Attracting a qualified and hard-working prospective employee involves more than just putting an ad on a website. The key to finding the ideal candidate for your practice is to use all of the resources available, including existing staff, industry contacts and job boards. On the following pages, practice owners share their strategies for recruiting top-notch personnel who will support practice success and provide care that keeps patients coming back.
Hiring From Within
A busy practice will often find potential staff members already at work in the office. Former interns and externs are always promising candidates: They have experience working at the practice and have built relationships with patients and staff.
“My favorite way is to go to nursing schools and use their nursing students as interns,” says Mitchel P. Goldman, MD, of Goldman, Butterwick, Fitzpatrick, Groff & Fabi Cosmetic Laser Dermatology Center in San Diego. “They’re literally working with me doing an internship for a few months, and then if we like them, we hire them.”
Charles Crutchfield III, MD, notes that recruiting students to work at his practice, Crutchfield Dermatology in Eagan, Minnesota, is not only convenient for hiring but creates great employees. “Relationships with nursing schools and medical assistant schools are very beneficial in this regard. We’ve had a number of excellent externs complete their schooling at the same time we have had a personnel need,” he says. “Since we already know each other from the externship, they quickly become outstanding employees.”
Referrals from existing staff members are another valuable in-office resource when it comes to hiring. “Probably 50% of my employees are hired through existing employees,” says Dr. Goldman. Since staff members already know how the practice runs, they will be unlikely to suggest someone who won’t fit in.
Sometimes, word of mouth and a well-known practice are all it takes to get applicants in the door and simplify the recruitment process. “Our clinic is recognized as an excellent medical facility that provides top quality care, and we are known in our medical community as a terrific work-life environment,” says Dr. Crutchfield. “As a result, we continually receive inquiries from strong employment candidates for all of our operational areas: nursing staff, medspa, patient relations and administration—we have not had to actively recruit for some time.”
Babak Azizzadeh, MD, FACS, of the Center for Advanced Facial Plastic Surgery in Beverly Hills, California, agrees that “word of mouth is No. 1 when it comes to finding clinical nurses. Industry sales reps are also a great resource,” he says. “They often know great people that have worked at other aesthetic practices.”
Monster.com and craigslist.org are two of the top websites that practitioners and managers may use when looking for new employees. While finding an ideal applicant can be more difficult due to the sheer number of responses, it is certainly not impossible.
Dr. Azizzadeh’s strategy is to be specific and actually oversell the job responsibilities, which weeds out those who may not be as qualified or committed. “We include very detailed information about experience, expertise and demands on the job,” he says. “We always overestimate the demands so that only very motivated individuals apply.”
Chicago-based plastic surgeon Steven H. Dayan, MD, FACS, agrees that being realistic about the difficulty level of the position and amount of duties is critical to attracting the right candidates. “We definitely say it’s going to be a challenge,” he says. “We let applicants know that it’s hard work and long hours. Being honest like that has really worked best for us.”
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Dr. Goldman includes specific, direct job descriptions in his help wanted ads. “For instance, ‘Looking for receptionist that works this hour to this hour, with this previous experience,’” he says. He doesn’t limit the applicant pool to those who have worked in a medical environment. Instead, he looks at how an applicant might fit in at his practice.
“One of my best receptionists used to work at Best Buy—he got fed up with customer service there and he came here, and he’s phenomenal,” says Dr. Goldman. “You can teach people how to do medical things, so they don’t have to come from that environment when I hire them. The No. 1 skill I look at is their personality and how they interact with people.”
Once applicants have been selected for an interview, Dr. Crutchfield stresses the necessity of checking their references. “One of the most important things we do is follow up on references. If a candidate looks good but has no references, we request them and follow up,” he says. “Applicants should show an interest in caring for people, and they should have a track record of establishing a good history with previous employers.”
Closely related to references, background checks are a crucial step in protecting your practice and patients. Though they cost money, they also dramatically reduce potential risk. “Background checks are critical,” says Dr. Dayan. “You have to make sure you’re not getting someone with a prior history of stealing or a criminal past. You’d be surprised how often that may occur.”
Applicants’ first interviews should be with a practice manager or personnel director in order to narrow down the choices, and feel out candidates’ interests and career goals. “In my office, the COO and HR director interview everyone first. They might interview four people and find one that they want me to interview,” says Dr. Goldman. “Usually by the time I interview someone, it’s almost 50/50 whether we’re going to hire them or not.”
Once the COO and HR director decide an applicant might be a good fit, Dr. Goldman meets with the prospective hire and uses scenario-based questions to gauge their work ethic. “If it’s a nurse, I say, ‘If a patient comes into the room and complains about X, what would you do?’ I give them a scenario depending on the job they’re looking for,” he says. “I want them to treat the patient better than they would a member of the family—I’m a 100% cash cosmetic practice, so patients can choose to go anywhere else. Patients come to us because we make them feel special; I want staff to be happy and I want them to enjoy making other people happy.”
A great strategy for assessing how someone will fit into a practice workflow is to have them shadow staff for a number of hours, says Dr. Azizzadeh. “We have a one-day-on-the-job shadow day so that prospective applicants can look at our daily activities,” he says. This way potential employees have a chance to experience the job and decide if the office is right for them.
Dr. Dayan uses skill testing to narrow down his final candidates. “We’ve given candidates projects that they have to return to us, which is helpful for seeing if they’re really motivated,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll have applicants meet with two or three other staff members and, if it goes well, we’ll have them come back—we won’t hire someone after only one meeting.”
It is highly recommended to get input from existing employees—after all, they are the ones who will be working the most with a new hire. “As the final step after evaluating all the candidates for a position, the staff members who work in the same area as the new hire are consulted for their preference,” says Dr. Crutchfield. “We are a close-knit family—we won’t hire any new staff before gaining appropriate input from our current employees.”
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Dr. Dayan also suggests keeping generational differences in mind. “In the past I would hire someone with the hope that they’d work here forever—nowadays, I recognize that just isn’t the case,” he says. “There’s a new generation of people we are hiring who don’t come to a job anymore looking to be there for the next 25 years.”
As a result, he has altered the way he approaches prospective employees, treating the job as a way for them to achieve whatever long-term goals they may have. “I say to them, ‘This is an educational process for you. You tell me where you want to be in your future, and we’ll work to get you there,’” he says. “It makes them more engaged in the process, and it also keeps them from lying to me or fibbing if they’re not happy—I don’t want them to just pick up one day and leave. It’s been really helpful with the current generation.”
Laura Beliz is the associate editor of MedEsthetics.
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