Key Considerations When Hiring an Office Manager at Your Small Medical Practice

By: Rahul Kumar on January 28, 2019

The whole process of building your office staff can be overwhelming when you’re starting a small, independent medical practice. Physicians may lack hiring skills and may be unaware of the intricacies of human resource management.

Managing a medical office requires making good hiring decisions to ensure your practice’s success.

An office manager plays a significant role in your practice’s success as they are responsible for keeping things running. They oversee all of the minute, everyday details to leave physicians free to focus on patient care.

The typical job responsibilities of a medical office manager include:

  • Create and update patients’ records within the electronic medical records (EMR) system.

  • Schedule and manage patient appointments.

  • Complete, check, verify and submit patients’ insurance claims.

  • Manage billing and collections.

  • Oversee the practice’s day-to-day operations.

It’s vital to find the right office manager for your practice, someone who can create and implement an action plan to help achieve your practice’s vision. In this article, we’ve listed five key considerations to help you find the best office managerial candidate for your small or independent medical practice.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Check Candidate’s Education and Previous Work Experience

Identify Candidate’s Characteristics and Qualities

Ask These Questions During the Interview

Check for Warning Signs and Red Flags

Ask Candidates to Undergo a Screening Test

Conclusion and Next Steps


Check Candidate’s Education and Previous Work Experience

The experience and education needed to become a medical practice office manager will vary from practice to practice. Medical practices usually prefer a college degree or higher education such as an MBA (Master of Business Administration). You shouldn’t consider anyone with less than a high school diploma.

The requisite education also depends on the size of the practice. For a solo physician, a candidate with a high school diploma or college degree would work. But if you have two to five physicians, you should look for an MBA or equivalent degree, so that the candidate can handle strategic decision-making and customer-facing tasks.

An ideal candidate for the position of a medical office manager has a bachelor’s or master’s degree in health administration. These programs usually include courses on:

  • Health services organization and management

  • Health care laws

  • Ethics

  • Accounting

  • Computing

  • Communication

In addition, these are the elective subjects you should seek:

  • Psychology

  • Sociology

  • Medical terminology

  • Marketing and advertising

  • Organizational training and development

A candidate’s previous work experience is more important than education. Though a solo physician practice may not ask for prior work experience, a practice with two to five physicians needs an experienced individual (with at least three to five years of work experience) to handle staff, bookkeeping, billing and finances.

The candidate must also be business- and technology-savvy to quickly understand the practice’s key metrics and software/hardware. For practices with more than 10 physicians, an office manager with experience of more than five years will be suitable.

Identify Candidate’s Characteristics and Qualities

In addition to the candidate’s educational qualification and years of relevant experience, there are a few important characteristics and qualities your office manager must possess.

Overall, personality is key when selecting a medical office manager. They must be friendly, level-headed and outgoing by nature. They must possess excellent interpersonal and communication skills to effortlessly communicate with everyone at the practice such as physicians, patients and other administrative staff members.

In addition, they must be empathetic to everyone and enjoy talking and listening to others. They must also possess strong leadership capabilities to handle daily patient care responsibilities while successfully managing administrative work.

An ideal office manager must:

  • Be able to streamline all routine processes and effectively motivate other staff members to work efficiently.

  • Know when it’s best to handle a task on their own and when it’s better to delegate.

The manager must also be an effective negotiator to quickly mediate between conflicting parties (mostly patients and the practice) and successfully resolve conflicts. As medical practices are often high-stress environments, patients who’ve spent longer than the usual time in waiting rooms can become unhappy.

Therefore, the office manager you hire should proactively resolve issues between patients, physicians and medical staff. They should complete their assigned daily schedules, reports and other operational tasks with an excellent eye for detail. They should follow-up with others to ensure that all delegated tasks are completed.

Ask These Questions During the Interview

To select the best candidate for the position, here are a few key questions you must not forget to ask during the interview process. How the candidate answers often indicates how they’ll perform in a role.

1. What did you like best about your current or past job?

Expect answers that showcase a candidate’s interpersonal skills and desire to enhance operational efficiency. Ideal answers could be: “I loved the physicians,” “I loved the patients” or “I loved my team.” Desirable answers should indicate that the candidate appreciates the fast-paced and challenging role of managing a medical office.

2. What did you like least about your current or previous job?

For this tricky question, acceptable answers include “low pay” or “unreasonably long working hours.” But if the candidate says that the “previous managerial position was quite disorganized,” it may reflect on their poor performance as it’s their job to keep things organized.

3. What hours would you like to work?

The most suitable answer for this is: “What hours do you need me to work?” This shows the candidates’ willingness to work various shifts, including evenings and weekends. An ideal medical office manager is willing to be present at the practice during all operational hours, if required.

4. What leadership roles have you been involved in at your current or past job?

This question lets you dig into the candidates’ work history. You’ll understand their previous successes and failures and how they responded in these situations. A candidate’s answers will help you perceive their ability to handle the role.

In addition to the above questions, ask open-ended questions such as:

  • What was the biggest surprise you encountered in your current or past job?

  • What is the hardest decision you’ve made in your current or past job?

  • Tell me about a time when you had to negotiate or mediate a conflict.

Answers to these questions shed light on the sort of leader they’ll be when they join your practice. You’ll also understand how they may approach difficult choices and situations as your manager.

While questioning your candidates, carefully listen to their answers and write them down. This will help you make the right hiring decision later, as you can revisit notes when comparing candidates.

Check for Warning Signs and Red Flags

While looking at skills, experience, characteristics and personality, keep an eye out for warning signs and red flags in potential candidates. You want to identify potential weaknesses ahead of time so you don’t end up hiring someone who isn’t suited for your practice.

Here are some red flags to look out for:

  1. When a candidate speaks negatively about their current or past medical practice, a physician or the staff they’ve worked with.

  2. When they ask about compensation over the phone. Salary-related discussions aren’t appropriate until the candidate has seen the medical office, met with the staff and thoroughly understood their role.

  3. When they inquire about working hours during the interview. This shows that they may not be comfortable if asked to work in shifts or do extra hours.

  4. When they lack an interest in the people they’ll interact with. If the candidate views their role as one that requires managing only processes and not people as well, you should be concerned. Effective interpersonal skills is one of the most important qualities for the office manager position.

Watch out for these important indicators as well:

  • Candidates shouldn’t give too many “I” answers, such as “I did this” or “I made this happen.” This could imply that the candidate isn’t really capable of delegating tasks or being a team player.

  • Team dynamics are an integral part of any medical office. The manager you hire must be an effective team player who can delegate tasks and work with all staff members to facilitate efficient operations.

Ask Candidates to Undergo a Screening Test

Administering a skills and knowledge test for all candidates is an effective screening tool. The questions you ask will primarily depend on the specific requirements of your independent practice. However, the test must focus on the specific knowledge or experience you’re looking for.

Your assessment can include:

  • Scenario-based questions

  • Math equations

  • Picture puzzles

  • Vocabulary quizzes

Such assessments are used to not only assess a candidate’s intelligence or ascertain personality preferences, but also to evaluate the following:

  • Cultural fit

  • Service skills

  • Business ethics

  • People/soft skills

This assessment can help ensure that you hire the correct person to handle all strategic and long-term issues in your practice, as well as meet your goals and objectives.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Finding the right office manager isn’t easy, but you can ease the process by following these action steps:

  • Before you start screening prospective candidates, decide on the education and experience you need.

  • During interviews, look for qualities and characteristics that your practice, patients and staff need.

  • Write down the questions you want answered during an interview.

  • Watch out for any warning signs and red flags.

  • Prepare and administer a screening test to determine a candidate’s specific skills and/or knowledge.

By following these guidelines, you can hire the right medical office manager for your small or independent medical practice. Before hiring anyone, be sure to conduct a background check, if possible, or speak to the references provided by each candidate.

If you’re looking for EMR software, reach out to our software advisors at (844) 686-5616 for a free consultation.