Forensic hiring: Put applicants "under the microscope" and solve the mystery of the revolving door

Sept. 27, 2011

By Jan Keller

Hiring new staff members can be a daunting process, especially as the consequences of making a mistake are costly – in time, money, and stress.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways to put candidates “under the microscope” to make sure you choose the right person every time, and finally put an end to the mystery of the personnel revolving door with which most practices are familiar.

How? By using an easy four-step process for finding and integrating the right person for the job into your practice:

1. Clarify
2. Screen
3. Select
4. Integrate

Step 1: Clarify
Two of the most common errors dentists make when hiring new staff are 1) failure to clarify their own values; and 2) failure to ensure the candidate they choose shares those values.

So the first question to ask, of course, is what are your core values? What matters most to you? Skills? Experience? Communication style? Is one more important than the other – communication style versus experience, for instance?

Ask questions like these to help you form a picture in your mind of the perfect applicant – the “treasure”:

• What level of experience is preferred, or required?
• Should the applicant be a people person? A quick learner? Calm? Detail-oriented?
• What personality style complements yours and/or your team’s?

Next, clarify the job description and job qualifications. A good job description will include:
• Job title
• Job summary
• Qualifications
• Education and experience
• Certificates, licenses, and registrations
• Skills/competencies
• Essential duties and responsibilities

Now you’re ready to promote the position and build your applicant pool.

Step 2: Screen
With your ad in place, resumes will soon follow. Questions to ask about resumes and/or applications:

• How detailed is the resume?
• Are the spelling and grammar up to par?
• Is there enough information provided to proceed to the next step – the telephone interview?

The telephone interview

Use this time-saver as a chance to get to know the applicant, provide important information about the position, and weed out those who are clearly not right for the position. Assign the responsibility for telephone interviews to a staff member who will represent your practice well, and make up a telephone screening form prior to contacting applicants. Include questions that complement your core values, as defined above.

Be sure to listen to the applicant’s tone of voice, diction, professional manner. If you like what you hear, proceed to the next step – the interview.

The office interview

Once applicants pass the telephone interview, an in-office interview should follow, in which both parties should be punctual, prepared, and professional. As the interviewer, ask open-ended questions that give the applicant a chance to provide in-depth answers. Give the applicant time to ask you questions. Know the questions you are legally permitted to ask!

For the applicants who meet your criteria, move on to the next step: the second interview, at which time you will assess skill and communication. The assessment interview allows you to observe, evaluate, and listen to the applicant while in your office. Follow these guidelines:

• Allow three hours for the interview.
• Evaluate: skill level for the job, self-motivation, communication skills with patients and team, professional attire, punctuality, professionalism.

Finally, for those who impress at the assessment interview, move on to the final interview step: the team luncheon. Involving the entire staff in the selection process has numerous benefits, including illustrating to the applicant that spending time to hire the right person is important; letting the applicant know that the staff’s input is valued; and giving staff members a chance to get to know the applicant better in a relaxed environment.

So, you’ve made your choice and you’re now ready to make the job offer to the applicant. This brings us to the next step in our treasure-mining process.

Step 3: Select
The selection process covers three very important elements – the reference check, the background check, and the offer letter.

Reference check – Call the applicant’s reference, and ask specific questions based on what you have learned about the applicant in the interview process. Make sure the applicant has signed a waiver allowing you to contact references.

Background check – Never skip this step! Make sure the applicant has signed a waiver allowing you to run a background check, including credit and criminal history. Fees are nominal and information can be quickly obtained.

Offer letter – Once you have decided on whom to hire, send an offer letter that reiterates or verifies the following: start date, hours, salary and benefits, expectations for training.

Step 4: Integrate

Okay, the new employee has been hired. Now begins the process of integrating this person into your practice. Follow these simple steps to ensure your new employee gets off to a strong start.

Training plan –
Commit to a training plan that is shared with the staff and allows the new employee to excel at a rapid pace. Use your job description as a guide for making a list of all tasks and responsibilities that must be learned. Schedule training sessions – determine with whom, when, and where. Acknowledge and celebrate as each phase of the training plan is completed.

Orientation – Start the new employee off right! Allow several hours for orientation, and provide the new employee with information on practice philosophy, personnel manual and file, training plan – including OSHA and HIPAA, employment forms, performance reviews. Be sure to block time out of the doctor’s schedule to be involved.

And there you have it – a simple, four-step process that will help you to uncover the treasure in every applicant pool, and assist them in becoming “gold” for your practice.

Janice Keller has 25-plus years of experience in dentistry – clinically, and as an office manager and software trainer. Now, as a practice management consultant, she provides high-quality, customized practice development and education to clients and their teams. Jan’s clients praise her ability to recognize, understand, and adapt to their specific training requirements, and to provide the necessary tools and skills they need to meet their practice goals. Jan is certified by Bent Ericksen & Associates in employee law compliance, and is also certified by the Institute of Practice Management. She is a member of the prestigious Speaking/Consulting Network and the Academy of Dental Management Consultants. She is also an independent certified SoftDent trainer. Contact her at [email protected].