Some of the most difficult positions to fill in a surgery center are in the front office. If you focus on hiring someone with a positive attitude who enjoys greeting patients and talking with family members, they may spend their entire day happily conversing but fail to attend to the mounting pile of paperwork. Conversely, if you focus on hiring someone who accurately processes all that paperwork and is detail oriented, they may have a difficult time acknowledging the presence of others. What’s an administrator to do?
Perhaps one of the best places to begin is with task delineation. If you can afford to hire several employees, segregate front office duties by aligning them with specific personality traits. Prepare job descriptions that support those traits. Employees who enjoy interacting with others are best suited for greeting patients, securing pre-authorization of services, obtaining physicians’ signatures on medical records, working with physicians’ schedulers, and ensuring vital information is communicated to colleagues and family members. Those who have an eye for details and are inclined to double-check their work can be tasked with verifying benefits, registering patients, entering data into the patient accounting system, securing patient payments, overseeing petty cash transactions, and obtaining implant invoices from vendor reps before they leave the facility.
Developing comprehensive job descriptions with personality traits in mind should then lead to interview questions designed to elicit the attitudes, values, and skill sets that are important to you, your team, and your business. If you are seeking someone who possesses a high level of integrity, asking an applicant to tell you about a time it was necessary for them to admit to others they made a mistake may reveal their capacity for being honest and humble. Or posing a question about how they react when they are asked to do something beyond their capabilities could provide you with insight into their initiative, determination, and capacity for growth.
If you intuitively sense the prospective employee is a good cultural fit, move on to technical skill assessment. Attention to detail, for example, can be assessed in a variety of ways. Start with the applicant’s resume and/or employment application. Are there typographical, spelling, or grammatical errors? If so, they may not be someone who takes the time to double-check their work (or the work of others if their resume was prepared by a professional). Next, replicate the working conditions by administering a time-based screening tool to assess the applicant’s ability to quickly and accurately identify transposed numbers and letters under pressure. Finally, pay attention to the prospective employee’s responses to instructions you provide and/or interview questions you ask. While it is easy to misunderstand someone else’s intent during these types of exchanges, applicants who possess attention to detail will typically request clarification to ensure they are responding appropriately.
When you sense you’ve identified a solid candidate, ensure you check references. Checking references can be tricky – many former employers have policies in place preventing them from extemporaneously responding to questions, choosing instead to only confirm employment dates, position held and, if you’re luck, eligibility for rehire. However, for those who are willing to discuss the skill sets, personality traits, and work performance of your potential hire, ensure you use their time wisely. Carefully craft your questions to address items essential for effective performance in your work environment. And be sure to tap into resources that will provide an honest assessment – former (or current) direct supervisors who are listed on the candidate’s job application, for example. Recognize the list of references provided by an applicant with his or her resume may contain names of friends or co-workers who may not be familiar with how well the candidate performed on the job but are more than happy to provide a glowing recommendation.
Finally, when you make your job offer, if there are contingencies – successful completion of a background check or drug screen, for example – note how the applicant responds. If they drag their feet on completing authorization paperwork or physical tests, they are waving a red flag regarding their willingness or ability to follow-through.
Your assessment of the applicant should continue throughout the onboarding process. The first couple of weeks your new employee is on the job will provide you with a better idea of what you’ve gotten yourself into. If you believe the individual oversold themselves and is under-delivering, dig below the surface to determine the root cause. Has the onboarding process (or lack thereof) contributed to confusion regarding expectations? Are there tools that need to be provided and/or reviewed to assist the employee attain success in task accomplishment? While it’s important to work on finding what’s leading to your new hire’s underperformance, sometimes it’s just not the fit you initially envisioned. It’s okay to recognize that and part ways with the individual rather than allocating additional resources to a situation that isn’t working for either of you.
Performing due diligence throughout each step of the process provides you with the best chance of finding someone who is the perfect fit. That’s as satisfying as finding the puzzle piece that has baffled your entire extended family for the better part of a week during your annual holiday ski vacation!
Kim Woodruff – Vice President of Corporate Finance & Compliance