If you’ve been following our blog posts this month, you might’ve noticed a recurring theme—besides company culture in general—and that’s the importance of hiring the right people for your practice. From the cost of recruiting, screening, and interviewing to the cost of onboarding and training, hiring is a huge investment for companies, and if you don’t hire the right candidates, it can come at a big expense.

According to a 2012 CareerBuilder poll, 69% of companies surveyed experienced a bad hire that year. Of those companies, 41% said that one bad hire cost them $25,000, while 24% said it cost them more than $50,000. The cost includes loss of productivity and time, recruitment and training, and the adverse effect to employee morale as well as the hire’s inability to produce quality work and work well with others. From the private practice perspective, there’s yet another opportunity for lost revenue when you consider your patients. The wrong hire can cost you even more if patients leave your business because your new hire’s treatment style or personality don’t measure up to your clinic’s standards. Clearly, hiring the right candidate is paramount—and that’s where cultural fit comes in.

According to this 7 Geese post, the Competency Iceberg model shows “that 20% of an individual (above the surface of an iceberg) is mostly the technical competencies, i.e. education [and] work experience, whereas 80% (the hidden/below the surface of an iceberg) is all about the essence of the individual, i.e. values and beliefs.” Hiring for cultural fit means hiring people based more so on their  “below the surface” qualities rather than their technical abilities. Why? Because you can’t train people to genuinely possess the same values that you and your business do. You can teach technical skills, though. As Intuit’s QuickBase blog explains: “If an employee doesn’t fit the mold, then it’s going to be near impossible to force it on them. They will eventually get frustrated and quit because they will want something that you can’t provide them.” That, or you’ll have to let them go.

Here are a few other reasons to hire for cultural fit:

  • These new hires live up to expectations faster. If a new hire shares your values and understands how the business operates, he or she can adapt more easily. They swim rather than sink—and they start swimming sooner.
  • These new hires stick around. “Employees who have a sense of belonging to a company will stay longer. If they have strong friendships at work, they won’t want to lose them to get a job elsewhere and start over.  In a sense, your office becomes a second home to them. Employees who don’t fit in, fade out,” says Dan Schawbel at Intuit’s QuickBase.
  • They’re your competitive advantage. As 7 Geeseexplains, competitors can quickly replicate what you’re doing, sometimes even doing a better job. “One of the only things that can’t be easy replicated is your company culture.” A strong company culture can “differentiate your brand, attract and retain loyal employees, and build strong relationships with your customers, vendors, and partners,” all of which can create or strengthen your competitive advantage.

Every therapist, biller, or front office candidate you interview will possess a certain skillset, degree of experience, and appropriate training, certifications, or education. You wouldn’t schedule them for an interview otherwise. But you absolutely have to go beyond how good they look on paper. Before I discuss how to do just that, confirm these two things:

  1. You know your practice’s culture. Need help with that? Check out this blog post on identifying your core values.
  2. You’ve documented your practice’s culture. Sure, maybe you know your business’s core values, but are they in writing? If not, check out this blog post for a how-to.

Okay, let’s discuss interviewing for cultural fit. Really quickly, though, a cautionary message from 7 Geese:

According to a research paper conducted by Development Dimensions International (DDI), an international talent management company, 78% of respondents believe that organizations and hiring managers do not assess for culture fit because they do not know how to do this. Hiring based on core values can potentially create legal problems such as discrimination and facilitate biased decision making on who to hire as you may be asking candidates questions that tap into their private [lives].

While there are no defined steps on how to adjust your recruitment process to incorporate your business’s core values, DDI does have three solid suggestions:

  • Describe your practice’s core values and company culture in behavioral terms. Essentially, ask behavioral-based questions, because past behaviors are good predictors of future ones. If one of your core values is to put patients first, you could ask interviewees to describe a scenario where they provided exemplary care and what made the care exemplary.
  • Ensure you and any hiring managers or recruiters are adequately trained. You want to make sure everyone knows what your practice needs in a candidate, what questions to ask and why they’re asking them, and how to interpret and evaluate every candidate’s answers. Another key aspect of proper training: learning to avoid biases. You want interviewers to assess candidates’ compatibility to the company and its culture—not necessarily to the individual interviewer. This holds particularly true when using outside recruiters.
  • Be realistic when it comes to the job position. Use descriptions of the specific role and your practice’s culture from current employees. Schawbel at Intuit’s QuickBase agrees with this tip: “Give applicants an idea of what your culture looks like before they apply by using social networks to communicate it through pictures, text, and video.” Furthermore, don’t use generic job descriptions. As Insperity explains, “Your culture can set the tone of your messaging to prospective employees, and that should be your goal for your advertised job openings. This involves letting your company’s personality come through in your descriptions and being specific about what the job will require beyond the skills and responsibilities...With a clear and precise job description, you can eliminate any confusion about what's expected of the applicant right off the bat.”

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, “...in the December issue of the American Sociological Review, Northwestern professor Lauren Rivera concludes that companies are making hiring decisions ‘in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners.’” As a result, interviewers are asking more off-topic questions that relate to company culture. “The employment site Glassdoor has collected 285,000 questions asked by hiring managers, and the following four rank among 2012’s 50 most common, though they have little to do with work: What’s your favorite movie? What’s your favorite website? What’s the last book you read for fun? What makes you uncomfortable?” says the Bloomberg article’s author. So, consider incorporating some off-topic questions into your interview process. Here are some that WebPT uses when interviewing job candidates for marketing positions:

  • What do you do for fun?
  • What are some of your favorite local restaurants?
  • What publications do you enjoy reading?

Ultimately, you want to find skilled, qualified, and quality candidates for any job openings at your practice. But like Baby in Dirty Dancing, don’t ever put culture in the corner. Know your practice’s core values and ensure you’re not only incorporating them into the recruitment process, but also hiring with them at the forefront of your mind.

Have you seen the benefits of hiring for cultural fit? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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