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Recruit practice staff wisely

By Karen Crouch
Opening a new practice, and expanding or replacing staff can be a difficult process. KAREN CROUCH outlines steps to help practice owners recruit the best candidates for the job.

When looking to recruit new staff, regardless of the need or level of employee(s) you may require, the exercise should be undertaken with care and diligence. Efficient, reliable practice management staff will support and allow practitioners to focus on high standards of clinical service.

The age-old adage “Our most valuable assets are our human resources” is too easily embodied in practice slogans and policies. However, conversion of the slogan into action is not always as one might expect or prefer – and it all starts with a meaningful, well-planned recruitment process.


The first step is to analyse the nature of each job function and determine the type of individual you wish to have in the role. Analysis should include attendance requirements, educational qualifications, work experience, and personal values that will support the client management and office culture you wish to generate.

"Finding the right staff starts with a meaningful, well-planned recruitment process"

Next, document a comprehensive position description covering all aspects, roles and responsibilities of the person required, then develop a comprehensive questionnaire in preparation for applicant interviews to test experience, personal values, etc.

You must now decide who will undertake this important recruitment task: you or a recruitment agent (preferably with experience in your specific industry).


An advertisement must be carefully constructed to attract suitable applications that match the position functions and intended culture of your practice. Separate ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ qualities to provide applicants with a clear picture of your requirements.

Appropriate advertising streams, particularly online job search websites, should be exploited to provide maximum exposure to the industry and applicants, within a reasonable geographical boundary.


The hard work begins when the curriculum vitae (CVs) roll in. Resumes should be sorted into ‘yes’, ‘maybe’ and ‘unsuitable’ categories. All resumes, including ‘unsuitable’, should be acknowledged, usually by email or telephone, unless application volumes are excessive.


Note that if you decide to interview applicants, you will also be under scrutiny. Candidates need to feel comfortable about employment in your organisation.

"Efficient, reliable practice management staff will support and allow practitioners to focus on high standards of clinical service."

AFT Pharmaceuticals

Contact ‘yes’ applicants – and some ‘maybes’ if ‘yes’ numbers are low – to arrange interview times and dates. Allow adequate time gaps between interviews to avoid candidates ‘bumping’ into one another – confidentiality and privacy are vital.

While conducting interviews with selected applicants, record detailed notes, responses to the aforementioned questionnaire, and recommendations. Ensure all questions asked during the interview comply with relevant legislation and are not unnecessarily intrusive.

Finally, prepare a shortlist of candidates from which to make a final decision and choose the best applicant.


Reference checking must be conducted by personal discussion (usually telephone) with nominated referees. Again, a pre-prepared list of probing questions will ensure all responses are genuine and authoritative.


Successful applicants should be issued a letter of appointment/employment, citing all relevant conditions (eg, salary rates, awards, superannuation, leave, etc) together with copies of the relevant award, legislation, standards and statement.

Ensure you have a meaningful induction program in place and hold periodical meetings with new staff to ensure they are comfortable or to establish whether further guidance is necessary.


Every practice seeks to maximise employee performance for patient benefit and business efficiency/ profitability.

Employees are subject to management by practice principals and require performance guidelines, qualitative and quantitative, by which their achievements (or lack thereof) may be assessed.

Enter the concept of key performance indicators or KPIs.

KPIs should contain five key characteristics. They should be: business-oriented, specific, measureable, achievable but realistic, and have a clearly defined timeframe.

They should also be reviewed at important milestones (eg, annual staff appraisal, staff development review, or when major business changes occur).


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