Your front office staff is critical to the success of your medical practice. When new or longstanding patients call with a question or arrive for an appointment, they will interact with your employees before they see you. Those interactions not only establish the tone for the patient’s experience but also impact their satisfaction with your practice — which is why it’s important to choose the right people for the job.
Hiring front office personnel happens in four phases
- Creating the job description: a summary of the qualities and skills you want in your front desk employees.
- Advertising the position and searching for candidates.
- Conducting interviews with qualified candidates.
- Choosing the best candidates for your practice and making them an offer.
For a smoother hiring process, follow these tips:
- Define the role. Depending on the size of your medical practice, you may need to hire multiple front desk personnel. Some offices have separate staff members who handle billing issues and others who deal with scheduling and work directly with patients. Think about what skills are required to manage your office systems and how many employees you may need to run your front office smoothly.
- Identify the skills you want in candidates. While proficiency with technology is important, you can often train someone to handle interactions with a patient portal. Front desk staff must also be able to manage patients who may be stressed or ill, coordinate with other staff members and handle multiple tasks without becoming flustered. Think about the communication style you prefer and how you want your patients to think about you. These may help you generate an idea of the kind of employees you would like to hire.
- Search for people with those skills. A candidate with medical office work history may have the experience you need, but you may want to consider people from other customer service occupations. They may have the interpersonal and soft skills you want for your patients. For example, candidates from the hospitality industry, real estate offices or banks are often experienced in interacting with people. In addition to advertising the position online, you may want to ask for referrals from other employees, relatives and contacts outside the medical profession. If you’re having trouble finding enough applicants for a job, you might consider working with a recruiting firm. However, you’ll pay a fee to a recruiter who finds you an employee.
- Refine your interviewing skills. As a physician, you’re well trained in your field, but you may not have as much experience hiring staff. Experts suggest asking open-ended questions during interviews such as an applicant’s opinion about how your office can best support patients. During an interview, you’ll want to pay attention to the personality and communication skills of a candidate as much as their resume and specific experience. You may want to look for someone who is adaptable and flexible enough to handle multiple tasks at once. Notice whether the applicant follows directions and replies promptly to emails and calls before and after the interview.
- Check for credentials. While your intuition can be an important aspect of the hiring process, you’ll also want to follow up on candidates who appear qualified. If you need them to have certain credentials or specific experience, check to see that they have them. Check their references and pay for a criminal background check to protect your practice and its reputation.
- Make working for you beneficial. In times when employees can be hard to find, offering work by itself may be less than enticing for potential employees. It might help to make it clear what your values are — providing the latest patient treatments, creating an inclusive practice, etc. You may also want to consider offering a slightly higher compensation or greater flexibility in hours to attract the right candidates. Offering training in additional skills may even help candidates see potential career growth opportunities with you.
If you have a larger medical practice, you may have an office manager or someone on staff who can do the initial screening of job applicants. To find the right person to hire for your office, it’s also best for you to meet with qualified candidates to do a personal evaluation of whether they will provide the support you need for your patients and practice.
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