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Recruiting An Associate

Author: Michael Parshall, Michael J. Parshall Healthcare, Schwenksville, PA.

Summertime is when the associate recruiting dance begins. Although we have had years of overall economic uncertainty, the fact remains that the U.S. population as a whole is aging as the baby boomers age. Hence, demographers would conclude that our patient demand should consequently increase. In the light of that projection, what does recruitment in ophthalmology practice look like?

In a survey conducted on the E-Expert listserv, 63 percent of respondents stated that they were recruiting this year, and of those, 66 percent gave growth as their primary reason, even in the current recession and economic upheaval, and only 30 percent were replacing associates or partners. The practices recruiting were mostly multispecialty ophthalmology groups (44 percent), although comprehensive ophthalmology groups (24 percent) and solo practices (18 percent) were also looking to hire associates.

Recruiting Steps

Recruiting is first an internal decision-making process and then one of selection and negotiation. Here is a summary of the overall process: 

  • Needs analysis. Gather and analyze data to support the recruiting decision.
  • Candidate profile. Determine the skills, training, expertise, interests and personality traits you desire in an associate.
  • Offer structure. Determine the compensation, benefits, terms and conditions of the employment offer.
  • Candidate sourcing. Define a process for identifying and attracting candidates.
  • Candidate contact. Conduct initial screening of candidates to separate the prospects from the suspects and identify high-potential candidates.
  • Candidate interview(s). Exchange information with candidates to see how well they fit the profile.
  • Candidate selection. Rank candidates and decide to whom to make an offer.
  • Offer presentation. Make an offer to the best candidate, being sure to explain the details.
  • Negotiation and close. Adjust the offer terms, if necessary, to secure your chosen candidate. Then seal the deal.
  • Candidate orientation and assimilation. Ready the candidate for your practice and integration into the group. 

So What is the Interview Process Really?

The interview is the most important step in the recruiting process. When it is done properly, you learn the candidates’ motivations, expectations, desires and concerns. The candidates learn about your practice, patients, staff and strategy for success and how they would fit into your organization. The interview dialogue enables you to determine the candidates’ attitudes on clinical, operational and business areas and provides a glimpse of how they think. An interview is not just about questions — it is also an opportunity to observe a candidate as he or she interacts with patients, doctors and staff.

How to Ask Good Interview Questions

The best questions are those that reveal the candidates’ attitudes and past performance on key issues. Good questions require the candidates to pick a side rather than straddle the issue. A skilled interviewer will present follow-up questions that require specific, not generalized, responses. Having different interviewers ask the same question in different ways assures consistency and reveals tendencies that some candidates may have to flip-flop just to please the interviewer.


Michael Parshall is a health-care consultant with more than 20 years’ experience advising practices on practice development, physician recruiting and compensation, practice valuation, buy-in, and sales. Parshall received the Academy’s Achievement Award in 2004 and is a member of the AAOE Consultant Directory.