.
I’ve hired staff members who said they are great team players, only to have them create hard feelings among their co-workers and hurt office morale.
I’ve hired a person who had great experience in previous eye care jobs only to find out that she was really not that bright.
I have called colleagues for references and received positive reports only to have the new hire be chronically late for work and frequently call off sick. I think the reference source was afraid to tell me the truth for fear of legal action.
When the new person is not quite what you hoped, it is best to have a talk about the issues right away. You must let the new employee know what your expectations are. I always give staff members plenty of chances to improve and train, but if you don’t see improvement quickly it is best to part ways early and resume your search.
How we overlook a good person
In my consulting work, I often come across optometrists who know they are understaffed and have been searching for the right person for months. They may have hired someone during that period, but it did not work out and they are still looking for the right employee. In those cases, I have to look at the practice owner and ask some tough questions. Except for very unusual circumstances, it should not take that long! The goal in hiring is not to seek perfection, but rather to hire the best person available in the job market at the wage range the practice can afford. I think we have to do a reasonable search of that job market and make an offer to the best person, even if that person is far from perfect. Just pick the best person in your pool of candidates. If the new hire is lacking in some skills, it is up to the practice to train him or her.
Some of the applicants who were rejected by the owner or manager would probably have become excellent employees or at least average ones.
The person you thought was not friendly was actually just very nervous in the interview because she wanted the job so badly. Once she gets past her nerves, she has a great smile and she uses it often.
When you called another OD in town for a reference, he told you the applicant caused a lot of problems when she worked for him. The truth is, she was a good employee but he views your practice as a threat to him and he does not want to help you.
You did a credit check on the applicant and found that she had a history of financial problems and a low credit score, so you did not hire her. There could be many reasons why a person had financial problems, but could still be an excellent employee. She may need another chance. She certainly needs a job.
You noticed several spelling errors on an applicant’s resume, so you passed on hiring her. Instead you hired someone with a perfect resume, but you did not realize that her brother-in-law created the document for her, much of it was not true and she can’t spell well either.
You did a phone interview and you got a bad vibe about a candidate. She seemed timid. But without seeing her body language, her excellent appearance and her eye contact, you misjudged her and she now works for another practice in town.
Trust your instinct but don’t be shocked
The more I study human resource management, the more I rely on my instincts about people. I look at education, job history, professional experience and other factors on the resume. I think pre-employment testing for job skills and personality is a very useful tool. But the interview is how I get to know the person. In some cases, if we are not sure about a candidate, we will invite him or her to observe the practice and conduct a working interview for a day or two at an agreed upon pay rate.
If my instinct and that of my managers is good, we make a job offer and hope for the best. But I’m never shocked if it doesn’t work out.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.