Hygienists, dentists compare the benefits of working interviews

July 9, 2012
Seventeen percent of dental hygienists said they have participated in a working interview without being paid for it, according to an RDH eVillage survey conducted in June 2012.

Seventeen percent of dental hygienists said they have participated in a working interview without being paid for it, according to an RDH eVillage survey conducted in June 2012. Most of them “badly” needed the job being applied for and did not object to the unpaid working interview.

Overall, 501 dental professionals participated in the survey. The survey initially appeared in RDH eVillage, and a total of 86% of the respondents were dental hygienists. The questionnaire included questions directed toward employers; so 14% responded to versions of the survey appearing in Dental Economics’ Expert Tips & Tricks and Dental Assisting Digest.

Working interviews appear to be successful tactic for most dental hygiene job candidates; of the group who were not paid for the working interview, 63% were hired for the position they applied for.

The survey also asked the dental hygienists about any “actions” they undertook after the working interview:

  • 43% said they took no action, since they “needed a position so badly that I chose to do nothing.”
  • 33% said spoke to the employer, requesting to be paid.
  • 25% said the lack of reimbursement for the working interview resulted in a decision to search elsewhere for a job.

The previous question prompted clarifications from the job candidates, including the following:

  • I was told before the interview that I would be paid. At the end of the 8-hour day, the office manager informed me that I would get paid only if I was hired.
  • This doctor has asked me to fill in as a temp, but did not hire me. She paid me for temping but my rounded my charge down when I figured my hours.
  • It was for only three hours, using equipment and computer digital radiography. It was for a corporation. I would not work a full day free.

Additional comments about unpaid working interviews can be viewed here:

Sixteen dentists also participated in the survey. They were asked about circumstances where they did not pay for a working interview, and their comments included:

  • Define working interview. In my office, the job candidates observe only at the initial interview. If the candidate is not hired, I send a $50 gift card with a “thank you for your time” letter. If brought back for a second interview to observe skills, the candidate supplies the license, proof of malpractice insurance, and be willing to be 1099'd at the EOY [if not hired].
  • My time and the employment opportunity are their compensation.
  • There are so many mistakes made and lack of productivity, and to devise tests for applicants and babysit them, it's not worth paying for the time they are there; however, it is worth seeing who might work out and an invaluable extension of the oral interview. If you hire them, pay for working interview; otherwise, don't feed a dead horse. If the working interview provides a valuable work output, at least pay the minimum wage. But don't promise it up front since many come in with just watching or observing mode or the in-interview mode themselves that productivity is not on their mindset. If you want a temp, pay them as a temp and get the work out of them as a temp.
  • I still pay for working interviews. However, I have strongly thought about not paying due to unemployment. If you pay someone anything, they are technically hired according to the workforce commission and therefore can pull unemployment on you. I see this driving the trend more than the need for free labor.
  • They do not perform services. They watch, interact with staff, talk through how they would handle the situation. I am observing intangibles such as attitude and mannerisms. Do they fit?
  • Hygienist should be paid for working interview when patient care is performed by the applicant hygienist. Period!
  • I assign a few "patients" to a prospective hire and let them be part of the appraisal of their skill level and demeanor. I do pay the applicant a minimum for their effort but discuss this beforehand.
  • By paying them, I am engaging them in employment. I am avoiding this until I am reasonably sure it is a good fit for both of us. I only have applicants that I am confident in hiring do a working interview.

Both dentists and dental hygienists were asked about “effectiveness or appropriateness” of working interviews as a method for screening potential job candidates. Comments from dentists included:

  • I have found working interviews to benefit both the office and the job candidate. Both the candidate [and the office] get an immediate feel if the office is a fit.
  • I think this is a very effective method to evaluate the character of the applicant without monetary influences.
  • I do not see any other way to screen applicants other than with working interviews and probation periods. Too many people will put on a good face during an interview and either have no skill or a completely different personality while on the job. Even more importantly, we need to see how the person interacts with patients.
  • If services are provided and income generated, I believe they are entitled to a share of the revenue. Then there is the issue of liability. What if services are not up to par? Who is responsible for re-treat?
  • Evaluate both clinical and "soft skills" to give the rest of the staff input and observe the "work in motion". It is unethical not to pay a licensed DHY for the services performed. I can’t believe it is actually happening.
  • Absolutely necessary! Job skill set varies tremendously. My patients deserve the best and I'll accept nothing less.
  • It is my strong opinion that as a dentist employer we absolutely would pay any prospective employee for our mandatory working interview. A fee and time should be established before the day of observation. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to evaluate an employee to see if office and staff compatibility and philosophies work for both the employee and entire office staff including the doctor. You are able to establish incredible good will with the prospective employee by letting them know how you operate and will always treat them with the utmost in respect and welcome them to our team!
  • I think working interviews are a very effective way of evaluating a potential employee's strengths, weaknesses, and their ability to fit within the team. I do believe, however, that they should be compensated at an agreed upon rate.
  • I asked the hygienist-applicant to scale my mandibular anterior teeth - to get an idea as to how gentle she was.
  • Working interviews are inappropriate for a number of legal and ethical reasons. We generally have people we may hire spend time in the practice, and that time is not compensated. However we do not have candidates produce dentistry during visits to the practice.
  • It is absolutely the best way for both employer and employee to make sure there is a good match. It should not be abused, however.

As mentioned above, all of the dental hygienists answering the survey were also asked about the “effectiveness or appropriateness” of working interviews. Some of the comments were:

  • Working interviews are totally inappropriate. There is also a concern about (patient care) liability should something go awry.
  • I think a working interview is a good idea for both parties. It's just as important for a hygienist to see how the office is really run, and talk to other staff members, as it is for the employer to see how the hygienist handles patients. But it should be handled the same as if the employer was hiring a temp for the day. They should pay for the work.
  • First days are always a bit tough, be it on the working interview, or a first day where there was no prerequisite for obtaining the position. During a working interview, the RDH candidate may not know the system well enough to stay on time, especially if one or more patients arrive late. I think the patient coordinators need to keep this in mind by preparing a light schedule for the would-be hygienist.

Additional comments about the need for working interviews for dental hygienists can be viewed here.

Thirty-five dental assistants, front office personnel, and office managers also participated in the survey; 57% have participated in unpaid working interviews. In addition, 63% were not hired for the position they sought.

Comments from dental assistants included:

  • It's a good way to see how well you work with someone. But if the candidate has good potential, have the staff take them out to lunch!
  • If you want someone to come in for a few hours to observe, that is one thing. If you expect them to work (a full day), I really feel some compensation is in order.
  • I think working interviews are a great way for the employer and the potential employee to get a real feel for the dentist and office. I have been paid for a working interview and also not paid for a working interview. By not being paid, it gives the impression the dentist may be cheap.

Comments from office managers included:

  • Can't say it (working interviews) has helped pick good employees.
  • Many applicants think they know, but when it comes down to our individual office, they have not always known enough to be hired for the position they are applying for.
  • I usually use a working interview to the benefit of both the employee and employer. We have a large busy office, which isn't always everyone's cup of tea.
  • Having a skills assessment as part of the interview process will help to show how this candidate will fit in with the other staff and the needs of the office. It will show their skills.
  • Absolutely necessary for both the employer and the prospective employee so both know if employment could be mutually beneficial. Everyone wants a good "fit" considering both skills and personalities.