HIRING MANAGERS LOVE WORKING INTERVIEWS. WHILE IT'S TRUE THAT EVALUATING CANDIDATES (ESPECIALLY ENTRY-LEVEL DENTAL WORKERS) BEFORE MAKING A HIRING MISTAKE HAS MANY BENEFITS, THERE ARE ALSO IMPORTANT LEGAL COMPONENTS TO CONSIDER.
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It’s no surprise that working interviews have become popular, particularly in the dental industry. Gaining firsthand insight into how a candidate responds to patients, staff, and the surroundings allows an interviewer to anticipate the candidate’s learning curves. While acclimation to the team takes time, a “bad fit” can usually be spotted quickly. However, it is extremely important that both the office and candidate are in complete understanding of what the working interview will or will not involve.
The IRS defines an employee as “. . . under common law rules, anyone who performs services for you is your employee if you can control what will be done and how it will be done.” In a working interview, the candidate performs services for the duration of the interview. The services conducted include current patient procedures, cases, and personal health information—which is used and accessed during the interview—with the understanding that the individual may become a permanent hire. The candidate is now an employee, no matter how many or how few work hours are involved.
An informed interview
Some offices argue that a candidate is a volunteer who has agreed to work for the purpose of being evaluated. This is a misuse of the title. The Department of Labor refers to a volunteer as “someone who performs hours of service without promise or expectation or receipt of compensation for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons.”
One can understand the gray area as it is true that the potential employee arrives to the office and intends to work at will for financial gain while under the control of the business owner.
Most law firms advise business owners to recognize that a working interview means compensation at no less than minimum wage, regardless of how much time is worked. Furthermore, many dental offices invite students to conduct working interviews. If so, the office must be careful to note that they may have changed a student’s status from intern to employee. Here are a few more considerations before conducting a working interview:
• A contract is needed that defines expectations of time and duties.
• The candidate is eligible for worker’s compensation (liability), even for working just a few hours.
• The employee must properly record and report his or her wages.
• The employer must properly record and report the worker’s information.
• The employer could inadvertently become responsible for unemployment.
• All applicable state or federal obligations exist as with any new employee, even during an interview.
• Be careful to understand the conditions of a student intern versus an employee as wages and expectations are handled differently.
Prepare and proceed
A well-thought-out process can be created for a dental office so that it may still enjoy the benefits of a working interview, but the employer will be legally protected. Preparation is key. Whomever is in charge of the hiring process can begin with compiling paperwork that is used in the hiring process. In addition to the application, what other forms are needed? Are there any special licensures or credentials required that may be used during working interviews? Is the candidate a student? If so, who becomes liable should an unfortunate incident occur? The office manager should compile a manual that contains hiring and evaluation forms to be used during the working interview. This may include:
• Application forms
• Request forms—copies of licenses, credentials, CPR, and more
• Applicable tax forms
• Confidentiality statements
• Terms of agreement, memorandum of understanding, or contract
Consider what your office is looking for in a potential hire and create evaluation measures. In addition to certain competency skills, what other traits or criteria are important to the culture and operation of your practice? Prepare your interviewee by completing all necessary paperwork up front so there are no gaps in the process. If there are certain expectations, such as dress code or arrival times, be sure to communicate these early. The opportunity of benefits and/or a 401k should be known up front. Even the hiring manager can prepare himself or herself for the interview through planning and organizing the conversation.
Here are some preparation steps:
• Prepare behavioral questions that require the interviewee to demonstrate emotional intelligence on topics such as conflict resolution, emergency management, and creative problem solving.
• Ask questions that will evaluate the individual’s adaptability to measure his or her learning curve.
• In terms of self-awareness, find out how the candidate perceives skill growth, and ask for specific examples.
• Watch the candidate’s rapport throughout the working interview. Does the person seem like a good fit for the office?
While the initial setup for a working interview takes some planning, once done the tools can be used and modified and serve as an excellent recruitment process. No interview will be identical; therefore, it is important to note what protocols work or do not work throughout the working interview process. When the interview is over, follow through with the hiring decision as promised. If the working interview did not end well, at least the employer has prepared wisely and is unlikely to be surprised by any future legalities.