In the classic fairy tale “The Frog Prince,” a frog is turned into a prince when he finds his perfect match—that one person who is the “right fit” just for him.
Unfortunately, when most practice owners and managers are trying to hire employees for their practices, they find the fairy tale is reversed: They meet a seemingly perfect prince or princess at the interview, but a frog shows up on the first day of the job.
All too often, when we make a bad hire, we focus on what was wrong with the employee. However, what we really should be doing is taking a hard look at our hiring practices that are causing us to make bad choices.
In 20 years of consulting with and training business owners on hiring, I’ve found that most of them make some or all of the following seven hiring mistakes.
1. Not keeping job descriptions up to date.
You can’t begin to identify what knowledge, skills, abilities and characteristics an applicant would need to have to be successful in a position if you don’t know what the position really entails. If your job descriptions are outdated and don’t reflect current major duties, then not only can you not find the right applicant, but you’re basically lying to your applicants about the job they’re applying for. And no, you can’t use the “all other duties as assigned” clause to cover yourself. Major activities and responsibilities that make up the bulk of the employee’s time at work must be spelled out in the job description.
2. Writing job announcements that sound like “criminal wanted” posters instead of writing great ads that will attract the right candidate.
Wanted: Veterinary Technician. Must have 5 years’ experience. Must have required state certifications. Must work weekends.
Wow! Sounds awesome, right? I’ll bet people are lining up to apply for this gem of a job! Or not…
The goal of a great job ad should be to attract a great person who is a great fit for the job and your practice. Start by providing positive information and incentive for that great person you’re looking for to respond to your ad. Make ads exciting and creative. Tell applicants why your practice, team, clients and community are great; however, you also need to be honest. If you over-inflate how great the job or your company is, the employee will likely quit within a few weeks of being hired when he or she realizes the job isn’t what you said it was.
3. Asking the same old “canned” questions you’ve been asking for 20 years.
YOU: “What do you think is your greatest weakness?”
APPLICANT: “I am so dedicated to my job; I sometimes forget to go home at the end of the day.”
Before the advent of the internet, you might have gotten some honest answers to these questions. But, nowadays, any applicant can look up common questions like, “What’s your greatest strength?” and “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”—and the best answers they should give in response to each.
It’s time to stop using these old school questions and start asking customized questions that are specific to your practice and the specific position you’re trying to fill. When you do, be sure you’re taking a 360 degree approach to looking at the applicant.
You’ll want to assess the three C’s: Capability, Commitment and Culture Fit. Capability is all about the person’s ability to do the job. Commitment is how dedicated the person is to the position; how much he or she believes in the mission of the organization, work ethic, values, etc. Culture fit is whether the applicant will mesh well with your existing team, your mission, clientele and community.
In all my years of consulting, most of the clients I’ve worked with who have regretted a hire don’t regret it because of the person’s capability; it’s the other two C’s that cause the most trouble, so don’t forget to ask questions about those, too.
4. Asking leading questions.
YOU: “This job requires you to work every other Saturday. You don’t have a problem working every other Saturday, do you?”
APPLICANT: (Thinking. . . Hmmm,I’ve got a 50/50 chance, but I’m guessing the answer she wants is NO), “Uh, no.”
When you ask a leading question, most applicants will give you the answer you seek rather than the truth. Then, they’ll quit when they realize they really do have to work every other Saturday.
5. Asking hypothetical questions instead of behavior-based questions.
Many interviewers ask hypothetical questions in interviews to try to assess what the applicant would do in a given situation. The problem with hypothetical questions is they’re really just a hopeful guess on the part of the applicant about what he or she would do in a certain scenario. What you really want to know when interviewing is what the applicant has done in their past jobs because a person’s past behavior is a great indicator of their future behavior.
Behavior-based questions ask the applicant to share a specific situation from their past, and how they handled that situation and the outcome. These questions often start with, “Tell me about a time when…” They also follow the STAR formula. Star stands for Situation, Task, Actions, Results. So, a behavior-based question might be, “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a complaining customer. What actions did you take to try to resolve the complaint and what was the result?”
6. Interviewing solo or sequentially instead of conducting panel interviews.
Many practice owners will have a practice manager screen applicants and then conduct the final interviews by themselves. The problem with this type of sequential interview process is that you’ve got two different interviewers conducting two different interviews, possibly asking two different sets of questions, and getting two different interpretations. I’m not against an initial screening interview to narrow the pool of applicants, but the research supports the efficacy of conducting the final round of interviews in a panel format.
Panel interviews allow interviewers to experience the applicant at the same time, in the same place, answering the same questions. There is a consistency in a panel interview that makes the process more accurate in assessing the applicant and fairer to each applicant. A panel interview also allows you to discuss the interview right after it, with everyone present, so the experience is fresh in everyone’s mind. A panel interview might consist of the practice owner, practice manager, senior veterinarian and one of your technicians, because each of these people will be working with the new employee and it’s important to get everyone’s impressions from their perspective—both personally and professionally.
7. Not having a scoring system and benchmark responses for your interview questions.
If you’re going to take the time to create customized behavioral interview questions, then it’s also worth the time to create benchmark answers for each question, otherwise how will you know what is an excellent, good or mediocre answer when you hear it?
When I create benchmark answers, I use a 5-point system—5 points for an exceptional answer, 3 points for an acceptable answer and 1 point for an unacceptable answer. For each of the benchmarks, I identify keywords that I would expect to hear for each type of answer. Then during the interview, interviewers simply have to check or circle the words they hear (or similar words), and, in the end, it’s easy to “score” the applicant’s response to each question. Tally all the scores for each applicant and it will usually become apparent who is your top applicant. If there’s a tie, the panel can go back and review and conduct a tie breaker.
Following a more structured search and interview process as outlined above will make your hiring process a lot more efficient and a lot less stressful for everyone involved. Additionally, it will help you be more successful in finding the “right fit” applicant for any position in your practice. +