In your practice (or office) manager, you want someone who will aspire to greatness. The backbone of your practice, your practice manager has a demanding and visible position requiring a broad range of experience. This is why hiring your office manager should never be a “cross your fingers” dilemma. In fact, the opposite is true: Review the big picture and then move to a specific hiring methodology.
Today’s practice manager must possess not only a strong knowledge of office management and operations, but also the ability to assist in the development and implementation of the office strategy.
Look for a team-oriented leader who can partner with you in focusing the energy of the practice toward continued success—someone who is dynamic and energetic, with a strong desire for personal achievement as well as staff success.
Most of us can list job responsibilities but may be unable to list what makes a good leader. A great practice manager will demonstrate the following traits:
- Industry knowledge—Fulfilling the responsibilities of an office manager requires a clear understanding of the industry, including technology, retail sales, marketing, and customer service.
- Loyalty—Whether or not you promote from within or hire from outside your practice, your manager must always act in the best interest of you and your practice. If he or she wants to be “one of the gang,” supervisory responsibilities and loyalties will be compromised.
- Fairness—A successful leader has the ability to objectively handle uncomfortable situations, be they conflicts among co-workers or with unhappy patients, for example.
- Business acumen—Profit-and-loss statements, existing systems and programs, financial policy, and patient financing are a few of the key issues your practice manager must understand.
- Confidentiality—A valued manager is one who scrupulously maintains the confidentiality required for financial, patient, and employee information.
- Honesty—Your manager will set the standard and become the role model for your practice. It has been said, “Who lies for you will lie against you.”
- Professionalism—A professional appearance and matching behavior is key. After you, your practice manager is the “face” of your entire business. He or she should look and act the part.
“The simple fact that your office manager is in charge of future hires makes this person’s position paramount to your practice,” says Heather Rogers, office and spa manager in Melbourne, Fla. “This is someone who not only represents you and your practice, but also inspires and motivates your staff.”
Advertise to Hire
When you advertise, be very specific about the core skills required to fill this position. Do not generalize. The recruitment process for the best candidate involves attraction—that is, selling yourself.
Your new office manager will be a major driving force behind your success. How much is that worth to you? The salary and benefits package you offer should appeal to the right demographic.
When you are ready, consider advertising in journals and magazines that a knowledgeable practice manager would normally read.
For a broader placement of your ad, consider using SimplyHired.com, Craigslist.com, or other Internet job-placement sites, as well as local newspapers.
At this point, you have reviewed your applications and set up interviews with those applicants who appear most promising.
How you choose to interview your new practice manager will either give you the information you need to make the best decision, or will leave you relying on “gut instinct.” Just because an applicant states he or she has leadership ability doesn’t make it so.
Interviewing for leadership ability means you ask the right questions and take notes. Warning: If you hear yourself doing most of the talking during an interview, you won’t get the information you need.
Consider an initial, brief phone interview. Because your practice manager will be required to speak with patients, vendors, physicians, and other professionals, you should assess the candidate’s phone etiquette.
After you have completed this phone interview, arrange for a face-to-face interview. You may choose one-on-one interviews to cull the field, then open up for group interviews with your staff.
It is through the applicant’s established pattern of behavior that you can see whether or not he or she is a leader. Here are some sample questions designed to uncover those patterns:
- Give me an example of communication problems you have experienced on the job, and tell me how these problems were resolved.
- What does it mean to you to be a team player, and how have you been a team player in other offices?
- When you have free time on the job, what do you enjoy doing the most?
- What would you do to increase office morale?
- Do you belong to any professional networking organizations?
- Have you ever mentored a new employee? If so, what were the results of this experience?
- What are you currently studying/reading about management practices? What have you studied in the past?
Also, ask questions to determine whether or not the applicant has the knowledge and expertise you require or is willing to acquire this knowledge and expertise on their own.
As you conduct the interviews, write out each applicant’s responses and review them later so you can carefully evaluate and compare them.
“As a practice manager, it is my job to follow through with reference checks when I hire new staff,” Rogers says. “Be thorough with your questions, and get as much information about each interviewee as possible. And don’t forget to ask about their personality type to be sure there is a good match for your office.”
You may want some help with reference checks, so consider hiring a staffing agency. In addition, you can tap into specialized Internet sites, such as hiring-solutions.com or employeescreening.com, to assist you.
A Match Made in Heaven
Your goal in hiring your most important employee is to make an informed decision. Your prospective manager’s goal is to find an employer who will provide an environment that supports continued learning and growth, as well as a salary and benefits to match the demands of this incredibly important position.
Consider looking at other practices or Internet sites such as Salary.com for general guidelines for choosing the appropriate salary range in your geographical area.
By focusing the time and effort required to find the right person for the job, you will help ensure the success of your practice as well as the happiness of your team and your patients.
Cheryl Whitman has been a consultant for more than 30 years. She is the founder and CEO of Beautiful Forever, a medical spa consulting firm. She can be reached at (877) SPA-MEDI or medicalspaconsultant.com.
Knowledge and Expertise
In addition to leadership ability, the best practice manager is proficient in the following:
- Interviewing and hiring new staff
- Preparing training schedules and resources
- Tracking staff time (holiday, sick, personal leave, etc)
- Counseling staff when necessary
- Performance and salary reviews
- Overseeing the daily practice schedule and planning the staff accordingly
- Bank deposits
- Managing the patient flow
- Handling patient consults and patient grievances as needed
- Tracking financial performance: goal versus actual; yearly performance
- Assisting in setting financial goals
- Managing the practice budget in assigned functional areas
- Assisting in developing the practice’s marketing plan and programs
- Administering individual programs
- Coordinating events
- Troubleshooting computer- and networking-related problems
- Keeping IT resources updated and functioning
- Ordering office equipment as needed
- First line of support on specialty software used by your practice
- Managing the Web presence
Practice portfolio management
- Meeting with medical director and business manager regularly to discuss new products, procedures, and technology
- Meeting with vendors to research new product offerings and prices
- Attending meetings and seminars to further knowledge of available technology, products, and services