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How to spot ‘A’ players

June 1, 2005
How to find quality people with sample questions for key positions.
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How to find quality people with sample questions for key positions.

There’s nothing more important or tougher than finding good talent, especially in a service business like dentistry. After all, providing a service product is profoundly different than selling a physical, tangible product; it is an “interaction” rather than a ‘“thing.” Hire the right people and something magical happens; recruit the wrong people and both productivity and morale suffer.

So what’s the secret to spotting A players? Personality screens? Handwriting analysis? Team interviews? The bottom line is it takes strong interviewing skills, the right questions, and a keen eye to spot A players. Here’s how to do it!

Hiring right

Traditionally, when practices have an opening, they just want to hire a “warm body” as quickly as possible. This “rush to hire” can be very detrimental to the practice, both in the short and long run. You can avoid this recruitment faux pas by being very clear about the job requirements - the skills and behavioral traits which must be present for satisfactory performance on the job. It is very important to have a current job description which provides clarification of the job requirements, both for you and the interviewee.

Before scheduling interviews, you’ll need to review and sort resumes and/or applications.

When reviewing resumes and applications, arrange them into three piles or folders labeled:

• Yes

• No

• Maybe

The “yes” pile should contain candidates you feel are best-suited for the position, the “maybe” pile should be composed of those individuals who may be worthy of a second look, and the “no” pile should be for candidates who are ruled out immediately, either because they are not qualified or because their resumes contain numerous errors.

The phone interview

Once you have identified which applicants are best suited for the position, the next step is to schedule a phone interview. The phone interview is a screening device and is not meant to take the place of a face-to-face interview. Talking with the candidate over the phone can help you gain an important first impression. It’s also a good opportunity to clarify prior working experience and to check salary expectations, both of which are important to establish before the interview.

If the telephone interview is going well, you’ll want to schedule an appointment for a face-to-face interview. It is important to give the applicant an idea of what to expect during this meeting, such as the length of the interview and who will be conducting it.

Conversely, you may rule out an in-person meeting with an applicant during the phone interview. If that is the case, let applicants know you are still in the process of conducting telephone interviews with others and you will contact them should you decide to bring them in for an interview.

Suggestions for a successful interview

The main purpose of the interview is to gather as much information as possible from the applicant. The interview should be conducted in a quiet place, free from distractions. Your primary job in the interview is to listen and allow the applicant to do most of the talking. Apply the 80/20 principle - you listen 80 percent of the time and talk only 20 percent of the time. You will want to provide some general information about your practice, such as background, philosophy of care, and culture, but keep your comments brief.

There are basically two types of questions you will ask candidates:

1. Closed questions

2. Open-ended questions

Closed questions are those that require only a “yes” or “no” answer or known specific facts. For example, “How long were you employed at your last job?”

Open-ended questions are those that require an applicant to craft a more detailed response. An example here would be, “What was your most significant accomplishment on your last job?”

Ask mostly open-ended questions. When you do ask a closed question, be sure to follow it up with a “what,” “how,” or “why” question.

Below is a list of open-ended questions you can use during the interview:

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Ultimately, your goal in asking the below questions is threefold:

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1. Make sure the candidate can do the job. The candidate must possess the requisite skills, knowledge, and experience.

2. Test to make sure the applicant will do the job and is self-motivated to do so.

3. Make sure the applicant possesses the behavioral characteristics which will make her or him the best qualified person for the job - i.e., a good personality, attitude, and interpersonal skills.

Lastly, during the interview process, have other members of the team interview the applicant. Their feedback can help you gain a more complete picture of the applicant.

Bringing closure to the interview

At the conclusion of the interview, give applicants an idea of your hiring timetable and let them know the next step in the process. Also, let viable applicants know they can call you if they have any additional questions or if they think of anything else related to the position they would like to share with you.

Checking references and extending the offer

Hiring decisions should not be made without first checking references. Ask the candidate to supply you with the names of three references and call to confirm employment history, salary, etc. During the reference check, be sure to ask if the practice or company would rehire this individual if given the opportunity.

Once references have been checked out, it’s time to extend the offer. When doing so, it’s important to communicate your pleasure in extending the offer. Also, be sure to play up the strengths of the practice and the team. You never know if an applicant is considering another job offer, so you want to sell her or him on the benefits of working for your practice.

Also, it is always good business to let the other finalists know that another applicant has accepted your offer. Tell them how much you appreciate them taking the time to apply. This extra step sends a message to applicants that your practice is professional ... and, who knows, your second or third choice could very well be your next hire!

Spotting A players requires having a clear job description, asking the right questions to test for competency, motivation, and fit, and doing your homework before extending the offer. That is the real difference between recruiting an average player and an A player.

Bernie Stoltz, COO of Fortune Management, brings more than 20 years of business leadership to dentistry. He was the founder of five successful companies before founding Fortune Management of California, Inc. He works with some of the top practices in the country, and provides the competitive edge that practices need to succeed. A regular contributor to dental publications, Stoltz has taught practice management at the USCF School of Dentistry and at P.A.C. ~ live. He can be contacted by phone at (888) 777-1110 or by e-mail at [email protected].