Dental Assistant Job Interview

A 4-phase process to make interviewing dental practice applicants easier

July 21, 2014
Brittany Young is an practice manager with some good ideas, including how to make interviewing potential candidates easier on everyone involved.

So, one of your front office team members just told you she’s leaving for another position. Hopefully she gave you enough time to search for and hire her replacement, and maybe she even promised to help train her replacement. Even with this help, changing out a crucial team member can be terrifying for the rest of the team.

I know from experience that interviewing is not as easy as it may seem. I don't think you can truly know how someone will fit into your office on a day-to-day basis from just a 30- to 60-minute interview. I believe in a 4-Phase selection process. Let me explain.

Phase 1 is initial contact with the candidate. You place an ad, and receive a resume by fax or email. If the resume has all the necessary qualifications, you initiate a phone call interview. At this point you’re gauging how the candidate’s reaction to specific details about the job. (Maybe your job posting did not have all the info such as specific duties, benefits, and pay range.) If the person is still interested in the job and you’re still interested in the person, move on to Phase 2 with him or her.

Phase 2 is the face-to-face interview. I firmly believe in scheduling these in the office and having the doctor present. We usually schedule them right before lunch, while the last patient is being finished up. This way the candidate can get a feel for how the office runs each day, and it allows a bit of time for an office tour and team member introductions. In our office the office manager conducts the initial interview questions, and then the doctor will sit in on more detailed questions. Remember, you are trying to get a feel for the candidate's personality, as well as his or her qualifications. After the interview, if all parties are still interested, the candidate will move on to the next phase.

Phase 3 is the working interview. At our office we do paid working interviews. During the working interview, I look for the little things that indicate whether or not the person is a good candidate: Did the interviewee bring a pen and paper to take notes? Does the person actively listen and repeat things back to you? The thing I think is most important to check for is, does the person ask questions that make sense?

Here’s an example for an assistant’s interview:It’s Monday, and the regular assistant shows the candidate that the steri-check tests are run through the autoclave and the statim. The candidate asks, "How often is this done?" To me that is a useful question that indicates the interviewee is paying attention and has experience.

If everything in Phase 3 looks great, then you can make the decision to hire!

Phase 4 is the 60- or 90-day probation period when the candidate is evaluated. At the end of this phase, a performance review is conducted, and if everything looks good, then you’re done with the process.

Keep in mind that this does not include the training process or the ongoing evaluation of the team member. Both of these processes require considerable time and effort, and at least a few more blog posts. Be on the lookout for the blogs.

Brittany Young is the practice manager at Weissburg Endodontics in Laurel, Maryland. She is a member of the American Association of Dental Office Managers, and is currently pursuing an associate degree in business management. Read her blog, You Know the Drill.