Avoid Costly Hiring Mistakes


Identify candidates who fit your unique high-service culture.

Most people who have hired employees have at least one horror story to tell. And while hiring mistakes are costly for any small business, they can be especially damaging for community pharmacies. After all, finding pharmacists, technicians, front-end staff or delivery drivers who are accurate, dependable, friendly and discreet is not just “nice to have” for a community pharmacy. Those qualities are the key to providing the kind of outstanding personal service that helps independents differentiate themselves and compete effectively with chain stores.

It’s All about Fit

The most important step in finding quality employees is determining if candidates possess the right attitudes and work habits to fit with your team and convey to customers the image you desire. According to a free report called Hiring the Best People, published by staffing company Robert Half, asking questions like these can help assess someone’s potential:

  • What do you know about our [pharmacy], and why do you want to work here?
  • What were your most significant contributions or accomplishments in your previous position?
  • What would you have changed about your last job, and why?
  • What type of work environment is least appealing to you?
  • Can you provide an example of how you handled a workplace conflict?

There are no “right” answers to these questions, but candidates’ responses will help you determine if they’ll contribute to the customer-focused organization you are striving to create. Also, make sure you communicate your store’s core values to potential hires — such as “we deliver personalized service.” Assess whether candidates fit with these values and confirm that all candidates are comfortable being held accountable for them.

The True Cost of a Bad Hire
Almost 7 in 10 businesses felt the effects of a bad hire last year, according to a new CareerBuilder survey, with 41% of those businesses estimating the cost of a bad hire to be more than $25,000. The most common problems included:

  • Poor work quality — 67%
  • Inability to work well with others — 60%
  • Negative attitude — 59%
  • Immediate attendance problems — 54%
  • Customer complaints — 44%
  • Failure to meet deadlines — 44%

Take Basic Precautions

Fundamental strategies to limit the risk of making bad hires include:

  • Asking current employees. Existing employees know what it takes to do the job successfully, so they can make excellent recommendations of potential candidates. Just be sure not to relax your standards regarding the interview and reference-checking process. Another idea is to allow a few select employees to participate in the interview process in some way. Team members frequently will offer critical insights about candidates, and including them in the process also encourages buy-in for the final selection.
  • Screening carefully. Always perform a screening interview by phone. That way you won’t waste time interviewing candidates who don’t meet your basic requirements. And requiring job candidates to describe their employment history on a formal application enables you to cross-check it against the information they have included on their resume.
  • Checking references. Many employers are reluctant to call references because they think that references won’t speak freely. Yet most people will be forthcoming if you ask carefully worded questions such as: “Would you hire this person again? Why or why not?”
  • Performing background checks. Professional investigators can perform simple employment, education and reference checks or more involved credit and criminal history checks. And while background checks do represent an additional cost, the expense is typically relatively low — and certainly far less than the cost of a bad hire. If you decide to proceed, make sure you ask candidates to sign releases. As always, consult with a labor attorney to make sure you understand what the rules are for hiring in your state.

Target Highly Skilled Workers

To recruit pharmacists and technicians, reach out to nearby pharmacy schools. Participating in internship and preceptor programs is a particularly effective way to create an ongoing stream of potential candidates, identify top contenders and evaluate them in a real-world setting.

See the Smart Retailing story Tips for Building a Winning Team for details on how two independent pharmacy owners are using this strategy.

Implement Trial Periods for All

The idea behind internships and preceptor programs can easily be applied to front-end and office workers as well. Why not consider offering any final job candidate a temporary work assignment?

A trial period is a mutual agreement that the job candidate will work for you on a temporary basis, with the pay, length of time and work hours specified in advance. Just like internships for skilled workers, a trial period gives you the opportunity to observe potential hires on the job without making a long-term commitment. You’ll be able to evaluate their people skills, work ethic, reliability and attention to detail in a way that would never come across in an interview situation.

Note: Do not confuse “trial” with “probationary” periods. Attorney Sandra Rappaport recently told HR Daily Advisor that probationary periods — when new hires are subject to immediate dismissal — can be problematic because they can compromise employees’ at-will status.

“Forty-two percent of managers said that bringing in a candidate on a temporary basis provides the most insight into that person’s future job performance.”
– Robert Half survey of 980 managers in the United States and Canada

Minimize Future Risks

Hiring job candidates who can thrive in your unique community pharmacy environment involves careful screening and real-world testing. Implementing those kinds of best practices will help you minimize the risk of making mistakes.