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Clinical Solutions Blog

Hire a Better Front Desk Team: Use These 6 Hiring Tactics

Posted by Rick Lau on Aug 31, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Ask The HR Expert:  How To Hire A Better Front Desk


I really don’t like the word receptionist. I mean, the front desk team do more than just “reception” work. They answer phones, book patients, bill insurance companies, talk with insurers, laundry, take payment, schedule next week appointments, show and sell product to patient, fill charts, and the list goes on.

The front desk team are really customer service reps or patient care coordinators or clinic ambassadors/hosts.  

Given that more than “70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated,” Source: McKinsey, the front desk team are crucial to the patient experience.

You need to hire the right person. Someone with passion, trustworthy, loyal and great positive character. But for some reason this is more difficult than it seems.

Does the following sound like a familiar scenario?

You put a job posting on Craigslist or Indeed and you get over 100 applicants in your inbox. What next? Who do you choose? You barely have time to even look at over 100 emails, let alone work out how to choose the very best candidate. And in the past you’ve wasted tons of time interviewing potential candidates, who in the end, just don’t fit the bill.

If this is the case, chances are you don’t have a hiring process in place, which is why we’re going to cover this right here, right now, because there is a much more efficient way to go about this.

We’ll cover:

  • Common problems and concerns with hiring
  • Why first impressions are your number one priority
  • The exact 6 steps to follow to hire the best front desk team

Common Problems and Concerns with Hiring

I hear this all the time when I coach clinic owners. 

“I either find somebody who is great with people but they are really bad with numbers and billing. Or I find somebody who is great with the numbers but horrible with customer service.”

Yep, that seems to happen a lot during the hiring process. But we are going to solve this for you because with my previous experience - my own journey with CSC and coaching clinic owners - I’ve worked out a range of best practices.

I used this hiring process to build our awesome customer success and service teams that has helped grow CSC and generates our perfect 5.0 score on Google Reviews.  And trust me, it's hard to get customers to give you positive revenues online because they really have to like you. 


I've also brought Sara Shaw (our awesome customer success manager at CSC) on board for this post. Sara has worked in the HR recruitment industry for over 5 years where she helped organizations hire everybody from the receptionist to executive levels - so she knows a few things about recruitment and interviews!  


Together we're going to share our expert tips and best practices, so you can hire the perfect front desk team for your clinic.

Customer Service is Priority

You will never get a second chance to make a first impression. ~ Will Rogers

According to Amy Cuddy, a psychologist at the Harvard Business School, 80-90% of a first impression is based on two traits:
  • Can I trust this person/ business?
  • Can I respect this person’s/ business' capabilities?

The most important factor is trust.

While trust might seem like a difficult thing to master in just a few seconds, it’s easier than you think and comes back to one simple, yet often forgotten element: Good customer service!

FACT: “Almost 9 out of 10 consumers say they would pay more to ensure a superior customer experience.”

If you want your customers to come back after their assessment, or to buy the product recommended by the physiotherapist, or to come back for a massage therapy or chiropractic appointment, you really need to work on the customer service aspect.

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6 Steps to Hiring the Right Front Desk Team

After posting the job and getting hundreds of emails, here is the process to use. I love this process and it’s the exact one I use every time I hire.

1. Select Resumes with Customer Service

I know a lot of clinic owners look for people with MOA diplomas and that's their only qualifying request in the hiring process. Yes, having this certification is a great advantage, but the personality behind the MOA will actually be the most important attribute.

Look for resumes that have customer service skills and for people who have a track record of loyalty and staying at a job for more than 2 years.

Here are 3 less obvious red flags responses to pay attention to:
1) If someone has left their employer before landing a new job, and their reasoning is vague, it could mean they are impulsive. Hone in on how their job search is going thus far. Dig deep and find out if the job you are offering is something they really want, or if they are just willing to take anything at their grasp to get working again. Also ask them questions about how they handle stress. Quitting without a backup plan could also mean that they give up easy, if stress is a factor, make sure the role you are hiring for fits within their stress comfort zone. Otherwise you might find yourself in a situation where your admin has up and left you high and dry without 2 weeks notice.
2) If someone has left their employer because of a negative experience, pay attention to how they talk about their former employer. Slandering your former employer to someone you've just met for the first time is questionable behavior. Confidentiality would be a concern here. 
3) If the reason is that they left their previous employer for another job, that's ok. BUT if that company they left for is not listed on their resume, it could mean they were let go or they quit quickly after being hired. Dig in to get more details on why the role didn't work out. Was it budget cuts? Staff downsizing LIFO (last in first out)? Or is it something more vague, like it just wasn't the right fit? If they left after a few weeks because "it wasn't the right fit," I would really hone in on some candidate commitment questions.
Now, there are always, always exceptions to the rule, those top 3 red flag responses don't necessarily mean the candidate is a bad hire. It just means you need to dig deeper to make sure they have a genuine interest in your job offering. You can decipher if the candidate is genuine or not by asking them the right questions. 

2. Pre Screen Calls to Save You Time

Do a 15 minute pre screen interview on the telephone. Just ask them a few questions and see how they respond.

Ask them these questions:

  • What inspires you to work in the healthcare industry?
  • What three words would your previous boss use to describe you?

What you want to listen for is how they are with you over the phone, their phone manner and etiquette. 

Considering 85% of your patients book over the phone and each new patient phone call is worth at least $500, they MUST pass the phone test.  

If they pass the 15 minute pre screen phone test, ask them to participate in a group interview.  

3. Group Interviews To Rank Candidates

Batch all your candidates and do a group interview. Invite 20 candidates and 10 should show up.

Yes, you can expect a 50%+ cancellation rate.

When you carry out a group interview of shortlisted candidates, you can see them all interact with each other and identify who is a leader, who is a follower and how they are in a group setting. After all, they are going to be working in a team environment, so this can give you some important insights to narrow down your decision.

Action Coach uses this group interview technique, which is where I picked it up.

According to them:

“The reason group interviews are so effective is you get to see the entire group at one time and are able to rank those candidates,” Shaw explains. “If they’re in the room, they’ve met minimum expectations for what we’re looking for in the role … I’m really looking for cultural fit.”

How to do the group interview

For the group interview, your team should attend and should be interacting with, and assessing candidates throughout the interview. At this stage, candidates are not being assessed on their skills but for culture fit and core values

For the first 20 minutes, present the business and the opportunity. You are trying to attract the best candidate to join you so this is a sales pitch you’re making to them! 

Really emphasize your core values and how fun it is to work at your clinic.

Afterwards, here are a series of questions you can ask the group:

  • Can you explain why you’re excited about the role and why you’d be a great fit for it? Ask for volunteers – test enthusiasm!
  • Tell me about a time when a potential customer told you NO but with your persistence, you won the customer back?
  • Tell me how you would deal with an upset patient that came into the clinic?

With this range of questions, you are testing them for communication, first impression, energy, attentiveness, and the ability to problem solve.

4. Short List Your Top Candidates and Test Them

Choose 3 candidates to invite to a one-on-one short list interview. Preferably the next day so you can wrap it up.  

Before they come in, get them to complete the following tests:

Weaknesses profile

This test will reveal their areas of weakness so you can ask them more about these at your one-on-one interview. It will help you ask the right questions.

“When I call your last manager [insert last manager’s name], what score will he give you out of 10 for [insert skill or attribute about which you’re concerned]?”

Any answer below 8 should be a red flag. You can ask them a series of questions like this.

DISC profile

This is a personality test. The DISC profile is free test created by American Psychologist Dr. William Marsden in the 1920s, assessing individuals and assigning one behavioural style; outgoing, task oriented, reserved or people oriented. Having your candidates complete the DISC profile will give you amazing insights on the person’s strengths.

IQ test

I like the Wonderlic Hay test. It’s a twelve-minute, fifty-question test used to assess the aptitude of prospective employees for learning and problem-solving in a range of occupations.

Once you put your potential candidates through those tests, you’ll be ready to do the one-on-one interviews.

5. One-on-One Interview

Your individual interviews should be set at the 60-minute range.

What you want to do is ask questions based on the tests. Also, give them some behaviour questions to see how they would react in certain environments. Find out about their ability to learn quickly, multitask and be a leader. And find out their career path and vision.

Here are a few questions I like to ask:

Goals and core values

  • What are your career goals?
  • What are you really successful at professionally?  
  • What shaped and formed you and your core values growing up?
  • What’s the last time you worked on a passion project without sleep?
  • What’s the best lessons that your parents ever taught you?

For their last job, ask the following:

  • What were you hired to do?  
  • How did you measure success? What was your KPI?
  • What accomplishments were you most proud of?
  • What were some low points during that job?
  • What is your biggest mistake and lessons learned?
  • What was your boss’s name?
  • What was it like working with him/her?
  • What would you do different in your job?  
  • What will he/she say were your biggest strengths and areas for improvement?

6. Reference Check

Make sure you always do a reference check.

Undertake reference checks, asking specific questions to validate facts and to explore any key areas or possible gaps in skill or other required attributes.

Yes, this is still a process. Hiring does take time and effort. But with this system and strategy you will uncover those core values and attributes you’re looking for - namely, customer service and communication - so you can really target the right people to invite onto your front desk team.


Related Articles

Be Better At The Front Desk: 5 Easy Tactics You Should Know

The Science of Recruiting Physiotherapist When There is a Shortage

Employee Retention: Why We Stopped Having Farewell Parties

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