The number-one hiring error

Aug. 1, 2000
Our nation is enjoying the most robust economy in history. Employers in all fields are finding it challenging to find competent people. The dental community is not exempt from this hiring shortage.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA

Our nation is enjoying the most robust economy in history. Employers in all fields are finding it challenging to find competent people. The dental community is not exempt from this hiring shortage.

Interviewing skills are still essential when meeting the challenge of identifying quality personnel. It is very expensive to bring an individual into a dental practice, only to find out six months later that you are not satisfied and want to make a change. The initial loss of production while the new staff member becomes accustomed to the practice, combined with training and focused time with this individual, costs the practice anywhere from $20,000-$30,000. Repeating the cycle within 12 months further increases the lost production exponentially.

When you face a staff shortage, the natural inclination is to hire someone as quickly as possible. Most dentists make a decision after only one interview, despite any reservations they may have about the client. The fear exists that an apparently qualified candidate may accept another position. This often leads to poor hiring decisions that both dentist and staff will regret.

The number one error

Too often, hiring decisions are predicated on simple compatibility. Experts in human resources tell us that most interviewers decide whether or not they like a candidate within the first five minutes. In dentistry, liking the candidate is practically commensurate with hiring the applicant. Once we decide we like the candidate, we use the remainder of the interview to justify why we should hire this individual. We often let interpersonal skills become the sole factor in choosing the candidate for the position; other skills diminish in importance.

We must resolve that while good interpersonal skills are key, they are not the only factor to consider when selecting the right candidate.

One way to remedy this situation is to write out five or six key performance objectives as criteria for selecting a candidate. Avoid legal objectives and write them as actions. After you have some key performance objectives stated from an action perspective, you now have a basic job description. Use these objectives in the interview.

Talk to the candidate about his or her ability to achieve these objectives within a specific period of time. Ask the applicant to give you examples of comparable situations he or she has encountered in the past. A good candidate - even one whose background does not match the position completely - will give an articulate and thorough response.

The key to success is asking the right questions

Certain areas of the country have more acute staff shortages than others. These situations require creative advertising, pay packages, and bonuses.

Frantically choosing the wrong candidate is an expensive and frustrating experience. By slowing the process down and postponing your own personal impressions, you will find that the interviewing process is now based on real performance objectives. By waiting until later in the interview to determine if you like or dislike the candidate, you will increase your chances of hiring success dramatically.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA, president and CEO of The Levin Group and the Levin Advanced Learning Institute, provides worldwide leadership in dental management for general dentists and specialists. Contact The Levin Group at (410) 654-1234.

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