Your office manager was amazing during the interview. All of your questions were answered quickly and in just the way you wanted.
That was six months ago, and now the questions are different: What happened to the great professionalism? Where did that put-together person disappear to after sitting in your office and sharing such a compelling vision of success?
The hiring had gone so smoothly, you aren’t sure what went wrong. But now you may have to fire what has clearly turned into a bad hire.
An old saying urges employers to “hire slow but fire fast,” and yet so many professionals do just the opposite. Hiring an associate to run the office or even manage the front desk is not a task to be taken lightly or reduced to simple items on a list. But when the desire is to hire the right person, even if you have to let someone go to make room, the following guidelines can help.
Down to brass tacks
First you must be clear about what the job in question entails. This seems easy: What does the person in this job do? A file clerk files. A receptionist answers phones. An office manager supervises employees and workflow.
But don’t be fooled—a file clerk does more than just file, and if a bad hire has been made in this position previously, that fact is now obvious.
How do they file? Meticulously? With precision? Always finding ways to simplify the previously complicated system? Taking the initiative to create a new system and teaching others in the office to follow it? These are a just a few examples of the depth needed in the job description.
Clarifying positions in depth includes answering the standard job description questions and so much more:
- How well should this job be performed?
- With whom will this person work?
- What kinds of personalities have worked well with this team in the past?
- Which ones have resulted in a breakdown of teamwork or failures in effective collaboration?
It’s often not the standard items in a job description defining employees’ daily routines that result in the need to fire them. Instead, it is the elements of their personality, and how well they get along with you, your patients, and coworkers that will eventually erode performance and cause problems. The adage “hire for attitude and teach skills” comes from the many managers who learned this lesson the hard way.
To uncover this level of detail for the job, think back to the time when your most difficult patient had a meltdown. What person did you need then that you’re hiring for now? Consider the largest problem areas in the office and what solutions you’d like to see put in place that no one has time to do. Is the job description still relevant? Has the position changed? Does it need to now?
With a clear definition of the role, create a clear picture of the person who will be the best fit. Ask yourself:
- What kind of person do you work most effectively with at the office?
- Is it someone who is a go-getter or does that type of individual challenge you more than you’d like?
- Does a person who follows the rules to the letter suit your needs? Or for this role, do you want someone who can play in the gray?
It’s your call, but the challenge most employers face is that they spend more time planning their next build-out than on the roles and team members who will keep patients happy during the remodel. Don’t make that mistake, and instead:
- Give thought to personality traits.
- Employ an assessment tool.
- Consider the need for conflict-mediation skills.
- Determine the desired relationship-building competencies.
- Dream big and get detailed.
- Clarify any preferences that may work well with your client base.
These are clearly not your only hiring criteria, but as much as UPS needs drivers who can lift up to 75 pounds, employers are allowed to consider those who will perform well within their business.
For example: Don’t hire someone shy when you know that a person with a bit more confidence or assertiveness is what your customers will respond to best. Then make a list of both what the job entails and the type of person you need.
Seal the deal
Once these items have been laid out, the job posting and interview process can begin. Whether or not you like someone in an interview is not as important to successful hiring as many believe, but it’s the criteria most often used.
In fact, hiring employees based on likeability may later prove problematic. Those who fit the detailed job description may be the ones with the least in common with their employer. Look for traits, demeanor, attitude, and skills that create the most check marks on the role-clarity list.
With a clearer idea of who you’re seeking, identifying who is the best match (and who isn’t) is more objective and transactional than the average get-to-know-you interview. Looking for someone with immediately evident charisma allows for identification of this person before they sit down, for example. Conversely, that clarity will also help you determine if you can safely keep the interview short.
When dealing with current employees who no longer meet expectations, waiting for a vacancy to fill the void is also a recipe for keeping people long past their point of contribution to your practice. Use the same method for existing team members to determine whether a change is warranted.
Then, during interviews, ask questions that prompt storytelling by asking, “tell me about a time when … ” or “describe a scenario in which … ” The answers will be revealing and, in many cases, indicative of the applicant’s integrity.
When you find a person to fill a position who performs well, integrates beautifully with the team, makes the job appear easier than it really is, and keeps you and your patients happy, you win. For most practices, it’s safe to say nothing could be finer than a great hire.
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development expert. As CEO of Contagious Companies, she shares with others how to develop their leadership skills. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at 866-382-0121 or through contagiouscompanies.com.