Published 6/1/2019
Jana Foor, CMPE

Leverage Proven Best Practices to Find Your Next Practice Administrator

Hiring an executive to oversee your business is a formidable undertaking. After spending years building a successful practice, how do you hire someone who will care for the practice as much as you do?

Define your goals

Start by specifying your goals. Assess the current state of your business and its future. Recognize the challenges you are facing, and be prepared to discuss them with candidates during the recruitment process. Challenges might include outdated payer contracts, difficulty attracting and retaining staff, or a negative corporate culture. Begin the process being as honest and open as possible to set the stage for successful recruitment.

Attract qualified talent with the right job description

Tailor the job description to your practice. Do not cut corners and short-circuit your hiring goals by using an incomplete, old, or nonspecific job description. Clearly define the practice’s culture, expectations, and desired skill set. Treat the job description like your company’s cover letter, explaining the important details to attract appropriate candidates for the scope of work.

If the job description was written more than a few years ago, read it with a critical eye, and update it to reflect the current role. Include key goals, projects, and the overall vision. Save countless hours by doing this step before you begin recruitment. It is acceptable to use a template, but it should be customized to reflect the practice. A thoughtful and thorough job description should generate enough resumes to get started.

See the next page for a template job description from the American Association of Orthopaedic Executives (AAOE) online community Collaborate, which was shared by AAOE member Debra L. Mitchell, RN, MBA, a retired administrator from the Children’s Orthopaedic and Scoliosis Surgery Associates in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Reviewing resumes

Make a list of desirable characteristics, traits, education, and background to prepare for reviewing resumes. Do a quick scan of each resume, and discard those that do not meet the minimum requirements for which you advertised. Also discard resumes that have errors in grammar and spelling. If you are not interested in paying for relocation, move distant candidates into a separate folder for future consideration.

Once you are left with the best resumes that meet your minimum standards for qualification, avoid reading the name before the rest of the resume to avoid bias.

Next, conduct a more thorough review, grading each resume against your list of key characteristics. Pencil an A through F at the top, and then compare each resume. Use the grading system to eliminate weaker resumes, then order the remaining resumes from most to least desirable and decide whom to call first.

If you do not have much experience with recruitment, call everyone who meets your minimum standards. This scenario is a great opportunity to learn interviewing skills to elicit more information from candidates and feel more comfortable with the vetting process.

Screening candidates during the interview process

The more difficult part of the hiring process is identifying candidates with high social and emotional intelligence, which is a key indicator of a candidate who will succeed in the job.

Ask open-ended questions to better understand a candidate’s background and resume details, such as:

  • How satisfied were previous physicians, employees, and patients with your services and experience?
  • What did employees learn from you, and how did that help them build their own careers?
  • What impact did your actions and decisions have on your business associates?
  • What were your overall influences on the relationships, commitments, and trust levels in those with whom you have worked?

If you are not getting qualified candidates, adjust the job description.

Selecting the right candidate

Some hiring managers want to cut to the chase and hire the first person with whom they are impressed. If you have a good working barometer for character, this may work in your favor. As you progress in the hiring process, pay attention to candidates who keep resurfacing in your mind—and ask yourself why. Sometimes a top-drawer resume ends up being a candidate you have reservations about; other times, he or she is the perfect one who never gets selected.

Don’t be shy about going with a candidate who you really like but may not have the strongest resume. Recruiting candidates is like dating: You don’t have to check all the boxes, but you will need to check many or most. Remember, there is almost never a “unicorn.” If you find yourself with a great match for skills, abilities, and culture—go with that candidate. Far too often, people make the mistake of overlooking a fantastic candidate hoping for something better, only to lose a great candidate in the process.

Of note, avoid looking for candidates who are similar to the hiring manager. This setup will result in hiring for skills and abilities already possessed by current managers, rather than hiring a candidate who offers scarce, missing, or complementary abilities that help make the team whole and more productive. Find a person to manage your business who has what you need—not what you already have.

Successful practice administration requires lifelong learning. Hiring and onboarding your new administrator is important; however, the constantly changing healthcare landscape requires continuous education.

Access to a reliable professional network is important for administrators to optimally manage your practice. For those new to practice administration or new to orthopaedics, national organizations such as AAOS and AAOE provide such support.

Sample practice administrator job listing (PDF)

Jana Foor, CMPE, is secretary of the AAOE Board of Directors.