Screening Applicants

The Group Interview
Finding a new employee is a very time consuming process. To consolidate efforts and streamline the initial stage of the interview and selection process, have all of the applicants who meet the basic criteria come into the office for a group interview session. The purpose for this is that it consolidates the office manager’s efforts, giving you an opportunity to get a look at the applicants and screen out those whom you do not care to invest any more time in. The finalists from this segment will then be invited back for an in-depth individual interview.
Once you have collected all of the resumes from your advertising, go through them and screen out those that do not have the qualifications you are looking for. Take into consideration whether or not the applicant included a cover letter and whether that letter really communicates something about the applicant. Look at the experience, background and talents being conveyed in the resume and letter.
The First Interview
Phone those applicants that appear to be the very best and schedule them to come into your office to fill out an application. During this phone call you can rate their phone voice and composure and get a bit of a feel for their willingness. Make notations on the resume. Schedule all of the applicants for the same time, e.g., an evening after work or on a Saturday morning.
Make preparations ahead of time. Have packets of paperwork ready for each of your applicants. Their packets will contain an application, a questionnaire, a sheet that they will fill in with their employment goals and what their understanding of a practice is. They will also be asked to write a brief collections letter and sign an Authorization for Release of Information form.
When the applicants arrive, welcome them and deliver a brief statement (10 minutes or less) about the practice, its purpose/mission and the position. Then, direct them to the pre-printed packets handed out. Have them:
  1. Fill out their Job Application Essays.
  2. Fill out their Hiring Questionnaire. Asking them what your practice is about, its purpose, the position that they are applying for and a few negative and positive things about the position or practice.
  3. Write a brief letter to a client who has an overdue account (which gives you a good indication of how the person deals with others on sensitive matters).
  4. Sign and date the Authorization for Release of Information form.

As the applicants complete their forms, rate them on their appearance (1-5) and take them individually into a private office to conduct a brief interview (about 5 minutes for this first interview). This will give you a feel for the person.

Before your applicants leave, give them each a card for a complimentary exam at your office. (This is optional, but could garner a new patient even if not hired). Thank them all for coming in and let them know that they will be hearing from you within the next couple of days.

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Putting New Employees on the Job

Practice owners bring on new employees for a variety of reasons. Often, when practices are undergoing expansion of production and income, they require increased staffing. Or, due to poor past hiring procedures practice owners find that they have to replace some employees who are poor performers. There is a natural attrition rate as well when a staff member moves out of town, gets a higher paying job, etc.

Many past Practice Solution articles have been written on numerous aspects of our successful hiring procedures, including testing, how to conduct proper interviews, how to weed out non-qualified candidates, legally acceptable and unacceptable questions to ask, etc. You’ll find some of those articles in this issue of Hot Tip.This article will go over some of the best actions to implement when putting new employees on the job.

Once you’ve decided to hire a new staff member, the first thing to do is have them complete all appropriate paperwork. This would include signing whatever employment contract you use as well as having them read all of the appropriate office policies and attesting to having read them.

Personnel File

A personnel file is vital for maintaining proper documentation on every employee. You can set yourself up for legal problems in the future if you don’t have this properly in place. Therefore, creating a personnel file for the new employee is one of the first things you should do after hiring the person.

The office manager should create a personnel file for the new employee which contains:

  • The full job application and the resume turned in during the hiring process.
  • Any other forms used in the hiring process.
  • Any tests taken.
  • Any interview notes, write ups, etc.
  • Employment contract.
  • A copy of the policies the new employee read and signed.
  • A checklist of everything the office manager will be doing with the new employee to bring them onto the job. Make sure the checklist is filled out as each item is done.

As the new employee becomes a regular employee, the personnel file should be constantly updated with job reviews, disciplinary warnings, commendations, etc. The personnel file is your key management tool for documenting everything having to do with that employee, from the time they are hired until the time they leave, for whatever reason.

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Providing a Firm Foundation Through Written Office Policy

A Way to Avoid Common Confusions in the Workplace
In order to function most effectively as a team, agreements must be known and adhered to for smooth, efficient coordination and cooperation. This is also known as “policy.” As long as people know what the rules of the activity are, and those guidelines are clearly presented as being in the best interest of the activity, the policies will be followed, and a smoother operating environment will result.

Policy that is understood, agreed upon and adhered to will strengthen the practice in the achievement of its goals.

Even the “policies” that are in your head and that you figure “everyone knows” should be put in writing. Because that may not always be the case, by putting all policies in writing, problems and confusions that could otherwise surface will be curtailed and even eliminated.

It is advisable to create your “General Office Policy” to address fundamental issues that affect every practice. In addition, policies relating to specific areas of the practice should be properly documented. The practice should maintain a Master Policy Manual, and each employee should have his or her own copy of the policies of the practice.

Once a General Office Policy Manual is developed, the practice will continue to generate new policies as time goes on and as new issues and situations present themselves. When creating a new policy, place a copy in the Master Policy Manual and distribute a copy to each relevant staff member. Request that the staff then send written compliance to the office manager that they have read and understand the policy and that they have placed their copy in their respective manuals.

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Recruiting New Employees

Who, what, when, where and how:

It is a 100% certainty that with any practice you will need new employees at some point in time, either to replace employees who leave or to help the practice grow. Where do you find the type of people you want to work with, people that you can trust and who will want to see your practice succeed?

Posting on the Internet and in the Newspaper:

The most obvious resources to use in recruiting new personnel are the internet and the newspaper. Before we discuss the ad itself, let’s take a look at some basics. The best place to place your want ad is going to be online. There are several websites that you can use to find a qualified employee, such as Careerbuilder.com, Indeed.com, Monster.com, Glassdoor.com, and Craigslist.com.

Never lower your standards when looking for a staff member. Keep your standards high and remember that you not only want a top quality person, but you deserve that person! Your practice growth depends upon people who are bright, energetic, sensitive, intelligent and outgoing. Be willing to compete for that type of person.

Also, realize that the type of person you are looking for may not be actively looking for new jobs. Some of the most qualified individuals already have jobs, but they may be looking for a change. These individuals may seem like “cold prospects,” but they actually do skim through the want-ads just to see what is out there. So, it is very important to develop an advertisement that will attract the person you are looking for.

For newspapers, Sunday is definitely the best time to run your ad. Even though newspaper sales have been declining in recent years, it isn’t out of the question to use it as a means of finding new hires. Running an ad on both Sunday and Monday would be the most successful combination because people who are looking will look through Sunday’s paper and continue “looking” at least through Monday’s paper. Do not waste your valuable ad dollars by advertising right before a major holiday, as people are less likely to read the classifieds. They are too involved with other matters, and will usually look after the holidays.

Part two of this article will go over tips on how you develop your ad and how to use hiring agencies.

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Termination Series:

Guidelines to Follow When Terminating

This article is a continuation of our termination series. To view the previous article, click here. This series will go over how a termination decision should be made, how the organization handles problems before making a termination and how to convey the news for a constructive face-to-face termination. There are specific guidelines when terminating because all of these factors will impact strongly on the employee’s perceptions, their consequent motivation to act on their emotion negatively and the way your current employees will view how you handle these and following situations. It’s up to you to make a termination something that is going to aid you and your practice or something that could collapse it.

The materials that follow will help you make a better decision and, hopefully, provide communication guidelines for handling the situation as confidently and gracefully as possible.

Guidelines To Follow When Terminating

  1. When To Do It: The best advice is to communicate the decision as soon as possible to the employee.
  2. Time of Day: The end of the workday is preferable when everyone else has left; this saves embarrassment.
  3. Witness: Do have a witness present. This offers protection as well as evidence that various things were or were not communicated.
  4. What To Tell Others: Simply let your staff know that ____________ (name) is no longer with the practice. If anyone has questions, tell them it is company policy that they would have to ask the person themselves.
  5. After the News: It is wise to escort the employee out of the practice or else the anger often present could result in some destructive actions; necessity depends on the person and particulars of the situation.
  6. Reasons: An employee deserves the respect and the dignity of knowing why they have been discharged. To fail to communicate or to try to cover something up with the employee is sure to provoke more outrage on the part of the employee. Convey the reason very simply; do not engage in a long discussion about it. Communicate it with respect. However, you need to use caution in what you communicate; we are in a litigious society, and you don’t want to give them grounds for a wrongful termination suit.
  7. Firing Your Friend: This is hard to do, but has the built-in trust that will allow communication between you and your friend to help them understand. This does require you to be tough, as it would not be good for you to continue to carry a friend in a job when their performance is disastrous.
  8. References: The safest policy to use as your guideline is the work history, their statistics, their performance-review results, written warnings and reprimands, etc.
  9. When the Employee Begs: If an employee begs for a second chance, you have got to be tough and be willing to explain things yet without the slightest indication that you don’t stand by your decision.
  10. Arguing the Reasons: Don’t argue with the employee. Indicate that you have the specific documentation supporting the reasons. If, on the other hand, the employee’s arguing convinces you something has been overlooked, then indicate you will check it out immediately or as quickly as possible.
  11. Breakdowns: Do nothing unless your safety seems to be at stake. Let the catharsis run its course, then resume appropriate discussions. If the breakdown continues, let the employee know that you understand and that you will give them a moment to regain their composure before completing the meeting.
  12. Written Statement: Providing a written termination statement for the employee is a bold communication that relays your ultimate confidence in the matter. Understand that the written statement could become part of the legal record and must be clear and strong enough to stand up in a legal arena.

The above are guidelines intended to help you in this area. It is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice. You should consult an attorney on any specific legal problems that might come up with employee discharge.

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Staff Management Distress Solutions

Staff Management Distress Solutions

I’m sure many of our readers are very familiar with The Practice Solution Magazine’s phone surveys. Our team of surveyors speak with doctors all over the country, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Given the busyness of your schedules, we definitely appreciate it when you take the time to speak with our team. The information that you provide enables us to more closely concentrate on articles of interest to you and your staff.

With that in mind, we have found from our recent surveys that one of the most distressing areas for most doctors is the managing, hiring and controlling of staff. Every person is different, and human interaction within small practices oftentimes can be nerve-racking, volatile and frustrating. You have probably found that not everyone thinks like you do, cares as much about your practice as you do, or is as willing to work extra hours as you do.

We definitely recognize the frustration that can occur with losing an employee whom you have just invested thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours training. One of the most important things that you can do to bolster your practice is to ensure that all of your staff are fully trained and operating on the same page. The optimum team is one that knows what their specific duties are; how to do those functions without any difficulty or emotional issues in other words, strictly professional; and what the other staff are should be doing.

When staff are competent, work is more efficient, morale is higher and the doctor can just be the doctor instead of the referee or babysitter.

In this issue of The Practice Solution Magazine, we provide articles addressing employee issues like staff meetings, setting production targets, and what your responsibility is as the leader for your staff. If you implement the suggestions within these articles, you may find some of your frustrations disappearing, and you may get even more support from your front desk because they will have a better understanding of what you need as the practice owner, which will enable them to become more competent and more professional.

Request Part II Instantly: Suggestions on Staff Correction

Real Office Policy Examples and Checklist

Below is a list of items that should be included in any basic office policy or policies:

  • Patient Relations
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Orientation and Training
  • Work Hours
  • Fringe Benefits
  • Solicitation
  • Equal Opportunity Statement
  • Terms of At-Will Employment
  • Definitions of Full Time and Part Time
  • Pay Periods
  • Vacations
  • Sick Leave
  • Maternity Leave
  • Tardiness
  • Personal Time Off
  • Absenteeism
  • Staff Meetings
  • Breaks and Lunchtime
  • Unemployment Insurance
  • Problem Resolution
  • Wage and Salary Guidelines
  • Retirement Plans (if any)
  • Holidays
  • Funeral Leave
  • Leave of Absence
  • Jury Duty
  • Disciplinary Measures
  • Continuing Education
  • Workers’ Compensation Insurance
  • Health and Safety Rules
  • Appearance
  • Office Security
  • Telephone Use
  • Where to Park
  • Voting
  • Job Performance Reviews
  • Uniforms
  • Dating of Patients
  • Confidentiality of Records and Information
  • Cleanliness and Maintenance
  • Reimbursement of Expenses
  • Outside Employment


Policy is very important to establish so that the entire group understands the rules and agreements upon which the office operates. When you have good policies known and understood by all staff, you get an effective and efficient team that coordinates and cooperates at a high level.

Below are some sample policies about the subjects suggested previously. Always consult with a good employment attorney before implementing your policies to make sure that they conform with the laws of your area.

Example General Policy Introduction

Welcome to our practice. The following policies are designed to provide working guidelines for all of us. Written office policies help to:

prevent misunderstanding and lack of communication;
eliminate hasty, unrefined decisions in personnel matters;
ensure uniformity and fairness throughout the practice; and
establish the basic agreements that everyone in the office operates on.

Our practice is open to change. Changes happen as a result of internal growth, legal requirements, competitive forces or general economic conditions that affect our profession. To meet these challenges the practice reserves the right, with or without notice, to change, amend or delete any of the policies, terms, conditions and language presented in this manual. Changes in personnel policies are made after considering the mutual advantages and responsibilities of both the owner and staff. All of us need to stay aware of current policy and, as revisions are made, new pages will be given to the personnel to place in staff manuals.

Remember, your suggestions are welcome. Just notify the office manager whenever problems are encountered and wherever you think improvements can be made.

Example Harassment Policy

This practice is committed to providing a work environment free of discrimination. This policy prohibits harassment in any form, including verbal, physical, religious and sexual harassment. Any employee who believes he or she has been harassed by a co-worker, manager or agent of the practice is to immediately report any such incident to the office manager or next highest authority. We will investigate and take appropriate action.

[As harassment is a big legal issue in today’s world, we also suggest to all practice owners that a more extensive policy be written that further defines the types of harassment and the exact steps to follow should it occur. We also suggest that you check with your attorney on proper policy in this area.]

Below is a sample policy on employee classification. These classifications are important for any employer to know because they affect the type of working hours, pay, benefits and bonuses that various employees are eligible for. Some of these classifications and their accompanying benefits or restrictions can vary from state to state. Therefore, it is important that you consult with an attorney who is familiar with the employment laws in your state before implementing this type of information.

Example Employee Classification Policy

  • New Employees: this category would include those employed for less than a specified number of days, during which they are on probation.
  • Regular Full-Time Employees: this could include staff who work a minimum of 32 hours a week.
  • Regular Part-Time Employees: this would include staff who work less than the minimum required.
  • Temporary Full-Time Employees: this would cover staff who work full time but are hired for a limited specific duration.
  • Temporary Part-Time Employees: this would include staff who are hired for a limited duration and work part-time.
  • Exempt Employees: this covers staff who qualify under the Fair labor Standards Act as being exempt from overtime because they qualify as executive or professional employees. Make sure you know the exact rules and regulations on this before you exempt anyone from overtime.
  • Non-Exempt Employees: such employees are required to be paid at least minimum wage and overtime.

Example Overtime Pay Policy

Overtime pay is paid according to the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act and our state’s wage, hours and labor laws.

Exempt Employees: employees exempt from the minimum wage, overtime and time card overtime provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act do not receive overtime pay.

Non-Exempt Employees: employees not exempt from minimum wage, overtime and time card provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act do receive overtime pay.

Overtime hours must be authorized by the office manager or owner in advance of extra hours worked or as soon as possible thereafter. Time not worked but paid for, such as vacation, holidays and sick leave will not rate or count for overtime calculation purposes.

Example Time Tracking Policy

Each staff member is individually responsible for recording work time on the attendance sheet and/or time card when reporting for work, leaving for lunch, returning from lunch and leaving at the end of the day.

The attendance sheet and/or time card is a legal document and must not be destroyed, defaced or removed from the premises. Never allow another employee to enter your time for you and vice versa.

Overtime must be authorized in advance of extra time worked or as soon as possible thereafter. Overtime, changes or omissions on the attendance card must be authorized by the office manager and initialed.

When you leave the premises, let us know. If you have to go out of the office or the building on personal business during your scheduled work hours, first, get permission from your supervisor. Then, check in and out on your attendance sheet or time card.

Whether you use the above examples or not, having written office policy is vital to the smooth operation of any practice. It is the foundation of education, training and correction in your office and can make the difference between a well oiled machine and a machine that is constantly having problems and is in need of repairs.


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Hiring Techniques

The Application

One of the areas we are regularly asked about is how to best read and evaluate an employment application. Here are some things you can look for on an application that will give you an initial “feel” for the applicant.

• Neatness
• Completeness
• Does everything look accurate and honest? For example, are the dates of past employment consistent?
• Past work experience – what have they done that would qualify them to work for you – look for past responsibilities held and descriptions of what they did and the salary they earned.
• Past work stability – how long did they work at previous jobs or did they hop from one job to the next?
• Reasons why they left their past jobs – are their statements positive or negative about this?
• Gaps in time between jobs. What did they do?
• Comments they may write about themselves.
• Level of education achieved.
• Date available to start work.
• Yes or no questions – are they all filled out? Are there any questions raised from their answers?

The Applicant Interview

Once you have decided to schedule an interview with a potential employee, make sure you are fully prepared with the questions you want to ask. Since the purpose of the interview is to gather information to make an informed decision, it’s important that the questions you ask elicit as much information as possible.

There are basically two types of questions: open ended which allow a person to think and speak, and closed ended, which give basically “yes” or “no” answers. You want to ask open ended questions as they are more revealing. Here are some examples of open ended and close ended questions, each concerning the same subject. Look them over and you should easily be able to see how they will elicit different responses and how the open ended question will give you much more data for your hiring evaluation.

Close Ended: Are you highly motivated?
Open Ended: What career objectives have you set for yourself?

Close Ended: Are you qualified for this position?
Open ended: In what ways have your previous jobs prepared you for this position?

Close Ended: Can you accept criticism?
Open Ended: Give me some examples of times you’ve been criticized. How did you respond?

These are just a few examples of how to properly ask questions in a hiring interview. You can see that the open ended question will provide you with much more useful data to evaluate the applicant.

Applying the proper screening techniques when hiring, which would include proper use of the application, interviewing with information eliciting questions as well as testing can help you identify both the good and potentially dangerous applicant which will allow you to make a more informed decision.

Happy hunting!

Ken DeRouchie

What Goes in a Job Description

I can’t stress enough the importance of implementing proper, well written job descriptions and office policies into your practices. As few doctors are trained in practice management or management and executive skills while in professional school, most doctors have to fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to running the business side of a practice. That’s why we often write about how and why to implement office policies and job descriptions in order to make the office run more smoothly.

This begs the question: what should be included in a job description?

Here are the key points that we include in a job description:

• The purpose of that position. For example, what is the purpose of the receptionist of a practice? It might be: “to keep the appointment book full, rescheduled appointments to a minimum and the patient flow smooth and efficient”.

• The product or outcome of that position – i.e. what are they suppose to produce? For a receptionist it could be, “A full appointment book with maximum productivity for the doctor and a correctly routed flow of patients and communication within the office”.

• Statistics for the position. You need some sort of metrics to accurately measure the productivity of any job. For a receptionist it might be “percent of patients kept to schedule” or “percent of schedule book filled”, etc.

• The various job duties the position is to perform. You can simply list them out, making sure you have the most important duties covered.

• Write-ups of how to do the various job duties you’ve listed. These write-ups should be written by people who have successfully performed the duties of the job and should be continually updated.

These are the key points that we find make a good job description that will help anyone put a new employee on the job and make any transition from one employee to another much easier.

Hiring Interview Questions

In some of our articles in this and past Practice Solution issues we’ve discussed handling different types of difficult job-interviewemployees. The best solution to a problem employee, though, is to not hire them in the first place. The right hiring interview questions can help you determine that from the get go.

Easy to say, but how do you do that?

Although there is no perfect method, there are many different screening and hiring techniques including proper ads, group interviews and using the right type of testing that will greatly increase your odds of finding the best potential employee. This article is not written to detail those steps, but using such steps will help you reduce your candidate pool to several good prospects. At that point you’ll want to individually interview them.

Interviewing is a skill unto itself. As part of that process it helps to have a template of questions to use when you go into such an interview. Below are 15 basic questions one can use to help determine motivation and willingness, two essential points in finding the best potential staff member.

MOTIVATION AND WILLINGNESS

This is a key area to get a very good feel for when hiring. Motivated and willing staff are easy to train, usually no matter their background, and are great to work with. The less motivated and willing they are, the worse potential employee they will be. Given that they are looking for a job, they will likely attempt to appear to be motivated and willing. You must, through questioning, attempt to find the truly willing versus the ones who may just be paying it lip service. Below are some questions you can use that will help in this area.

  1. Why do you want to work here? What is it you are looking for?
  2. What kind of job supervision do you prefer?
  3. Are you willing to attend seminars to enhance job training?
  4. Do you like to work by yourself or have others around?
  5. How do you work under pressure?
  6. What are your weaknesses?
  7. What in your background particularly qualifies you for this job?
  8. Why have you applied for this job?
  9. What kind of pay are you looking for?
  10. Would you prefer a job situation with a stable wage with standard incremental increases or a job situation in which your base pay was perhaps slightly lower, but with the opportunity to make much more by setting and meeting performance goals.
  11. If you were an employer and had an employee who was not responding well to high demands, how would you handle this situation?
  12. What is the most difficult thing you have ever had to overcome in your life?
  13. How did you overcome this?
  14. Would the hours of this job present any hardship for you or your family?
  15. What have you done in the past 90 days to improve yourself?

Having the right staff makes a big difference in whether or not you have an efficient, productive and profitable practice. Try using the above questions to help you find the most motivated and willing employee.

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