Hiring Exceptional Staff Members

One of the biggest obstacles to building a premier dental practice is finding ideal staff members. Where do you find these exceptional employees? Will they enjoy your practice enough to stay once hiring and orientation have been completed? Dentists have referred to these questions often as they deal with one of the more difficult aspects of dentistry-finding the right staff for your practice.

Linda L. Miles, CSP, CMC

One of the biggest obstacles to building a premier dental practice is finding ideal staff members. Where do you find these exceptional employees? Will they enjoy your practice enough to stay once hiring and orientation have been completed? Dentists have referred to these questions often as they deal with one of the more difficult aspects of dentistry-finding the right staff for your practice.

Graduates of assisting and hygiene schools are a primary source of likely candidates. Typically, their numbers are limited because many dentists are looking to this same source for employees as well.

Dental sales representatives, another source for staffing, frequently call on practices in the community and often are aware of an opening. Newly relocated assistants and hygienists often contact area representatives and laboratories to find out about these positions.

Placement agencies also can be a good source for hiring. They spend time interviewing applicants and often can match a temporary employee to an office that they previously have staffed. There is a fee for this placement, but the money invested can be nominal in comparison to interviewing applicants.

Your employees might also know of a relative, neighbor or friend who has a dental or customer-service background. A recruitment bonus to any staff member who recommends a beneficial co-worker is yet another option to consider. Following a 90-day probation period, if the new employee becomes a part of the staff, the person making the recommendation would receive a $400 recruitment bonus. You may find this is less costly and time-consuming than placing an advertisement and conducting interviews.

The integrity and well-being of the office should be established prior to initiating this policy in the event the new employee does not work out. This will spare you any unnecessary misunderstandings with the referring employee.

When a team opening occurs, have the entire staff develop a list of criteria that the new co-worker should possess. Some of these traits might include:

- A caring team-player attitude

- Organization

- A friendly/outgoing personality

- Excellent communication skills

- A neat appearance

- Computer literacy

- Intelligence

- Experience

It is a good idea to have the staff assist in the pre-interview process. If hiring a dental assistant, have your current assistants and office administrator ask the preliminary questions and review the résumé. If hiring a second RDH, have your current RDH and office administrator do the preliminary interview. The doctor should ask the following questions:

1. What did you like best about your former position?

2. What did you like least?

3. Why did you leave your last position?

4. How would your former supervisor describe you?

5. What would this person say was your major weakness?

6. What is one of your most significant accomplishments?

7. Are you willing to be bonded by our insurance company?

8. What subjects did you like best in school? Why?

9. What subjects did you like the least? Why?

10. Why do you want to work in dentistry?

11. What did you like best about your former supervisor?

12. Given an opportunity, what changes would you make in your former practice?

13. How do you feel about asking people to pay their past-due accounts?

14. Occasionally, we have an out-of-town weekend seminar that our staff is asked to attend. How would you feel about this?

Placing an enticing advertisement, listing benefits the employee would receive, is one of the more frequently-used methods of obtaining applicants. However, an ad should focus instead on the behavioral qualities desired in an employee. If you stress employee benefits, you may attract those who are only looking for a four-day work week, corporate benefits or specific salary requirements. Skills can be taught; behavior is instilled. Edit your advertisement to read:

Progressive dental practice seeks exceptional person to join dental-assisting team. Applicants must be caring, enthusiastic, dependable, team-oriented and possess above-average assisting and communication skills. Please call 555-5555 between 10 a.m. and noon to arrange a personal interview.

Selection of staff should be done quickly, but not in haste. Qualified applicants usually get several offers. Schedules permitting, have the top three applicants volunteer to spend two to eight hours in the office for an on-site, final interview. The applicants should sign an agreement stating that the hours worked are not a working interview with pay, but a volunteer visit to observe. Referring to the time as a working interview may hold you liable for unemployment benefits to the applicants in some states. (An employment agreement has to be entered into by both parties.)

With a little time and energy, your next interview may bring you the exceptional employee you deserve!

The author is an internationally-recognized consultant and speaker on practice and staff development. She is founder and chief executive officer of Miles and Associates in Virginia Beach, VA, and can be reached at 800-922-0866.

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