Strategies for Hiring the Best Employees

Brent W. Lacey, MD
Founder, The Scope of Practice

When I was a medical student, one of the attending physicians told me a story about a 25-year veteran nurse known as “Nurse Patty,” who he had worked with when he was a resident. Although most of the employees at the hospital were outstanding, this particular nurse had a reputation for making decisions that were not always medically sound. All of the residents at the hospital knew that when Nurse Patty was on duty, they needed to keep a careful eye on their patients. However, because this nurse had been employed at the hospital for many years, no one—including her—thought she could ever be fired.

So, how do you find great employees and avoid getting stuck with a Nurse Patty? Basically, there are 4 things your practice needs to attract the right kind of talent; 3 characteristics to look for in the ideal team player; 2 key organizational elements to having the best team; and 1 organizational limit to remove.

The 4 Things Necessary to Attract the Right Kind of Talent

1. The Right Culture

Increasingly, individuals are looking for careers that offer good work/life balance, flexibility, and the opportunity to do meaningful work with people they respect. The days of staying with the same company for 40 years are rapidly disappearing. The average person will have 5 to 7 different careers over the course of their lifetime.

You need a dynamic, thriving team culture to attract the right kind of people, and your employees should be your greatest brand ambassadors.

So, ask yourself the following key questions about your practice:

  • Do you have a culture of mutual respect and admiration for all team members?
  • Do your team members genuinely enjoy their work and their colleagues?
  • Are you making concerted efforts to quash gossip, bigotry, unkindness, and disharmony?
  • Do you pay your team members fairly and on time?
  • Is there upward mobility for employees who are looking for long-term career growth?
  • Do you try to make the work environment pleasant?

2. The Right Leadership

People do not leave organizations; they leave their leaders. Your mission as a leader should be to constantly find ways to push your team members to excel in their jobs. If your team members know that you care about them and are working to help them succeed, you will build fierce loyalty. That loyalty is crucial for driving growth for your practice.

When talking to prospective employees, do your current team members show excitement? Are they eager to promote your organization as the best place to work, or is their endorsement a lackluster statement of mediocrity? Attitude reflects leadership, so you need to be the best leader for your practice to attract the right kind of people.

3. The Right Hiring Process

High employee turnover is costly and time-consuming for practices. If you are constantly hiring the wrong people and then end up firing them or watching them quit within 1 to 2 years, your process needs an overhaul.

The hiring process should be complex and involved. One 30-minute interview is not enough. You need several rounds of interviews, even after getting a referral from someone you trust.

Consider having a probationary period during which either the practice or the new hire can terminate the relationship for any reason if either one thinks it is not working out. It is much better to let those people find new opportunities quickly rather than wait around for years until you finally decide it is time to let them go.

Most of the best hires come from internal referrals. If you have great team members, they will only want to work with the best people and will not recommend prospective employees who they think are a bad fit. Incentivize team members to refer great people.

4. The Courage to Fire People Who Are Not a Good Fit

One of the most difficult things for a leader to do is to fire someone. This is a good thing; it should be hard. However, if you want a great team, you need to keep the employees who are a good fit and remove the ones who are not working out.

If you fail to fire team members who are dragging down your practice, the best employees will leave, and you will be stuck with the ones who are just not getting the job done.

The 3 Characteristics to Look for in the Ideal Team Player

If you have never read Patrick Lencione’s book, The Ideal Team Player, I suggest you pick up a copy. In this book, the author states that the ideal team player is hungry, humble, and smart. This is a great framework for defining the right kind of person to hire for your team.

1. Hungry

People who are hungry are passionate about their work. They are always looking for a way to make things more efficient, safer, or better for patients and colleagues. They are not satisfied with mediocrity. They are motivated to succeed and to help the practice to grow.

During the interview process, do prospective employees light up when they talk about their work and aspirations? It will be obvious when you meet people who are hungry. They cannot help but show their enthusiasm. Hungry team members drive your team to succeed.

2. Humble

C.S. Lewis said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking about yourself less.” When you talk to prospective team members, is the conversation all about them, or are they excited to talk about how a friend or coworker pushed a project to succeed? The humble team member gives credit when it is due and promotes their colleagues as much as themselves.

3. Smart

Mr Lencione’s definition of smart is not about cognitive ability or intelligence but rather emotional maturity, high emotional quotient, and an ability to interact well with others. Are prospective employees people you would like to be around? Are they able to recognize when they have said or done something, even inadvertently, that hurt someone’s feelings? Are they quick to make amends and can they pick up on social queues in a conversation? Smart team members promote community with their colleagues.

The 2 Key Organizational Elements Necessary to Have the Best Team

1. Hire the Right People

If you do not cook with the best ingredients, you will not have the best meal. Likewise, if your individual team members are not all first rate, it will be hard to achieve excellence as a team.

It is common for organizations to spend very little time on hiring new employees. As a result, they end up with a wide range of quality in their team members. Your hiring process needs to be rigorous so that only the very best people make it through to the final stage and get hired.

Spend time putting a strong hiring process in place. Make a concerted effort to screen out most of the candidates that interview for positions. Do not just fill a position fast, fill it with someone who will stay for a long time.

2. Get the Right People Doing the Right Jobs

Once you have the best people on your team, you need to get them doing the jobs for which they are best suited. If you have someone who is a classic “people person,” do not put them in a purely administrative role pushing papers in a back office. Position them in a people-facing role where they can interact with patients on a regular basis.

Personality tests can help you determine your employee’s strengths, aptitudes, and communication styles. This is one way to learn more about your employees and understand where to maximize their value in the practice.

If you find that someone is not getting their job done in the most excellent way possible, ask yourself whether you have placed them in the best role.

The 1 Organizational Limit to Remove

As the leader, you have the potential to limit your organization. If you are not growing in your skills and leadership abilities every year, your practice will not be able to flourish.

As you expand your practice, you need to transition away from being the “Chief Everything Officer” to being a leader who delegates roles to team members. Set your expectations high, train them how to do things well, then allow them to show you their brilliance.

John Maxwell refers to this as the “Law of the Lid.” You are the lid on your practice. If you do not expand your personal capacity, you will continue to be the main limitation of your organization’s growth.


If you do not have the best team culture, leadership, and administrative processes, you will not attract the right kind of talent. Once you have those elements in place, the right people will be easier to find if you know what to look for. Never compromise. Build a great team culture, hire the right individuals, eliminate the ones who are not a good fit, and you will see your organization thrive.

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