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The Hiring Process for a Winning Dental Team

Posted March 2, 2020

Christine Brooke

The Secret Formula to Having Your Dental Dream Team

In my previous article, we laid the groundwork for what it will take to successfully hire a winning team. We discussed how critical it is to begin by clearly defining what we want our practice to look like. In this article, we will learn how to apply the hiring process to build a winning dental team.

A winning team comes when we:
  • Identify our core values
  • Design a practice culture around our core values
  • Embody our values and culture in our leadership, actions, and communication with the team and patients

In case you’re skeptical about whether these soft skills really matter, I’ll share something I recently read. In 2019, Fortune released its “100 Best Companies to Work For”. The article included a brief section with each company titled, “What employees say.” I’ll share the top 3 with you here:

Hilton truly has hospitality at its core, resulting in a unique team member and guest focus that is unlike any other company I have seen. The company invests in me and my team…

Hilton Employee

They truly care about empowering employees and improving the entire community in which we are involved.

Salesforce Employee

We’re given endless opportunities to learn and grow. It’s a place where those who seek to build a career for themselves while following their passions can do so.

Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. Employee

These Fortune 100 companies gave their employees an opportunity to grow and learn in the company. Would your team say the same about where they work? While these businesses are essential to all of us in the marketplace, consider how critical our role is in dentistry. You and your team are responsible for providing extraordinary care and services. As a result, this care directly impacts a patient’s overall health and wellness. In turn, this contributes to the surrounding community as a whole. Therefore, we have a very powerful role as healthcare providers. Our role demands that we create a healthy practice environment for our team and our patients to thrive.

With that framework in place, let’s dive a little deeper into concepts and systems that will support you in building that dream team.

Clearly Defined Roles and Expectations

This is one area I see a huge missing piece in the majority of practices I start working with. For instance, most practice owners simply rely on the employee to know their role based on their job title. For instance, employee expectations may be mentioned briefly in the interviewing process and never discussed again until, perhaps, an expectation is not met.

Ensuring that your team understands their role and responsibilities sets everyone up to win.

In order to avoid misunderstandings, it is essential to have a comprehensive job description. Additionally, the expectations for each team member should be clearly outlined. Ensuring your team understands their role sets everyone up to win. Often, this is part of the creation in a Policy and Procedures Manual. It’s important to refresh and review the manual as the practice and team grow. Also, it is not a cookie-cutter approach where the descriptions are vague and generalized. Each individual role should have detailed descriptions and expectations that are tailored to that specific role and how it relates to patient care. This is about everyone operating from the space of fulfilling our core values as a practice.

The Hiring Process

Remember, every hire is an extension of you, the leader.

I feel very strongly that the hiring process requires a dedicated team member (not the doctor) to manage. Often it becomes the role of the office manager, however, it could also include an HR manager, coach, or consultant who works with the practice. Whoever takes the lead here should be grounded in the core values and the culture of the practice. Remember, every hire is an extension of you, the leader.

Writing the Job Post

The first step in the hiring process is writing the ad or job post. Job skills are very important, but it’s critical to consider the individual’s personality, character, and compatibility with the team. I always say skills can be trained and experience comes in time. However, personality and attitude cannot be trained. Keep in mind, you can write the most elaborate ad and still discover a handful of responses that are not a fit at all. My advice is to keep it simple and focus on describing who it is you’re looking for. Ensure you are searching for the perfect fit for your practice, and not just a qualified candidate.

The next step is where to post your ad. The growing trend has taken this process online with a variety of options. I have used DentalPost and have found it to be the most comprehensive site to support the hiring process. With minimal investment, you are able to tap into a wide range of resources. These resources facilitate candidate compatibility as well as team development. Additionally, DentalPost is one of the few online services offering an app to provide the latest updates to your Apple Watch or smartphone.

Sorting Resumes

Once your ad is live, the next step is to sort and select resumes. Anyone can become easily distracted when reading a flashy resume. Therefore, to avoid the pitfall of rushing to hire, I recommend setting criteria in advance that will guide the sorting process. What are some of the non-negotiable qualities you’re looking for? When you’re crystal clear about who it is you’re looking for, those candidates who are best-suited rise to the top of the stack. This, in turn, narrows your focus quickly without distraction.

With sorted resumes in hand, the next step is the pre-screening. I recommend setting this up as a phone or web/video call. This is not the interview, but rather the screening step. Here, the resume is matched with the individual in order to determine if this could potentially be a fit for both of you. Here is where you ask key questions to discover if the interview is worth the time for both parties.

Important questions to consider when screening candidates are:
  • Does this individual share the vision for the direction of the practice?
  • Are their values aligned?
  • Do they have a great attitude, take personal responsibility, learn from mistakes and have adaptability with challenging situations?
  • Is their career as an opportunity to grow or is it just another job for them?
  • Do they have enthusiasm and passion for contributing to patients’ lives and to the team?

If you’re satisfied and you can both see a fit here, the next step is scheduling a meeting in person for an interview and office tour.

The Interview Process

The interview is an opportunity for you to experience the candidate in the practice environment. It helps both of you to envision them blending in with the team. So, use the interview process to discover who the candidates truly are. Listen to what’s being said as well as what’s not being said. How do they respond to questions that require critical thinking? Ask problem-solving questions. How did they resolve a challenge with a difficult patient? What’s a mistake they’ve made? What lesson did they learn from it? Additionally, pay close attention to the types of questions they ask. This will uncover what’s most important to them and reveal their core values to you.

If this candidate has great potential, it’s time to use their references to do some homework.  Call every reference and be sure to ask questions. This will help to not confirm what the candidate already shared. In addition, it will provide insight as to the quality of their relationships, especially with former employers. A favorite question I like to ask of former employers is if the candidate is someone whom they would rehire. Keep in mind, there may be two sides to a story. Here is where using good judgment and asking critical questions come into play.

Skills Assessment

If everything looks fantastic, the next step of the hiring process is a skills assessment. This works to determine the job or clinical skills of the individual. There can also be a personality or behavioral assessment provided at this time. DentalPost has all of these assessments built into their product for you to consider while looking at applicants. These tools help in understanding the candidate on a deeper level and support the process of improving overall performance, communication, and teamwork. Additionally, they provide valuable insight into how this candidate could fit into the existing team environment. I like using them within the framework of team-building exercises. These can support the entire team in gaining greater interpersonal relationships and appreciation for each other. And, it’s a great way to blend some fun and create bonding experiences for our team.

The Final Step: Hiring

The final step is the determination for hire. This is when I like to include the doctor. I appreciate the doctor’s input and final interview of the top candidates. Here is where the doctor has an opportunity to reinforce the philosophy and the culture of the practice. This gives everyone an opportunity to communicate whether this is an agreement worth making. Finally, the last detail is finalizing the employee agreement. In this step, all the necessary documents are provided, and your new team member receives prep for the onboarding phase.

Being strategic in your hiring process is one effort that pays huge rewards.

This may seem like quite a process. However, I promise you, being strategic in your hiring process is one effort that pays huge rewards. Team retention is crucial because turnover is costly to every practice. It costs money, momentum and team morale.

Hiring should never be a frantic and desperate rush to fill a gap. It is truly about finding the best and right candidate for your team. So, getting the hiring process down to a science will support you in attracting the best talent. With the best talent, everything is possible!

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