Hiring for success in your dental office

April 25, 2014
There are a few basic questions for potential dental office employee that go beyond technical skills

How many times in your dental career have you hired someone you’re excited about, only to find out a few weeks later that they aren’t what you expected? Maybe you’re even worse off than you were before hiring them. How many times have you experienced this frustration? Was your reaction to blame someone else? Or does the blame really fall on your shoulders because you did not interview effectively?

Have you considered the cost of office turnover? According to William Bliss, turnover will easily exceed 150% of the employee’s annual compensation figure. For an average dental employee, this could cost $60,000 per employee. With this knowledge, employers should take recruitment very seriously.

Let’s examine how most in the dental industry conduct interviews. I’ve witnessed many doctors focus the majority of questions on the technical skills of the interviewee. I’m not trying to minimize the need for good technical skills, but if you think back to those employees that didn’t work out, was it due mostly to technical skills, or more to attitude issues? Attitude and personality issues reveal themselves over time, while technical skills are pretty easy to screen for. We need to screen effectively for both to hire great employees. Since most peoples’ ability to screen for technical skills is pretty straightforward, I will not address much in this area. If you have questions, I encourage you to leave a comment at the end of this article and I will gladly address your questions.

Most screen for attitude skills by asking about references and how long someone has worked at a location. We make the assumption if they worked a long time in one location, they must have had a great work ethic and done a great job. While this may be true, it could also be very false. Have you ever gotten a great reference and then hired the person only to find out they weren’t that awesome? We all have. I don’t even ask for references any more because I’ve come to accept the fact no one in their right mind would put down someone that wouldn’t say glowing things about them.

What we need to do is develop a list of questions that allow us to peer into the mind of our candidate. Here we will provide you with some questions, and the logic behind them. Keep in mind that the value isn’t necessarily in the first question, but in the follow-up questions, because that's where you’ll really learn about a candidate.

Also, here is a video from AccelerateMyPractice that shares some thoughts on interviewing for success.

(To view video on iOS devices, click here.)

1. How long have you been in dentistry?
Do they simply give you a number, or do they expand on it a bit? You need someone who is social and can engage your patients. One word answers don’t give me faith this person will have the skills necessary to build relationships with your patients.

2. What made you choose this industry?
Did they fall into a job within dentistry and it is still just a job? Do they have a passion for dentistry? Which would you rather have — a passionate person or “just an employee”? Does this person want to contribute to your practice and your patients’ health or just collect a paycheck? Is contribution important to you?

3. Please describe what characteristics and skills you possess that qualify you for this job?
Of course you can pull much of this off their resume, but again, I want to see how well this person communicates. Let’s face it; the key to growing your case acceptance and practice is relationship building. How quickly can this person build a relationship with you? How quickly will they be able to build a relationship with your patients?

4. Tell me about some challenging circumstance you had in a past office, and how you handled it?
What leadership qualities did they demonstrate through this example? What did they learn through this process? How did it work out? Did they blame the other people involved, or did they accept responsibility for their role? What would they do differently next time?

5. How would you promote my practice to someone you just meet?
If their answer is, “I don’t know, I don’t yet know you and your practice,” guess what you just learned? They didn’t do any preparation for this interview. If they had at least looked you up on your website, they could tell you about your technology, the procedures you do, or the charitable work you do. If they’re unwilling to prepare for an interview, how well do you think they will prepare for work every day? I suspect not well.

6. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Of course this old standby is a great question because it tells you if they have a future vision for themselves. Do they feel trapped in life, and if they do, will they be able to positively contribute to your practice?

I’m not suggesting that you only look for the Tony Robbins type. Every position in a dental office has different needs. But if you look for people with upbeat attitudes, what do you think will happen to your practice? The old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together” means that we prefer to hang around people like ourselves. Therefore, if you’re a cranky person and hire cranky people, guess what your patients will be like? We’ve all worked in an office where the doctor was cranky and the entire team and patient base was also cranky. This is why hiring people with a positive outlook on life is so important.

It will help you attract positive patients who are more likely to accept dentistry and refer great patients as well. Bottom line, hire for attitude and teach the skills. You can’t teach attitude. Happy interviewing!

Darren Kaberna is the owner of AccelerateMyPractice, a company that coaches dentists and their teams to greater success professionally and personally. Darren has been working in the dental industry since 1997 in well over 1,000 dental offices. Find him at acceleratemypractice.com. If you have questions, sent them to [email protected].