Hiring the “almost perfect” staff

Business leader consulting HR expert

I have personally met with about 6000 healthcare professionals across Canada to analyze their practices, and our staff have done extensive work with over 1,400 of them (including more than 150 Denturists) to train them as executives and help them improve their practices. Some facts we have observed are:

  • there are no perfect bosses;
  • there are no perfect staff;
  • less than ideal bosses and staff prevent top notch service and therefore lose a substantial amount of income;
  • the lack of net income for the practitioner is in direct ratio to the lack of management skills.

As the owner of a denture clinic, you cannot fire yourself, even if you are not quite a perfect boss. The only direction is up, and that can be achieved through increasing your management skills and hiring some great team players.

Hiring the almost perfect staff

Since there is no such thing as the perfect staff member, but let’s look at how to get as close as possible to the ideal candidate.

Step 1: The wish list

You cannot find the ideal employee if you don’t know precisely what you are looking for. Define your ideal employee by writing down your wish list of characteristics.

For example, for a receptionist:

What experience should they have? Have they ever worked in an optometry office? Or another type of healthcare practice, or even some other kind of position where they had customer contact of some type or other?

What skills should they possess? Good and accurate typist? Computer software knowledge (ideally, the one you already have)? Bookkeeping? Excellent English, French or other language needed by your patient base?

What people skills and personality traits would you like? Terrific sounding on the phone? Well groomed and appropriately business attired? Has good work habits and shows initiative and ability to work on own? Is a problem solver? Has creative ideas in terms of office procedure, protocols, advertising, etc. Good ability to take control of people and situations?

That’s your wish list. You are looking for a candidate who is as closely aligned with this list as possible.

We usually recommend that spouses do not work together where possible as it can put unnecessary stress on the relationship. Also, do not hire family or friends or anyone you cannot fire if they do not work out.

Step 2: Advertise the position

Put an ad in the newspaper: In some areas where unemployment is high, that’s all you have to do and you’ll be flooded with resumes. In other areas, you’re going to have to be a little more creative.

Here is a sample ad:

Receptionist needed immediately for busy optometry practice. Hours: . Must be flexible, career minded and very dynamic. Own Car. Mature. Excellent interpersonal and telephone skills. Great working environment. Experience an asset but will train best person. Fax or email resume to:_____.

Step 3: Screen resumes

Screen the resumes and compare them to your wish list. Do they have what you are looking for? Does the resume look decent or does it have typos? (If they can’t put together a well typed resume, they won’t type presentable material for your office.)

By doing the screening of resumes, narrow down the number of candidates to applicants that are serious contenders. Do a brief phone interview and listen to how they sound – are they bright, clear and personable? If so, set up a live interview.

Step 4: Conduct interviews

The interview with the candidate should provide you with the greatest amount of information. This is your opportunity to watch the individual perform under fire. This is your chance to see how they handle themselves, whether they can think on their feet and whether they have the technical knowledge the position needs.

In the interview, remember to get the candidate to talk while you listen and observe. This is especially true if the position being hired for is one which requires dealing with the public.

Interview questions:

In addition to those provided here, there should be a series of question which explicitly address the technical qualifications of the individual for the position being applied for.


1. Outline the practice hours and then ask if they will pose any problem. Be sure to explain that some additional hours may be required on occasion.

2. Outline the salary and bonus being offered, and then ask if this is acceptable.

3. Determine if they have transportation or are going to be able to get to work without difficulty.

4. Outline the position and its duties, then have them describe their past work history with reference to what they will be doing in the practice.


5. What are your strengths?

6. What are your weaknesses?

7. Do you require direction? Get them to provide examples of how this is so from their past work experience.

8. What bothers you most about other people? Assuming that you have to work with such a person, how would you go about it?

9. What are your short term goals in life? What are your long term goals?

10. Do you think people should be helped? Get them to provide examples of how they have helped others and can accept help themselves.

Work Experience

11. What did you like most/least about your last job?

12. What did you like most/least about your boss?

13. Why did you leave your job or why are you seeking another job?

14. What were your most major accomplishments, or things you did in your jobs you were most proud of?

15. Of all the jobs you have had, which did you like the most/least? Why?

16. What is the most important thing that a manager should do?

17. Set out some situations which they will have to deal with in the practice and get them to show you how they would deal with them.

Test What They Tell You

The candidate says, “I know how to run computer program X,” which you happen to have. Good, turn your computer off, give them a letter to type and tell them you’ll be back in 15 minutes and let them go at it. See what you get. Or give them a copy of your general ledger and a handful of invoices and get them to figure out which categories they go into. Talk is cheap. You want to see if they can actually do what they say.

Step 5:  Check references

Check them!!!!! References must be asked for and called especially those that can verify the production of the candidate. While general references may or may not provide any useful information, production references will verify the truth of the statements made by the candidate. Make sure the ones you check are as current as possible as people change over time. Ignore character references.

When checking the references of a candidate ask specific questions: how did they help your business, did they do your books and were they accurately done and on time, were they a clock watcher? Ask about specific weaknesses or you may not be told about them. You can also ask if they would hire the person again. Sometimes the most alarming things come out in a reference check: she/he is suing me for wrongful dismissal, I let him/her go because they were stealing money from the practice.

Also, when looking for references, ask the individual to supply one for each place where they worked. A reluctance to provide a reference for a specific past position may indicate a situation which you want to know more about.

Step 6:  Trial work day(s)

Whenever possible, have the candidate or candidates which you have selected come in and work in the practice for a day or a few days. While they may not be as quick as you would eventually expect, they should give you a basic impression as to whether they will fit into your work environment in fairly short order. You must remember that your practice and how things are done in it are NEW to them so they may not perform as well as you want during this short test. Nevertheless, it provides you with additional information which you can use when making your final decision.

Step 7:  Hire the best

As objectively as possible, evaluate the candidates and pick the one that matches your wish list as closely as possible. The basic terms of employment should be put into a letter.

Step 8:  Three month trial

In most provinces in Canada, there is a probationary period of three months during which time you can terminate the employment of newly hired staff without notice or severance pay or justification in any way. If your new staff member is not “almost perfect”, do not feel guilty about dismissing. Move on and get the one you want. During this period of time, most employees are on their best behaviour. So if anything is bothering you now, it is only going to get worse after 3 months and then you are going to have to suffer with your mistake or pay to get out of it. Bottom line, it is quality of service to your patients that you should be most concerned about.

Happy Hunting!


Call us at 416-466-6217 for a FREE Practice Assessment!



Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to The Art of Management Inc. and a clickable link back to this page.


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