How good is your recruitment process?

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recruitment process
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With an effective recruitment and selection policy, dental practices are more likely to choose suitable candidates and eliminate employee turnover. Cameron Cooper reports

Dentists are known for their precision and attention to detail. Worryingly, though, that does not always apply to their recruitment process—consisting of little more than a casual chat to assess potential new dentists, dental assistants and receptionists. Following are five actions that can make a difference.

Get your own house in order

Carolyn S. Dean, a dental marketing strategist and author of Fully Booked says that before any job interviews take place, dental practices need clarity around their business rationale, core values, what they want from employees, and what they can offer employees.

“A recruitment process is a relationship-building process and it has to be clearly articulated about what both members of the conversation want,” Dean says.

She adds that potential employees will weigh up the merits of practices based on factors such as the quality of their websites, stated values and the tone and content of social media posts. “So remember that recruitment starts way, way before the interview process.”

Understand what sort of people you want to hire

A clear job description brings clarity to a position your practice needs to fill, and identifies the type of person best suited for the job. Dr Nauv Kashyap has bought or launched about 18 dental practices and is the founder of dental consultancy Practice Ownership Consulting. When hiring graduate dentists, he says there is one quality above all else that he and his recruitment panel desire.

“We are looking for attitude,” he says. “We are of the belief that we can train a dentist in private practice to be very successful if they have a great attitude.”

That means they express a desire to learn and have the humility to accept constructive feedback. This starting point can then inform questions during the job interview. Can this candidate do the job clinically? Can this candidate gel and work with the current team? Can this person learn, grow and develop?

If in an interview a candidate constantly pushes back against the views of the interview panel, whether related to treatments or internal processes, it should serve as a red flag, according to Dr Kashyap.

“We know then that when we give them feedback, they are not going to listen to us.”

Structure your interview carefully and document the results

Dean says it is crucial to be consistent with interview processes and to clearly document candidate assessments during and after interviews. So, develop a structured list of questions that you will ask all the candidates.

“For me, it’s all about repeatability because you are assessing a number of people and you need to assess them on a level playing field,” she says. Core areas need to be covered, including:

  • What experience do you have?
  • What are your clinical skills?
  • What is your career motivation?
  • What are your values?
  • How would you fit with our practice?

We are looking for attitude. We are of the belief that we can train a dentist in private practice to be very successful if they have a great attitude.

Dr Nauv Kashyap, founder, Practice Ownership Consulting

All questions are not equal, of course, and they should be weighted. Dean believes a person’s values are the most important factor when hiring.

“A practice is built on values,” she explains. “You may be recruiting someone with the greatest clinical skills on the planet, but if they don’t have the same values as you, you’re never going to succeed.”

Dr Kashyap says his recruitment panel typically engages in an hour-long interview with dental candidates, after which the prospective employee has 20 minutes to assess an X-ray and make a diagnosis. 

However, the hiring test begins before the actual interview. Upon application, candidates are asked to nominate two people in their graduation class who they believe would make the best dentists. Dr Kashyap says the aim is to check if the candidate has the humility to actually nominate a peer, and to check their reasons for the nomination. “That gives us an idea of what these people value,” he says, adding that integrity and honesty top his list of preferred values.

In the actual interview, Dr Kashyap poses potential work scenarios to further assess the nature of the candidate. For instance, how would the dentist respond if a patient arrived just before closing time with a severe facial abscess that required urgent treatment? Sure, they should consider treating the patient immediately, or sending them to an emergency department. However, they should also consider the implications of keeping back dental assistants who may have school pick-up duties or other important commitments. “How to properly manage the patient while also considering the other team members speaks to their ability to work in teams and fit into our culture,” Dr Kashyap says.

Let your team meet the preferred candidates

In the initial interview, it is important for the practice owners or principals to be in the room, and probably the practice manager.

Dean also recommends conducting a second, more informal, interview during which the rest of the team can mingle with their potential workmate and have a chat. “It’s just so the team can get the vibe of the candidate, and the candidate also gets to have time with the team.” 

Dr Kashyap says when candidates arrive for a job interview, he always gets a couple of junior staff or the receptionist to greet them. This acts as a test to see how they treat auxiliary staff, who pass on their impressions to the interview panel before the interview starts.

Break the rules when evaluating receptionists

With receptionists, Dean believes the wrong hire can jeopardise an otherwise great practice. “If the receptionist answers the phone poorly and can’t respond to questions in a way that is warm and approachable, then you’ll lose that patient,” she says.

For that reason, she recommends that the first interview with a potential receptionist be conducted over the phone. Can they communicate? Do they have a pleasant phone manner? Do they get flustered? Can they answer patients’ questions properly?

If not, they will be a liability.  

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