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5 questions to ask when hiring an administrative assistant for your dental practice

March 19, 2015
It's important to hire someone who is a good fit for your dental practice, who patients can relate to, and who is organized in order to help your practice run smoothly. Make sure to ask the right questions during an interview.

Having an administrative assistant is like having a carbon copy of you. Ideally, you want your assistant to have the same ideals, goals, and vision about your dental business that you do. However, it’s not easy to find someone who will adapt to your way of thinking, especially if that person is new to the dental industry. Finding the right candidate is hard, and with so many qualified (and unqualified) people vying for the position, once you’ve narrowed down the pile of resumes, how can you narrow your search further to land the right administrative assistant for your practice?

Here are the main questions you need to ask when you’re hiring an administrative assistant.

1. Are you approachable?
An administrative assistant should be a friendly, approachable, and socially active person. This person will not only be responsible for data filing and client reports, but also handling the concerns of every other team member. If your laboratory technician needs information on a particular patient, the assistant will be the one to provide it. If your dental hygienist needs to know the patient’s next appointment, the administrative assistant will be the one to answer. This means everyone in your clinic will be interacting with him or her, and if the person is not approachable, some of your team members may not feel comfortable working with him or her. This can create a division in your team and ultimately destroy the functionality of your clinic and business.

2. Are you a good talker?
Your administrative assistant should be charismatic. Patients are quite sensitive when it comes to customer service and assistance. Although he or she will not be working as the receptionist, your assistant will still be interacting with patients especially about dental records, procedural concerns, and appointments. If your assistant isn’t a good talker, some patients may see this as rejection or laziness, and he or she will be considered impolite or uninterested in patients’ concerns.

3. Do you know how to listen?
As an administrative assistant, he or she will be tasked with various responsibilities. These can vary from employer to employer. If you have a big team, your assistant may be saved from a lot of work and able to focus on something particular, such as filing patient records and managing your schedule. However, if you have a small team, your assistant may be expected to do more to cover for positions that are unfilled, such as taking calls, scheduling patient appointments, sending out laboratory requests to technicians, cleaning dental equipment, and cleaning the office. With all of these responsibilities, your assistant will need to have good memory and know what needs to be done and when. He or she should be able to follow instructions properly.

4. Do you have attention to detail?
A sharp eye is one of the most important skills that an administrative assistant should have. He or she should be able to see errors easily, especially when entering data and patient information. The person should be able to spot incorrect entries in forms, financial reports, and other documents. He or she should know what procedures you’re going to do today and have everything prepared for you. He or she should be able to set up your schedule without confusing patients and procedures. A lazy and unenthusiastic assistant will bring more chaos than organization to your dental office.

5. Do you have a good work ethic?
Work ethic summarizes the responsibility, dedication, and effort that a person exerts in his or her job. If your potential administrative assistant doesn’t have good work ethic, it’s highly likely that he or she will forget tasks or procrastinate and cause major delays in your operations. If you run a small clinic and your assistant is responsible for appointment setting and client relations, you can end up having double appointments or wrong dental records for patients. A lazy assistant also misses work frequently without sufficient notice.

Since an interviewee is unlikely to disclose this kind of attitude, you can ask the people provided as references that the applicant included with the resume. Past colleagues and superiors, in particular, can answer issues about attendance, reliability, responsibility, and overall job efficiency of your applicant.

Whether you’re a Colorado Springs dentist or a Denver orthodontist, your name and clinic should be an image of health and wellness. Your entire dental team is a crucial part of maintaining that image for patients. When searching for the right administrative assistant, don’t focus solely on people with dental backgrounds. You need to look for work ethic and a sense of responsibility. The better employee is the one who is dedicated to the job, not the one with the most awards and certifications.

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Charles Crawfordis the co-founder of Crawford and O’Brien. Aside from doingdental SEO and helping dentists get new patients, Charles plays jazz piano in restaurants in Scottsdale, AZ on weekends. Download a free dental marketingreport to learn about some of his SEO methods that work.