Hiring new staff? Don’t keep them waiting

Hiring new staff? Don't keep them waiting
Image: Pixabay.com

“Picking the right boss is far more important than picking the right job” (anonymous)

I once applied for the position of GP liaison officer at a public hospital, a part-time job for a couple of days per week. My main motivation was to improve communication between the hospital tribes and the community tribes. I didn’t get the job but learned a lot about the do’s & dont’s of a selection process.

After reading the advertisement online I thought it would be a good idea to give the HR department a call to ask some questions about the nature of the job. When I rang nobody seemed to know about the position. One person said: “GP liaison offer? We already have someone doing that.” I was transferred several times and was eventually told someone would get in touch with me.

Two days after the application deadline – I had sent my letter nevertheless – I received a call, which was nice but I would have preferred this before putting in the application.

At this stage I was wondering what was going on in the organisation and if a liaison person could achieve anything. On the other hand, it definitely looked like they needed such a person. As I had posted my letter and CV, I thought I’d wait for their response in the weeks to come.

Nothing happened. When I called two months later it was like a Déjà vu: Nobody could give me any information.

A chaotic selection process where candidates are kept waiting too long sends out unwanted messages that are not doing the organisation any good – for example:

  1. Internal systems and procedures are chaotic
  2. The organisation is too busy, understaffed or inefficient
  3. Communication is not a priority
  4. The organisation doesn’t care about (future) employees

Eventually, four months after the deadline, I was invited for an interview. In all fairness, during the face-to-face interview apologies were made for the delay. The interview was done in a friendly and professional manner and I left with a positive impression and prepared to forget the poor communication and waiting times.

Until… the waiting game started again: It took a further two months before I was invited for a second interview. At this stage my motivation for the job had plummeted, and after another couple of months I finally decided to send an email explaining I couldn’t wait any longer. The same-day reply to that email contained a scanned letter (addressed to the wrong address) informing me I was not selected.

I’ve seen many blog posts about job interviews; how to select the best candidate, what questions to ask, who should be on the interview panel, even what tasks to give potential candidates during the selection process. But I haven’t read much about how to make a good impression on candidates.

Everything an organisation does during a selection procedure contributes to their brand image. Looking after the candidates is important, even if the market is in favour of an organisation (many candidates, few positions), as candidates will go away without a job offer but with an experience that says a lot about the organisation or company.

Just like my patients get grumpy when they have to wait for me without knowing why, potential candidates may become frustrated about their future boss or organisation if they have been kept waiting too long. Here are some tips to run a smooth selection process, based on my personal experience:


  1. Plan ahead: have a panel ready, set a timeline and schedule some preliminary dates for interviews
  2. Have a fall back position in case one of the panel members becomes unavailable or a candidate can’t make a certain deadline
  3. Inform staff about the vacancy and have a contact person ready to answer questions from applicants
  4. Respond to application letters within two weeks and explain the procedure and expected time frame
  5. Consider phone or one-on-one screening interviews to make a first selection (in case there are many applicants)
  6. Tell the candidates when you will get back to them after the interview and contact them in case of delays
  7. Offer the non-successful candidates personal feedback if desired.

I remain committed to improving communication with the hospital.

5 business tips for doctors

When I finished medical school I was clueless about the business of healthcare. Over the years I worked in different settings and businesses and it’s been an interesting journey.

I’ve learned most from my mistakes. Here is my top-5 tips for doctors who are or want to go in business.

#1: Do it for the right reasons

Before you start a business, practice, solo locum company or otherwise, make sure you know why you want to do it. As Simon Sinek asks: do you know the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do? We often know exactly the what and how of what we’re doing, but not always the why…

And if you’re joining a partnership: Do you know what drives your business partners? Do their values and believes agree with yours? It has been said before, but money is not a reason, it is a result. It always starts with passion.

#2: Get the right advice

There are many services that may add value to your business: advisors, accountants, financial services, IT consultants, human resources companies, lawyers etc. If you add it all up it can be expensive. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when dealing with third parties:

  • Avoid becoming dependent on them. Give them a few months to set up systems and train you or your staff. If you have to go back to them for every contract, website update, transaction or other issue, something is wrong (unless they are cheaper than in-house services, but this is rarely the case).
  • Don’t be afraid to make changes. Doctors are loyal – as banks know. But sometimes it is healthy to change providers, especially if you are paying top dollars and feel you’re not getting top service. Another accountant may pick up an overlooked issue, another IT provider may find some holes in your security etc.
  • Work on your terms, not theirs. Some consultants want you to use their products and their systems – and they will often charge for it. This is not always necessary, may create more work and adds to the bottom line. Look for useful advice that empowers you and your staff. Keep things simple.
  • Don’t accept higher fees because you’re a doctor or because a provider specialises in the health industry. As doctors we often think we’re special. This may be the case (although I’m not entirely convinced), but it doesn’t mean that you have to find providers that only service medical clients. When it comes to IT or tax or law, healthcare is not that different from other industries.

#3: Understand your business

If you can’t explain it properly, you don’t understand it well enough – this is true for many things, and certainly for a business. Like doctors, professional consultants should be empowering their clients and encourage them to self-manage.

Aim for a business structure that’s transparent and easy to understand. This also includes the finance structures and legal agreements. Don’t sign off on anything unless you understand it fully. Do your due-diligence and take time to consider decisions. Walk away if you feel uncomfortable or pressured.

#4: Beware of conflicts of interest

A financial advisor receiving bonuses or other incentives to sell products may not be working in your best interest. Always ask for a disclosure of potential conflicts of interest. But there may be other, less obvious conflicts of interest that can become an issue down the track. This can also happen within a group of owners. Examples include:

  • Some owners work on the business where others only work in the business
  • Some owners work full-time and others part-time
  • Some owners own bigger or smaller shares in the business or real-estate
  • Some owners have family members working in the business
  • Some owners have the same lawyers, accountants or bank managers

In an ideal world there are no conflicts of interest but that’s not always possible. Ask yourself: Can I live with these conflicts? It’s important to disclose and discuss all potential issues before signing any agreement.

#5: Commit

Expect ups and downs. It may take a few years before a business takes off. Be prepared for erratic government decisions that will have an impact on your bottom line and the patient services you can provide.

Find a great practice manager – see my post 4 things to look for in a practice manager. A skilful management team is an excellent investment with good returns and will give you peace of mind.

If you’re like me you will make mistakes and hopefully learn from them. You may also need to master new skills – something I enjoyed as it has broadened my horizons. Finally, always look after your team and don’t forget your loved ones at home.