Today’s tight employment market makes it even more important to hire the right employees for your office. In fact, this issue is so important that The Houston Business Journal recently reported the results of a poll that found 90% of business people surveyed saw hiring and retaining quality employees as their number-one priority.
It’s also a task that can cause a good deal of stress and anxiety, because many doctors aren’t familiar with the nuances of the hiring process. As entrepreneurs, many chiropractors assume several roles, especially in the early years of building a business. However, as the business prospers, the need to add staff begins to loom larger: No longer can you be the office manager, bookkeeper and scheduler, and treat patients at the same time.So where do you begin?
Analyze Your Needs
If you are thinking about adding staff, begin by conducting an analysis of the current situation. Ask yourself: Why are you hiring? What types of tasks need to be completed in the office to make the practice more profitable?
Perhaps you need someone to schedule and greet patients, answer the telephone, or complete your billing and work with insurance companies to process claims. You may also need an associate to join you in growing the practice. It all depends on your individual circumstances. In short, start from zero and build the requirements for the job that you need.
Write a Detailed Job Description
Once you have determined that an additional staff person is needed, outline the attitudes, personality traits and skills you need in an employee. Stay focused by writing a detailed job description that includes daily, weekly, monthly and annual duties and responsibilities.
Be specific regarding any education or certification that’s required. Although many chiropractic assistants don’t have academic degrees, an increasing number of CAs hold special certifications – having passed courses specifically designed for the chiropractic office. It’s one area sometimes overlooked by chiropractors when seeking additional staff.
Make Hiring a Priority
It’s also a good idea to establish a timetable for each phase of the hiring process. Determine the time allotted for planning, analysis, preparation of the job description, the search process, review of the candidates, offer process, closing of the job offer, orientation, and the very important new employee training.
This does two things: It helps keep you on track and provides you with a sense of urgency. Be realistic in setting your goals and be flexible. Finding qualified candidates takes time, and it’s best not to rush into hiring someone for the sake of filling your opening without regard to qualifications and your needs. Rushing the hiring process may eliminate an immediate need but often creates long-term problems.
Don’t Just Run a ‘Help-Wanted’ Ad
Once you’ve pulled everything together, it’s time to advertise the position. However, where should you advertise to attract new help?
“Help-Wanted” ads and employment agencies, both of which can be expensive, are obvious places to start. However, there are also several less expensive ways to find qualified employees.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Encourage current employees to mention the opening to friends or acquaintances; or mention it to your patients. Consider offering, like many companies do, a referral bonus after the employee is hired and remains on the job for a specified period.
- Put up a sign in your office. Perhaps one of your patients, or someone a patient knows, will respond to the ad. (You may also get applications from patients that you may not want to hire; but you can find a diplomatic way to filter those out.)
- Advertise on the web. Many employees are using the Internet to search for jobs (e.g., monster.com, job-hunt.org, careerpath.com, jobbankusa.com, jobs-network.com, etc.). It’s a wonderful resource.
- You can also access resume databases. Resumes on the Internet tend to skew toward technical people, but the breadth of resumes being posted is gradually widening.
Categorize the Applicants
Once the resumes begin to come in, it’s easy to end up spending a lot of time going through all the applicants. Because your time is valuable, try to be as efficient as possible in reviewing the applications.
Here are a couple of strategies:
- Immediately sort all candidate resumes into five or fewer categories, from the very best to the completely unqualified, and keep every resume
sorted this way during the entire hiring process, moving resumes from one category to the next when new information makes this appropriate.
- Spend as little time as possible in the early stages of the hiring process eliminating the clearly weaker candidates from consideration, but spend as much time as possible in the final stages of the hiring process sorting out the more subtle differences between the very strongest candidates.
Perhaps one of the biggest time-savers in hiring is the telephone interview. The best part about telephone interviews is that there is no established protocol for minimum length. If you don’t like the candidate’s first few responses, you can simply say, “That’s all I have for today,” and move on to the next candidate.
Out of respect, you may want to give the candidate advance notice to arrange a telephone interview. In short, it’s your call.
Establish a List of Interview Questions
Before scheduling any interviews, invest a little time before interviewing candidates and develop a strong list of questions. When interviewing multiple candidates for the same position, ask the same questions of each prospect in exactly the same manner. This will allow you to fairly compare candidate responses (see “Practice Makes Perfect: Sample Interview Questions and Hints,” pages 100-101).
Many chiropractors decide to hire patients because they have first-hand experience and a knowledge base of the chiropractic profession. Others who may apply for the position may have little, if any, knowledge of the profession. This factor can be significant when hiring an employee who unknowingly sends out a negative message about chiropractic simply because he or she doesn’t have basic information or personal experience. Consider this aspect carefully when determining your hiring needs. You may also choose to hire someone who doesn’t have as great of a knowledge base about chiropractic, but who has the right attitude, open-mindedness, and potential.
Once you have narrowed the list of candidates and completed interviews, it’s always best to check references to verify the accuracy of the data provided and obtain more in-depth information about the candidate.
However, be leery of putting too much weight on positive references. Virtually everyone has some positive references. Sometimes former employers even give positive references for people they have fired because they fear legal action, want to get them off unemployment because their company is indirectly paying for it, or just want to “help out” the job candidate.
How do you choose between top job candidates? Look at a variety of factors in addition to the candidates’ interviews and references. Perhaps you can simulate the actual work the employee will perform. Typing tests, accounting tests, and sales and management decision-making scenarios may help you make more informed hiring decisions. And, even if the employee will report to you, get plenty of input from others, which also makes other staff members feel more accepting of new hires.
In fact, making sure your staff feels comfortable with the candidate is critical. A group meeting with the candidate and your current staff will prove to be very valuable in determining whether the candidate is a good “fit” for the job.
In short, it’s best to trust your instincts and make hiring decisions based on qualifications and the right fit for the office. Remember, you are probably going to work with this person 40 or more hours a week, so make the decision that is right for your situation.
Making an Offer
When you’ve decided which candidate you would like to hire, contact the person, answer any additional questions, and extend the offer.
The job offer should be extended in person or over the telephone. Out of courtesy to the person, don’t extend a job offer by leaving a message on an answering machine, as it may present a less than professional image of your practice.
Whenever possible, follow up with a written confirmation of the offer.
At the least, the offer should contain:
- The start date: Indicate the day the candidate will begin employment. In many cases, that will be determined by the candidate’s availability (e.g., two weeks following acceptance).
- Work schedule: List the days of the week and hours the employee is expected to work. For example, “The employee will work a 40-hour week. Daily hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.”
- Pay/salary: Indicate the rate of pay, and, if appropriate, any additional pay for overtime, performance bonuses, etc. For example, “The rate of pay for this position is $10 per hour, which increases to $12 per hour for any hours over and above the normal 40-hour work week.”
- Performance review: List the frequency of performance reviews. For example, “The employee’s performance will be reviewed 90 days following the date of employment and will be reviewed annually.”
- Benefits: Explain in detail the company’s benefits as well as any cost to the employee. The most common benefits are: medical insurance, life insurance, vacation, holidays and sick leave. However, if you don’t have a benefits package, you must also state that at this time. A growing number of offices that do offer benefits are adding a pension or 401(k) plan in order to provide an additional benefit for long-term employees, and hopefully increase employee retention and loyalty.
- Position/title: List the title of the position the person will hold.
- Dress code: Provide a brief description of the attire the employee will, and will not, be expected to wear. For example, “The employee is expected to wear a lab coat, provided by the company, at all times, and clothing that is appropriate for the business setting. However, no shorts or T-shirts will be allowed.”
- Timeline for acceptance: Typically, most companies give candidates 24 to 48 hours to decide whether to accept their offer. However, the candidate may also decide to accept your offer immediately.
In some instances, the candidate may counter your employment offer in an attempt to negotiate a higher salary, additional benefits, etc. However, if you offer a competitive salary and benefits based on experience and past salary history, counter offers should be minimal. The best advice is to deal with the counter offer as you see fit.
Once the offer has been extended and accepted, you and the candidate should both sign the agreement. Keep a copy for your office files and give a copy to the new employee.
Once a start date has been determined, it’s always best to send a letter to the person confirming the terms of the offer. In the confirmation letter, restate the items of the offer, and extend a personal welcome.
Thanking the Applicants
Once the candidate starts, it’s best to notify all the candidates who were not selected for the opening. This provides closure to the process and allows you to thank the people who have taken time to apply for your opening.
Perhaps the easiest way is to send a form letter. Within the letter, simply state that another candidate has been chosen whose qualifications best meet your specific needs. However, you will keep the resume on file for a specified time period (e.g., three to six months) should another opening in your office occur.
Although there may be only one candidate hired, most of the individuals interviewed will be from your local area and may need chiropractic services at some time in the future. The way in which you handle this portion of the interview process can often make a positive and lasting impression.
Doing Your Homework
For additional information on hiring practices, contact the workforce development office in your city and/or state and review websites on the Internet. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), a professional organization made up of human resource professionals, has a website at www.shrm.org that can be a helpful resource, too.
In the end, hiring a new employee is not as difficult as it may seem. By doing your homework ahead of time and making use of all the resources available to you, you can find qualified employees who are eager to work in your office, even during these most competitive times of low unemployment.