Nels N. Lindberg
We’ve all heard the business leadership strategy about how we must get the right people on the bus or, taking it a step further, get the right people in the right seat on the bus. But in virtually all small business settings (not just the veterinary space), leaders often fail at that basic principle. Life in a veterinary clinic is hectic and fast-paced, and we frequently work “in the business” when we need to be more intentional about working “on the business.” When hiring team members, we procrastinate because we don’t enjoy the process, and we end up hiring the first warm body because we needed someone three months ago.
As we think about our hiring failures, we recall:
- All the “cancers,” gossips and drama kings and queens we brought on.
- The lazy deadbeat who had no passion or hunger for much of anything.
- The go-getter who had no patience and expected to run the show in two years or maybe six months.
We think about all those failed hires and ask ourselves:
- How did they get inside our clinic?
- How do we not repeat those mistakes?
While the hiring process is a great team-building opportunity for a practice owner or manager, the faster we hire people, the greater the chance that we’ll have to fire them or that they’ll quit sooner than expected.
Here are four keys to an almost-foolproof hiring process.
1. Interview More Than Once
Of course, we don’t have much free time, but we can all think of the folks we rushed to hire and the pain they inflicted on our teams or us. The solution is to conduct multiple interviews with a job candidate. “If you want to work for us,” the person is told, “you will have five or more interviews. These interviews are with leadership and the team you would work with, a working interview of several days, and a social event where we can ‘interview’ your significant other.”
The process is a conversation, not an interrogation. The goal is to relax the candidates so that they open their souls and intellect and speak freely. We use the time to find out how and where they were raised and when they started working in veterinary medicine. We want to know about their passions and biggest mistakes in life. (That shows humility.) Finally, we try to find out about any life-seasoning tragedy. Such an experience grows a person, creates maturity and wisdom, returns someone to the center, and builds grit and character. The response to tragedy shows a person’s potential.
2. Conduct a Working Interview
Clinic teams should peel the orange back and work side by side with the candidate for a few days. Casual conversations will yield any warning signs as well as pros and cons. This way, the entire team can provide input. Your rock stars have good intuition; they don’t want “crazy” either.
Team members who get the chance to interview a job candidate feel included and valued in the hiring process. How many of you were employed at a veterinary clinic where the leadership chose someone without asking your opinion, even after a working interview? The new hire ended up being terrible, but you could have warned management at the start of the process. The key takeaway: Let the people who will work with the applicant participate in the interview process.
3. Do Extra Homework
Check the person’s social media platforms. Call all the references. Ask team members if they know either the candidate or someone who does, and find out what they know. The power of social media allows us to discover as much as we want about a person. Is the applicant:
- Dramatic (continuous issue-based posts)?
- Looking for affirmation (endless selfies)?
- Negative (always complaining about something)?
- Non-productive (posting all day long while at the current job)?
- Insensitive (posting about issues with their spouse, children or parents)?
- Divisive (frequently debating politics or religion)?
4. Reward Your Recruiters
Pay your team members to bring in good people. If someone recommends a candidate and the person is hired and in good standing after 90 days, the team member earns a bonus of, say, $500. This strategy is great because if your practice’s culture is good, your rock stars don’t want to work with someone who is dramatic or divisive.
Many organizations have figured out that hiring someone based on a resume, grade-point average, SAT score, college or technical skills alone is not predictive of job performance or success. Instead, what is predictive of success are a person’s key characteristics, core values and technical skills.
In the end, employing caring and kind people and having a great practice culture attracts caring and kind people. But, on the other hand, if we hire for talent and not team, we lose the hiring game. So, identify the rock stars and get them on your team. Be a magnet that attracts people better than you.
Employees are your most important asset. Getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats takes extreme discipline and stoic resolve. You’ll want to do that before you smash the pedal to the floor and accelerate the bus.
According to The Vet Recruiter, “If the [hiring] process takes any longer than four weeks, the risk of losing those A-level candidates to another company rises dramatically.”