Tips For Hiring Medical Practice Staff

The hiring process is often a doozy. It’s hard to decide from a large pool of candidates exactly which person will be the best fit for your practice, especially when all you have to go on is a few sheets of paper and a couple of conversations. How do you measure the quality of a person’s work ethic, adaptability, and dedication to patient satisfaction with so little to go on?

The trick, many experienced practice managers have found, is in the interview.

While plenty of information about a person can be gained by reading through a list of educational accomplishments, past work experience, and other pertinent skills, a real understanding of the individual is hard to come by without direct interaction. Once you’ve established a candidate has the base qualifications, and then some in many cases, for the position, the interview will help you distinguish the resume-fluffers from the true gems—individuals whose skills will add real value to your practice.

Below are some interview tips for hiring the best practice staff possible, for both medical and office/billing personnel. You can find out a great deal about a person if you know what to look for.

  • Craft your questions carefully and with attention to individual detail. Writing good interview questions is a bit of an art. Your questions should be open-ended, inviting your interviewee to talk about opinions and experiences in such a way that you might observe his/her ability to interact and be personable. The right questions serve this dual purpose, of both providing information and giving you a more full impression of the type of person you are working with. Below are some sample questions and areas of focus to consider:

o   Attitude: “Consider this scenario: An older patient calls to inform you that his prescription was not called in correctly or on time, causing him to waste half an hour in a pharmacy check-out line only to be turned away. How do you respond?”

o   Overall knowledge: “Describe what you understand of this position and what you think you can bring to the practice.”

o   HIPAA knowledge: “Consider this scenario: A woman calls in about her sister, who has been ill and is in the office for a follow-up appointment. The woman says her sister has been less than forthcoming and she is worried about her. She asks how she is doing. How do you respond?”

o   Motivation: “What are some experiences you’ve had in the past with office inefficiencies and what steps did you take regarding those issues?” and/or “What was your reasoning for starting on this career path?”

o   Ability to problem-solve/good decision-making skills: “Tell me about an experience you’ve had with a seemingly insurmountable issue with the workplace. How did you handle the problem? In retrospect, what would you change about your response or the situation at the time?

o   Coworker interactions: “How would you handle a conflict with a fellow staff member?” and/or “Consider this scenario: A coworker you consider a friend begins expressing frustration about another coworker’s attitude. This interaction occurs on the job. How do you respond?”

o   Conflict management: “Describe a situation where you have directly assisted a very angry or frustrated patient. What strategies do you use to calm or resolve patient concerns?”

  • Stay within the limits. Remember that there are some areas of information that are inappropriate for an interview. Questions regarding family, religion, marital status, nationality or country of origin, etc. are not legal topics of discussion when considering a candidate for employment. It’s important to ensure your interview questions do not revolve around questions of this nature, so as not to give the impression of taking those details under consideration for employment. Lawyers or human resource departments can offer assistance when additional clarification on any of these issues is necessary.
  • Don’t be afraid to contact previous employers or references. Sometimes the best information is the voice of experience. Previous employers can give you details that few others would have regarding the individual’s true capacity to perform the work and contribute to a positive work environment. If a candidate indicates that previous employers unequivocally cannot be contacted, that’s a red flag. This does not mean that the issue is insurmountable but more that you may need to ask additional questions about the employer and the candidate’s experiences there. Refusal to provide details is a further red flag in the process.

Hiring an effective and positive practice staff, both medical and administrative, is a challenge every practice manager faces. The questions above can provide some insight into the minds and decisions of potential candidates, as well as some perspective on how they interact with others.

It’s not a foolproof process, however, so be wary. Most managers responsible for hiring develop a sort of sixth sense after many years and a gut feeling for strong candidates who have the potential to bring real value to the practice. Reserve judgment on any candidates until you have all the details and listen carefully to how a person approaches their explanations as well. At times, an inexperienced candidate with a positive attitude and willingness to learn can be the better choice over a highly experienced one who is rigid in his/her approach. Be open-minded in the process and secure in the qualities you are seeking in your ideal practice staff, and you might be surprised at how obvious the right candidates will seem.


close up of male doctor holding smartphone with medical app