January 2018    
Volume 10, Issue 2    

Happiness is Not a 
Warm Body

Upcoming Events

Las Vegas, NV 
March 4-8, 2018



The hiring process can be very stressful. As much as we don't like to fire people, hiring isn't much fun either. You want to find the perfect person, but at the same time you need to fill the position before the hospital gets even busier and your remaining staff revolt. Interviewing and screening candidates takes a huge amount of time and you have more than enough on your plate already. Even so, taking the time to do it the right way will pay big dividends down the line.
Consider the veterinary practice with a "revolving door" of staff. There is a constant stream of employees coming in and going out. More than likely, the management of this practice follows the "warm body" theory of hiring. The basis of this theory is that it is better to have somebody, anybody, in the position than to leave the position empty any longer.
The "warm body" theory is alive and well in many industries, fast food in particular. Many positions are low paid, entry level positions, and with turnover as high as 300%, very few people want to make a career flipping burgers. From the employers' perspective, they need someone to cover a position that often takes very little time to train. They are looking for people who want a job, not a career. Unfortunately, many positions with these types of employers are "dead end" jobs with no future, no continuing education, few or no benefits, and even less respect.  
Staff positions in veterinary practices are very different from fast food positions. Your clients get to know your practice and your employees, and expect to be greeted by name. Developing a rapport with clients and demonstrating affection for their pets helps to bond clients to your practice. While it can be very tempting to "settle" for a less-than-perfect candidate to get you through the summer, or the holidays or vacation season, hold out for the right fit. Consider the costs to your team when a "warm body" is hired. Most people would rather work harder until the right hire is made than get saddled again and again with a newbie with no experience and fewer skills. When you add poor performers to your team, no one feels the impact more than your best employees. Their jobs become more difficult and frustration mounts as they are stuck with a string of people they know won't stick around.  You certainly don't want to lose your best people because they want to work for a practice that respects them enough to hire decent candidates.
Also think of the effect this has on the person being hired. The "warm body" is rarely a good fit for the position. Most people know when you hired them out of desperation, not because they truly were the best person for the job. If an employee feels disposable or replaceable, what motivates them to do their best possible work? Rather than taking the time to prove you wrong, most people will chose to start over somewhere else.
How do you find a great person for your team? Step one: define the perfect employee for your hospital. This is less about skills and more about attitude and personality. It may sound a little corny, but this exercise will bring your focus back to the practice and your core values. What better way to set the stage for an interview than by reminding yourself why the practice is there in the first place.  Step two: have well-defined job descriptions and responsibilities. It is hard to find the right employee if they (or you) don't have a clear understanding of what the job entails.
Recruiting the right people for the job is all about marketing your practice. Make your hospital stand out from the crowd in everything from the ad you place to the interview and hiring process. Good people can get a job whenever they want to, so don't assume they will be grateful to work with you. Show your best side, just as the candidates are doing themselves.
Use the right interview questions. Don't download a bunch of questions right before the interview and hit your candidates with everything from "tell me about yourself" to "if you were an animal, what would you be, and why?" The last question may be interesting mind candy, but I challenge you to come up with a legitimate way to use the answer to test a candidate's ability to do the job. Update your question list periodically as you learn which questions give you the answers you can use and which do not.
Get away from easily anticipated interview questions and ask about real life experience. Some questions should be specific and based on the requirements of the position they are interviewing for. Other questions should address specific behaviors.  For example, "what will you do if your car doesn't start?" You want someone to mention all the options they have for getting to work, such as taking the bus, Uber, asking another employee for a ride or bicycling. You don't want to hear "I'll call as soon as I know I won't be there." You want someone who displays problem-solving skills and who will make the effort to come to work, not someone content to take the day off.
Interview for attitude as well as competencies. As the hiring adage says: "Hire for Attitude and Train for Skill".  What attitudes define your best performers? Patience, conscientiousness, enthusiasm, friendliness and service-orientation are all attitudes we want here at Summit.  Show them that they are more than just a warm body. Discuss opportunities to learn new skills, and the types of training offered.
Invite the best candidates back for a second interview. Include co-workers in the interview and observe how the candidate relates to potential peers. Let the others know what kind of feedback you want from them, so they have more to report than "she was nice."
Finally, check references. Sometimes you will hear nothing but "name, rank and serial number" but often you learn a tidbit of something important. When Summit checked references on two candidates recently, we were told by one reference that he hadn't talked to the candidate in years. This was after our candidate assured us that all of his references were aware we would call. The second candidate turned out to have an outstanding arrest warrant for embezzling funds from a former employer, an employer she claimed to leave because the owner retired and closed the business! We suspect this candidate assumed we wouldn't take the time to verify her story.
Finding employees who fit your practice's culture is one of the most important ways to build the practice of your dreams.  It is hard, sometimes really hard, to hold out for the right person. Do it anyway. Being temporarily understaffed is well worth the satisfaction of hiring a great match. You can't build an outstanding practice without outstanding employees, people who do what they love and love doing it for your clients, patients and their fellow staff members. And maybe for you, too!

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