Caveats Before Hiring a New Employee or Physician

Neil Baum, MD

Neil Baum, MD, is Clinical Associate Professor of Urology, Tulane Medical School, New Orleans, LA, and author of Marketing Your Clinical Practice: Ethically, Effectively, and Economically, Jones Bartlett Publishers. He is also author of Social Media For The Healthcare Profession, Greenbranch Publishing, 2011. He blogs at


Hiring is daunting process. Few medical practices have human resources departments where professionals do the interviewing and hiring of employees. Few office managers and physicians have skills and training to interview prospective employees or a new physician who is going to join the practice. Also, few office mangers or physicians conduct enough interviews to become skilled at finding those that will fit the practice environment and culture. However, there are a few caveats and suggestions to consider that might make this easier for those who interview prospective employees and physicians.
Be wary of the employee who is winging it. With future employees having access to the Internet, there is no excuse for them not to have some information on the practice. It does not take very much time to review a medical practice or an organization, its doctors, and recent publications in advance of an interview. The interviewee should do his\her homework and plan for the interview. I often will ask if they have looked at the website. A no answer is a negative sign. If they answer yes, then I drill down into what did they like best about the website and what would they do to change it or make it better. What a positive sign if they have suggestions, either good ones or bad ones, about the Website and our social media presence. Remember, if the interviewee is caught winging it, that indicates little or no interest and should mean taking a pass on their application.
I always end the interview by asking the applicant if they have any questions. If they have no questions or the only question is about the salary or the vacation schedule, that sends a signal to me that they are not really interested in the position or if they are, that they won’t fit very well into our culture. Practices need employees who are inquisitive, who are curious, and who are looking for better ways to take care of patients. Pure and simple, no questions means no interest.
I like to see an applicant who generates enthusiasm and energy. Working in a medical practice requires lots of energy and the ability to take patients who don’t feel well and pump them up and be optimistic and help them to improve their attitude and sense of well-being. Of course, I know that every applicant is nervous about the interview. However, five minutes after the interview has started they should demonstrate some level of enthusiasm. If there is no energy during the interview, don’t expect much more when they start to work in the practice. I look for hand motions, power the voice, and whether there is a connection with me. If they can’t connect with me or the office manager, they are unlikely to be able to connect with our patients. Take home message: no energy, no interest, no job.
I will often ask a difficult or curve ball question. I make the question difficult enough that the applicant is not likely to know the answer. I then suggest that they find out the answer and get back to me. I gauge very carefully the speed of their response. Immediately is a real positive and 5 to 7 days later or no response is a real negative. There are going to be many times when issues come up when answers are not readily forth coming. The excellent employee will find out the answer and report back promptly, ideally within 24 hours.
No thank you note. This is just a quirk of mine which is not a deal breaker but is certainly a real plus when you receive a thank you note. I think this is nice gesture and I know that the person is really interested in the position if they take the time to send a thank-you note, either written or e-mail. My office staff and I send thank you notes every day to patients, vendors, hospital personnel, other physicians who have gone out of their way to help us in our practice. This simple act demonstrates common courtesy, good manners, and a clue that the applicant will be nice and thankful to patients.
Bottom line: Although there are no certainties about hiring a new employee or a new physician there are some guidelines that will provide you with clues of their personality and non-clinical behaviors that will help decide whether to offer the applicant a position.