(Looking to hire the best for another position in your clinic? We have articles addressing many different roles, including PTs, OTs, and SLPs. Click the respective link to find out more—or click here to see all the articles we’ve published on the topic.)

Whether you’re hiring the first member of your PT front office staff or your twenty-first, you want the best. After all, he or she will be responsible for making a great first impression to new patients, keeping your schedule filled, and starting the billing cycle on the right foot. That’s huge. Good thing you know exactly what to do to entice top talent—well, you will after reading this post, that is. Go on. What are you waiting for?

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1. Know what you want.

As WebPT’s Charlotte Bohnett explains in this post, there are certain “business-benefiting qualities” you should look for in your next front office staff member, including:

  • a natural affinity for billing (after all, “billing starts in the front-office”);
  • the ability to masterfully collect patient payments and copays (look for a people-person who stays calm and carries on even through challenging conversations);
  • multitasking talents (busy front offices have a lot going on—you want someone who can make the job look easy even though it’s not);
  • an understanding of your clinic’s software (while this can be learned on the job, someone who’s already familiar with your PT software will be up and running in less time); and
  • confidence (you want someone who can handle the job and then some).

2. Ensure your company culture is on point.

Before bringing a new staff member into the mix, you’ve got to be sure that your company culture is on point—both for you and your new employee. That’s because a solid cultural foundation is crucial for fostering engagement and focusing everyone on a unified vision—whether that vision is helping baby boomers experience less pain, getting athletes back onto the field faster, or anything in between. In other words, a great company culture is, well, great for everyone—including your patients. It’s even great for your bottom-line. Plus, once you have a clear understanding of your clinic’s culture, you’ll know exactly how to determine if a potential candidate is a good cultural fit. As WebPT President Heidi Jannenga says, “You can teach people new skills and concepts, but you can’t teach personality; you can’t teach values; and you certainly can’t teach passion.”

3. Spice up your job descriptions.

A generic job description will not only be a bore to read, but also won’t do you a lick of good when it comes to pre-screening candidates. Now, I’m not suggesting you sacrifice clarity for—well—anything, but there is a way to infuse your job descriptions with that special something that sets your office apart (like WebPT does with its descriptions). This enables you to communicate your clinic’s heart, personality, and culture from the get-go and thereby filter out candidates who aren’t interested in your work environment before they even arrive for an interview. In this post, Bohnett quotes HR consulting company Insperity as saying, “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...With a clear and precise job description, you can eliminate any confusion about what's expected of the applicant right off the bat.”

4. Master the art of the interview.

Here’s how:

  • Schedule at least one one-on-one and one group session for every candidate (the group interview will help you see how well that candidate meshes with the team).
  • Remember that interviews can be nerve-wracking for everyone. Before your next one, take a deep breath, do a short presence exercise, and remind yourself that this could be the beginning of a long—and beautiful—professional relationship.
  • Structure interviews like conversations—not interrogations.
  • Know that the best interviews are two-way streets; if you’re sitting across from a great PT front office person, then he or she is assessing you and your clinic for fit, too.
  • Ask great questions; then, listen to the answers. When conducting her own interviews, Jannenga asks “direct, relevant, and experiential questions” that address both competency and cultural fit. For example:
    • “How would you handle a situation in which [give a specific situation that someone in this role may face]? And what criteria would you use to determine whether you succeeded or failed?
    • “Let’s role-play an example of how you would approach a performance review discussion.”

Want some more sample questions? Here are 29 additional interview questions to consider (adapted from this source, this one, this one, and our own interviewing and hiring experience):

  1. Why did you decide to become a front office [manager/coordinator/associate]? What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of the job?
  2. Why are you interested in joining our company? What makes you an especially good fit for our team?
  3. How do you handle stress?
  4. What’s the best thing you’ve ever learned on the job?
  5. How do you stay organized?
  6. If I asked one of your colleagues to describe you in three adjectives, what would he or she say?
  7. What are you reading right now?
  8. What was the best thing a previous manager did that you wish everyone did?
  9. What is the last gift you gave someone?
  10. What can your hobbies tell me that your resume can’t?
  11. Tell me about a time when you provided service that went beyond what was expected of you.
  12. How do you stay up-to-date on HIPAA rules and regulations?
  13. How do you feel about patient collections?
  14. If a patient refused to pay his or her co-pay, how would you handle the situation?
  15. What has been your most challenging collection situation to date, and why? What did you learn from it?
  16. Describe your ideal work day.
  17. What are your strengths? In which areas do you hope to grow in the next year?
  18. What does efficient scheduling mean to you?
  19. What strategies do you use to ensure patients show up for their appointments?
  20. How would you handle a situation in which a patient was angry? What about a therapist?
  21. How do you ensure you’re making a great first impression?
  22. Tell me about a time you—or your clinic—implemented a suggestion of yours to make a situation better.
  23. What are your career goals? What are the three steps you’ve taken this year to help you achieve them?
  24. What motivates you?
  25. Have you ever received a request from a supervisor that you didn’t agree with? If so, how did you handle it?
  26. What was your favorite—and least favorite—aspect of your previous (or current) job?
  27. What experience do you have working with an EMR? Which EMRs are you familiar with?
  28. What three factors are crucial within a clinic and must be present for you to work most effectively?
  29. What certifications—if any—do you currently hold?

5. Make an unrefusable offer.

When you’re ready to make an offer, be sure it’s commensurate with the value you know the person you’re hiring is going to bring to your clinic—and that it won’t blow your budget. As I explained in this guide to fair compensation, that means you must:

  1. do your research to understand market value in your area (you can start by using this resource and this one);
  2. consider benefits other than salary (e.g., health, dental, vision, life, and disability insurance; continuing education credits; professional membership dues; fitness perks, and commuter benefits); and
  3. leave room for negotiation.

Jannenga used the fair market value—and benefits package—information for all the roles in her clinic to calculate a salary range for each. Then, based on what she knew about a particular candidate from his or her interview, she identified where within that position’s range the candidate should land. And she always left room for negotiation, because the best candidates will most likely make a counteroffer. “I like to screen first for the basics,” Jannenga says. For a PT front office staff member, that would include things like education and work history. She then factors in the less tangible stuff: “How do they think? How do they go about solving problems? How well do they communicate? How well do they mesh with the current team? And how well does the team accept them?” While Jannenga considers it all when making her decision, she puts cultural fit first.

There you have it: everything you need to know to hire the best PT front office staff. Been around the hiring block once or twice already? Then, you probably have your own best practices. Tell us what’s worked—and what hasn’t—in the comment section below.

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