You're hired!

March 25, 2005
Spotlight the often-missed areas of the job interview process by establishing a list of "must haves" when considering an employer or employee relationship.

By Anastasia L. Turchetta, RDH

The reality TV show, "The Apprentice," has become a hit in the United States. Donald Trump, a recognized real estate developer, delegates challenges to business/marketing candidates each week. "The Donald" and his sidekicks eventually find a winner for the dream job inside the Trump organization. His new protégé has succeeded because he/she has avoided the phrase heard round the world, "You're Fired."

This type of working interview can only happen on TV, as most of us cannot afford the weeks without compensation. Dentists, hygienists, and assistants are educated with an element of standards, such as evidence-based dentistry, infection control, managing medical emergencies, pharmacology, etc. -- thus our inadequate preparation for the "non-clinical" job interview in the real world.

I ask doctors, "Are you satisfied with your current interview process for your clinical team?" I ask hygienists, "Are you underestimating your value within the practice when searching for a job?" I ask assistants, "Do you have room for advancement within the practice? How do you know if you are the right candidate for that particular practice?"

Let's spotlight the often-missed areas of the interview process by establishing a list of "must haves" when considering an employer or employee relationship. Whether or not you are a seasoned professional, discover the direction for either acquiring a winning team or an outstanding employer, stating, "You're Hired!" with certainty following the interview process.

Doctors, we can start with you, as you are the leader of the practice and should have the responsibilities to pursue what you would like in your clinical team. Three key components to consider whether interviewing a future partner or dental team member:

1. Self-assessment

2. Customer service

3. Troubleshooting.

First, discover what your expectations are within your self. In other words, perform a written self-assessment. This will become your guide in achieving your goal. Once you understand what you want from yourself and your practice, focus on acquiring outstanding customer service. Customer service is the most underrated area in dentistry. When interviewing, it will be in your best interest to hire an individual based on ethics or respect for your practice goals and attitude. Any other skill can be learned. Remember the analogy of "the diamond in the rough?"

Finally, avoid the pitfalls of miscommunication and trouble-shoot potential problems so your customer service is in alignment with your self-assessment. Examples of areas to cover in the interviewing process include actions to take when a patient who did not take their recommended pre-medication, a patient who arrives 15 minutes into their scheduled appointment, etc.

Hygienists and assistants, you must reflect on what it is you are looking for in a practice setting. You have taken the necessary courses and met clinical requirements; however, are you going to flourish more in a periodontal, pediatric, or general setting? Are you open-minded about alternative programs in hygiene such as assisted hygiene?

Customer service skills involve your verbal and non-verbal communication in resolving conflict. How well do you handle stress, regardless of whether it is office gossip, a phone call from an unhappy patient, or a seated patient who is responding in a difficult manner (such as refusing to accept your treatment suggestions)?

Trouble-shooting possible topics to discuss with your possible employer may consist of:

1.Is the doctor willing to invest in ergonomic friendly equipment?

2.Will you be able to order hygiene supplies such as rinses, tongue scrapers, saliva tests, etc.?

3. Are you encouraged to present cases and, if so, what are the doctor's expectations?

The above suggestions are given in effort to provoke thought before you find yourself in a situation that is unhealthy for you.

I do realize, however, there is a flip side to the interview process. Location of where you plan to practice may limit your choices for ideal employment. Keep in mind that, no matter where you live or practice dentistry, the code of ethics for our profession remains the same for employers, employees, and treatment for patients.

Although "The Apprentice" emphasizes a different industry from dentistry, the principles involving ethics and values may be parallel. Leadership, communication skills, and problem-solving should be the foundation of an interview, not salary and benefits, as most employees choose to leave a position based upon the former requirements. A simple restructure of the interview process will lead each professional to a level not previously conquered. Who's to say that you can't learn anything from reality TV shows?

Anastasia L. Turchetta, RDH, has been a practicing clinical hygienist for 17 years. Her enthusiasm is contagious for effectively relaying the unlimited mouth/mind/body connection to various professionals, thus attributing to the success of her speaking/consulting business. She speaks both nationally and internationally and maintains memberships with NSA, SCN, ISN, ADHA, and AVDS. Her publications include Dental Practice Report, Contemporary Oral Hygiene, RDH, and Dentrix. Anastasia is also a feature author in Conversations on Health & Wellness. She may be contacted at