The secrets to smart hiring

Team building is not for sissies, cautioned Steve Robinson, COE, OCS. Robinson, a practice administrator-turned-consultant, said, "I think the greatest challenge to administrators today is to continually keep the staff motivated."

Team building is not for sissies, cautioned Steve Robinson, COE, OCS. Robinson, a practice administrator-turned-consultant, said, "I think the greatest challenge to administrators today is to continually keep the staff motivated."

In the typical hiring scenario, a practice administrator identifies a need, chooses a candidate who fills that need, hires the candidate, and trains the new hire.

When it comes to facing human resources challenges, he said, "Set standards about how you hire and train your people. Don't compromise your standards. And use logic, not emotions."

The first step in hiring should be to write a job description. The task can be expedited with specially designed human resources software, Robinson said.

Evaluate whether a need exists for a new person. "Are there alternatives? What are the financial impacts of hiring or not hiring? Answering these questions helps you move through the decision-making process," he said.

Advertise the position internally first. "Your employees should have the opportunity to move vertically to better themselves," Robinson said. "Use a bulletin board, practice newsletter, an e-mail to all employees, or even the rumor mill." When it is time to advertise a position externally, Robinson suggested using various sources such as newspapers, the Internet, school placement offices, professional associations, and trade journals.

"Use temp agencies," he said. "It costs some, but you don't have any obligation once the term is up." Often, temporary employees are motivated because they want permanent positions with a practice.

Robinson recounted a personally successful hiring method. He ran a newspaper ad with only a job description and a phone number. All calls from the ad went into voice mail, where they were reviewed later. Then, he called the applicants and asked them to phone him at a specific date and time to schedule an interview.

"That shows their follow-through and ability to follow instructions," Robinson said. "If they pass those screenings, I get their resumes."

When evaluating a resume, make sure the grammar and spelling are correct. Look at the length of time the applicant has held each job. "If he/she hasn't worked long for anyone else, then he/she won't work long for you," Robinson said.

During the hiring process, Robinson uses a spreadsheet to record factors such as name, age (a guess), education, and experience.

First impressions count

"At the interview, how is the candidate dressed?" Robinson asked. "Is he or she clean, tattooed and pierced, wearing too much makeup, chewing gum? Who do you want representing your practice?"

He said, "Give the candidate a chance to bash his or her boss. If he/she bashes him, then he/she will bash you too."

The best statement for an interviewer to make in an interview is, "Tell me about yourself." Then listen. "You'll be amazed at what the candidate will tell you," he said.

After you have selected the best person for the job, Robinson said, train the new hire "like that person is going to play in the World Series." He admitted, however, that often "training is pathetic. We give the new hire just a little information and then wait to see what happens next."

Robinson added, "You can always be more effective in your training program." As an example, he cited how the Ritz-Carlton Co. LLC approaches employee training. "The company has 20,000 employees, and each one has to have at least 250 hours of training during the first year of employment. That's more than 6 weeks of training. And Ritz-Carlton has great customer satisfaction."