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Finding Great Associates

In a previous article outlining how/where to find associates, I made the point that most of us are in this profession to make a difference in people’s lives. I believe this difference should also include a reflection of our own needs:


May 3, 2010
By Jim Smyth RMT

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In a previous article outlining how/where to find associates, I made the point that most of us are in this profession to make a difference in people’s lives. I believe this difference should also include a reflection of our own needs: self-satisfaction for the work we do; earning a decent income, so that we are not monetarily poor and dissatisfied with our lot in life; plus having the ability to leave a legacy by eventually selling what we have built for a decent return on investment (including sweat equity). This is a theme that should be part of every clinic owner’s/manager’s repertoire. Consequently choosing the right associate(s) will play a very important role in developing this theme.

At this point, you should already have taken the time to clearly define your requirements, the needs of the clinic and the desires of the staff. Your particular preferences should also have been communicated effectively in whatever medium you have chosen: newspaper, magazine, Internet, word of mouth, etc . An effective outline will help you and your new candidate(s) come to the right decision, together.

Assessing resumés
At this point, the resumés should be rolling in. In point of fact, a resumé should be provided to you by every person; if anyone does not provide a resumé for you to review then your communication with this individual should be terminated – even high school students are capable of putting a resumé together.

Your initial assignment is to review the resumé (or Curriculum Vitae – C.V.) submitted by each person, identify the people you are interested in, and set the balance of the resumés aside. A well-designed resumé will fit on one page. The people with minimal experience will typically highlight their education, in-school clinic work, volunteer activities and their outreach postings. An individual with experience will put more emphasis on their work history – dates are important in this instance, and you should meticulously review the duration of each position and look for any gaps between assignments.

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It is my belief that you should eventually respond to each person, whether you chose to interview them or not; they took the time to apply for the position, and you should show them the same courtesy and respond in kind. Once you have identified qualified candidate(s), you must then follow through with a carefully laid out hiring/association interview process.

Making contact
Choosing to contact the people by letter (usually considered much too slow in today’s society) or e-mail (the fastest approach) allows you the opportunity to set things out in a standardized format; this approach also gives the candidate the option to prepare for the initial interview, ahead of time. In addition, this method provides an opening for you to identify your role as clinic director/manager/owner and allows you to outline any areas of specialization within your clinic setting. You might choose any number of subjects to address within this framework – from enhancement of skills to a more detailed outline of the pending financial arrangement.

As well, this tactic lets you describe the procedure that you are going to be following. From my perspective, this should be a five-step protocol for gathering and sharing information with the candidate(s). And laying all these things out in a letter format prior to the initial interview shows that you have a well-organized and efficient approach to your clinic’s operation. It lets the candidate know that you mean business and that you expect them to take the interaction seriously, as well. The five action items I recommend are:

  • value questions and scenario responses
  • the interview and the clinic tour
  • a sample treatment from the candidate
  • references and reference checking
  • the offer.

Utilization of the phone is also a viable conduit for making contact, and for keeping things moving forward at a pace that you are can manage. And it is true that a portion of the value questions and scenario responses could be handled one on one to get a feel for how the individual responds off the cuff; but getting feedback that is well thought out is also very useful in the decision-making process. Besides, there are lots of other opportunities for interaction face-to-face that will give you a feel for the person’s ability to handle themselves on their feet. The best approach is to send the individual away with the material so you can get some idea of how well they will respond when they have time to think things through more thoroughly.

Value Questions and Scenario Responses
The goal of value questions is to give you some insight into the personal philosophy of each individual. You will glean a considerable amount of invaluable information about a person with a value question like: “What do you find rewarding about this work?” Their responses to a series of queries will also tell you if there is a deep underlying passion for their chosen career or if the work is burdensome and just a way to make a buck. Insight into their attitudes will give you some idea how suitable they will be within your clinic environment; particularly when interacting with the existing personnel and client base.

Scenario responses are another valuable tool to get an understanding of how an individual will react in different and challenging situations. For example: “A number of your clients have not rebooked, leaving you with some holes in your day. How would you respond to this scenario?” This type of question requires your interviewee to think very seriously about how they should respond to any adverse development(s). They will get an understanding of your seriousness and they should also realize that you expect them to be resourceful and take responsibility for their contribution to the success of the clinic.

In addition, it is an excellent opportunity to get an impression of the person’s ability to communicate with the written word. Updating and responding to inquiries from doctors, other medical professionals, insurance companies, lawyers, colleagues and clients is necessary and requires both effective written and verbal communication skills. There are clearly a good number of advantages that become self-evident and useful when using both value questions and scenario responses during the interview process.

The interview
The actual interview is valuable time that should be used to focus on the person you are interviewing. Listen carefully to the responses to your questions and compare those responses with the candidate’s body language. Your goal is to get an understanding of the validity of the answers you receive; verbal responses, pitch, posture, movement and mannerisms will all help you do this. Consequently, you do not take notes – there will be plenty of time later to distill the information you have gleaned. Immediately after the candidate has left, always have time set aside to write down your impressions and specific thoughts on the interview.

Show and Tell
A tour of the clinic is a vital aspect of the interview process. The tour allows for a more casual atmosphere, and it gives you an opportunity to get a sense of the prospect’s first impression of the working environment. Body language will again help you to assess how they interact with the existing staff, as well as give you some feedback on their reaction to the physical surroundings.

Sample Treatment
A sample treatment is my favourite part of the process, and I am very pleased to say it is also an indispensable piece. You can approach this phase by getting on the table yourself or by having someone else receive the treatment and then giving you the feedback. This step does not require a one-hour treatment; we are not in the business of taking advantage of people; we are in the business of making the best decision for the future of the clinic.

The goal is to determine, based on the individual’s experience, if the skill is in the hands or if it will require some time to hone those skills. You will not be able to judge an individual’s ability until you have experienced their sense of touch and the flow of their treatment. This approach will give you a good appreciation of a candidate’s potential expertise and proficiency during a treatment. There have been only two times when I have not received a treatment from a prospective associate; in both of these instances the opportunity had presented itself for me to observe the individual give a treatment to someone else.

Checking references
Reference checking is the fourth step in bringing a new professional into your clinic operation; a well-organized applicant will have references typed and ready for you at the end of the first interview. It is a must to follow up on the references you have been provided.

You should have a series of prompters, just as I use during the actual interview, so that you can ask all the questions that you think are important; only this time you can take notes.

It is important to dwell on three main areas: how the individual interacted with people – clients, staff, peers – effort put forth in documentation, punctuality, learning new skills; and, lastly, why they left the previous position. The obvious question here has been left out, but you can rest assured I always ask; but more often than not you have to read between the lines for the real answer.

An offer that can’t be refused
Making the offer is the fifth and final step in the interview process. The best approach is to make the offer face to face, so that you can see first hand the applicant’s reaction to your proposal. It is also the time to reaffirm previous discussions and to re-establish mutual commitments. Consequently, you should take this opportunity to reaffirm dates, hours, workdays, compensation and other aspects that form vital components of your clinic operation. A major part of the final step is not to underestimate the cost of running your business; it is paramount to have your hand on the pulse of the financial component of the operation before you make any offers.

Taking the time to clearly define the steps and the information you intend to gather during the interview process will put you in a position to make the best possible choice, for all concerned. This is an important second step in finding great associates that will help the parties involved find common ground. When people are on common ground they can learn to work together in a mutually rewarding and lasting experience.


Jim Smyth owns and operates a clinic in Peterborough, Ont., with seven massage therapists and a fitness facility on site. His e-book Find and Keep Great Associates is available at www.MTCoach.com .


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