Since administrators play such a critical role in practices, recruiting a new one for your practice may provoke a fair bit of anxiety. If you’ve been left with little time, you may feel rushed. If your previous practice manager was a flop, you might even be feeling dread. Addressing the challenge head-on and systematically can help get you the result you desire.

One familiar mistake we see is failing to define your needs thoroughly. This is not just a matter of “minimum of five years experience” – it’s a matter of understanding your practice’s mission, goals, and culture. It’s a matter of identifying what success looks like with the right administrator in place. Without mapping your practice’s needs and culture to a candidate’s qualifications and characteristics, you’re left merely hoping for a good outcome. Considering the lost time, productivity and general disruption that comes along with a poor hire, you need the odds in your favor.

If you have infighting among your staff, which isn’t uncommon unfortunately, you may need a no-nonsense administrator with more of a hands-on approach as opposed to a spreadsheet genius who prefers to stay locked in her office all day. On the other hand, perhaps you have a mature and well-functioning staff and feel that you need a candidate with particularly strong financial management skills—for example, if growing your practice by adding a new office or even acquiring a competitor is on your agenda. Whatever you decide, you may want to create a spreadsheet table so that you can rate each candidates on the dimensions you think are most important – a simple 1-5 rating is a great start. You may want to use weighting as a tool to further refine your analysis.

The old management saying of “be slow to hire and quick to fire” is useful to keep in mind along with some caveats. While it’s certainly important to find the best possible candidate, the cost of stop-gap management can be high. We see many practices where some staff is “temporarily” filling in as the practice administrator – often poorly attending to many administrator functions since they already have a full-time job and they lack expertise to be an administrator. This can also lead to resentment when the new administrator arrives and wants to do things his or her own way. The high cost of not having the right administrator in place means that you should pursue a new administrator with vigor. Moving slowly in the hope of, for example, saving on advertising or other recruitment costs can be very costly in the long run.

Now for some details. Do not rely on a tired “boilerplate” job description as an advertisement. If you craft your job posting with care, you’ll get a more enthusiastic reaction from the best candidates, while discouraging poorly qualified or ill-suited candidates from applying and wasting valuable time. When it comes to credentials and experience, we have found some exceptional candidates whose experience and formal educational levels were outside the expected range. Motivation, intelligence and leadership potential may be worth more than pure domain experience. For this reason, we recommend that you consider advertising your education and experience requirements toward to lower end of what you assume would be necessary, or provide a broader range. Consider recruiting from outside your area. We have sometimes found strong candidates that came from across the country.

Of course, there are numerous online vehicles to advertise your opportunity: Monster, Craigslist, Indeed, MGMA, and others can have substantial reach. Each offers some online tools to manage incoming inquiries and some will be more popular in one region than another.

Does it make sense for you to handle recruiting in-house? Depending on how much time, experience and desire you have, you may prefer to retain an outside firm. When you factor in the value of your time and the expertise that goes into a professional recruitment effort, it may be that your time is best spent doing what you do best and enjoy more. If you do consider and outside firm, we strongly recommend that you stick with firms that specialize in medical practice management – medical practice management terminology alone is an obstacle for firms outside medicine. Our firm usually handles more-or-less the entire process from writing a job description, screening, first round interviews and background checks – we deliver a small number of the top candidates for your consideration along with our analysis on their relative strengths and weaknesses.

Here’s to you finding your best administrator yet!

About the Author: Joseph Capko