Take the guesswork out of finding the right person for the right job

Here’s a step-by-step guide to foolproof hiring

You have a clear mission statement. You have a case management job description that carefully follows the Standards of Practice for Case Management developed by the Case Management Society of America (CMSA) in Little Rock, AR. Yet you still can’t seem to hire a qualified case manager who stays on the job more than six months. Sound familiar?

When it comes to finding qualified employees, it’s a seller’s market. Employers are finding it harder to recruit, hire, and retain the best and the brightest, and the case management industry is no exception to the rule. Struggling to find the right person for your case management opening is not only frustrating, it’s expensive. Replacing a $35,000-a-year employee can cost an organization more than $11,000. (See formula, p. 23, for calculating how much it costs you when you hire the wrong person for the job.)

"I’ve owned my own case management company for the past 15 years, and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find qualified employees. The field is growing, but there are still too few people with the right experience," says Catherine M. Mullahy, RN, BS, CRRN, CCM, president of Options Unlimited, a case management company based in Huntington, NY.

Traditional channels for advertising job openings may not be as effective in today’s marketplace, notes Carl Keller, BA, PHR, president of two human resource and strategic business planning firms in Little Rock, AR, Employee Directions and Business Innovators. "We are currently experiencing very low unemployment. You may have to prospect for new hires in nontraditional areas. You may also have to hire someone who on the surface does not appear to be the best candidate and train them."

Mullahy says she’s more than willing to consider candidates whose background includes no specific case management experience and then train them to do case management. "I’m very willing to do that. In this market, sometimes that’s your only choice. I’m willing to spend the time to train someone. I just want to make sure that if I take the time to train them, they will stay on the job long enough to be worthwhile."

How does your garden grow?

Bill Brookings, RN, BSN, a utilization manager with a large health maintenance organization in Texas, says he understands he may have to hire a job candidate with little case management experience, and that’s just fine with him. He looks for a case management candidate with "passion and intensity." To find out if a potential case manager has that type of fire, Brookings has a set of interview questions he uses with every potential new hire. "They’re difficult questions. There isn’t always a right or wrong answer."

Brookings’ interview questions include the following:

Define managed care.

What are your best and worst skills and traits?

Tell me about a recent case management decision you made and how it impacted a case. "Their answer to that question tells me a lot about their values," he notes. "What do they think the right thing is and what do they perceive quality as?"

What are your hobbies? "This often confuses a job candidate," notes Brookings. "I want to know is this a person who sits alone in the dark reading or is this someone who takes pride in their garden? I much prefer someone who is willing to take the time to perfect something."

How do you define a difficult manager? "If I get a litany of how bad their past bosses were, I get a little suspicious that this might be a person who can’t get along with anyone," he says.

After he interviews potential candidates, Brookings brings them out to "meet the gang." "Introduce the candidate to everyone on the case management staff and encourage them to collect cards from staff members and call them up later when they get home," he says. "I encourage them to ask our nurses the good and bad things about working here. I tell them to find the newest person on the job and ask them what it is like to be new here. I tell job candidates to ask those employees what it’s really like to do this job. I also assure them I will never know whether or not they called."

Brookings says that process eliminates some of the on-the-job surprises that too often lead to quick turnover in new hires. However, sometimes even the most stringent hiring process still ends in a hiring fiasco.

Mullahy has always used a multistep process to hire new employees. The first step in that process is a careful review of resumes with a focus on case management-related experience. The second step is a telephone interview. Candidates who perform well on the telephone interview are invited to the office for an in-house interview with members of her staff. Candidates who pass the first in-house interview return for a second on-site interview where they spend several hours observing staff in their job capacity. "We watch for the candidate’s reactions to certain situations. We try to get a feel for how the candidate might respond to stress."

Yet even with such a careful and thorough hiring process, Mullahy at times has ended up with a bad fit. "The problem is that some people just interview extremely well. You can tell by how polished they are that they’ve been through the process many times," says Mullahy. "I’ve been frustrated more than once by bad decisions despite hours spent going over resumes, placing ads in appropriate publications, and being careful on the job training and orientation. The problem is that there are things case managers have to do that have nothing to do with clinical experience and education and everything to do with personality.

"It has more to do with personality. Do they have what it takes to get things accomplished? Are they creative thinkers?"

Mullahy and others have turned to a new employee profiling system called the Prevue Assessment, which was developed by Keller’s company to benchmark the best employees in each of a company’s job categories. "We assess the best of a company’s current employees and develop a profile of their personality traits. This gives an employer something to measure potential new employees against," explains Keller.

The Prevue Assessment is divided into three categories: abilities, motivation/interests, and personality. Each category includes several subcategories, and individuals receive a score of one to 10 with 10 being the highest for each category.

Abilities measured by the tool include:

• working with numbers;

• working with words;

• working with shapes.

Motivation/interests measured by the tool include:

• working with people;

• working with data;

• working with things.

The tool rates an individual’s personality traits along a continuum between two characteristics. Those include:

• diplomatic vs. independent;

• cooperative vs. assertive;

• submissive vs. conscientious;

• spontaneous vs. conventional;

• reactive vs. organized;

• self-sufficient vs. group-oriented;

• excitable vs. relaxed.

Assess your choices

The Prevue report provides an employer with the characteristics of an employee who performs well at a given job, says Keller. "This gives you a reproducible tool to help you validate other information and input you have when you make hiring decisions. You receive a raw score for your best performers. If you use the same instrument to test a candidate, and [the] results match up well to a model employee you already have in that position, that’s the individual you want for that job."

Mullahy has added Keller’s assessment tool to the final stage of her hiring process. "After the second in-house interview, when we’ve narrowed our decision to two or three candidates, then we test candidates using the Prevue Assessment," she says. "We’ve used the tool on two new hires. The test brought out things that would not have come out in an interview and might have been a concern to me for an individual holding that job. For example, one candidate’s profile indicated she was very excitable and didn’t work well in stressful situations. I knew immediately she would not survive long in the position we were considering her for," notes Mullahy.

To date, Mullahy has hired two new employees using the Prevue Assessment, and she says they have fit in nicely.

CMSA’s management firm also has used Keller’s employee profiling tool. "We were having typical employee hiring problems," notes Cathy Crowell, senior director of administration and conference director for CMSA. "We would interview people, and they would interview so well. They seemed to answer all of our questions in just the right way. Unfortunately, the minute we brought them in-house, we found they were lacking in the necessary skills to get the job accomplished."

The tool not only helps an employer weed out less-desirable candidates, it also helps employers identify areas to focus on during training. "We like the way the tool tells us how to work with new hires to increase their abilities to perform the job well. The tool helps you make an honest appraisal of an individual, and you can decide whether you are willing to take someone with weaknesses in a given area and work with them," says Crowell, adding that every new employee hired with the help of the Prevue tool has worked out well. "In every case, we’ve made the right hiring decision. After struggling for so long with turnover, this has really relieved our anxiety."

Motivate early, often

In fact, the Prevue tool can be used as a motivational tool to encourage new employees to gain new skill sets in order to advance, notes Keller. "You can use the tool to help an employee chart a succession plan for their growth and longevity with the company," he says. "You can explain to them that if they picked up these additional skill sets, they might be able to move into a job with a salary range of $25,000 to $40,000 instead of their current position with a range of $18,000 to $25,000."

Keller’s company sells the software to run the Prevue Assessment test for about $1,200 and trains organizations to administer it. Smaller organizations also can choose to have Employee Directions administer the test for a flat per-use fee of roughly $150.

"We prefer to install the software on our clients’ systems so that they can build their own internal patterns into the process. This is a tool to help you validate other information and input you have already gathered in your hiring process," says Keller. "You still want to review those resumes and do those background checks. But this tool goes beyond that. It gives you a profile that is specific to the company, the position, and even perhaps to the geographic location."