jobseeker season

Before “pandemic times”, dental professionals seeking new jobs would predictably begin dusting off their resumes in December, preparing to search for their next dental job at the start of the new year. We always thought of January as “jobseeker season.” Then the pandemic came along and turned the typical job-seeking season on its head. In our recent return to some normalcy, is it realistic to expect that January 2022 will look more like the pre-pandemic jobseeker season days? 

During the last two-quarters of 2021 and trending into December, the number of available jobs rose, as did the number of lookers, but the number of job applications slowed down. DentalPost’s new Dental Salary Survey, launching January 2022, indicates that fewer dental hygienists, dental assistants, and front office team members plan to apply for a new job in 2022 than did in 2021. While this is good news for dental practice owners and managers who are making strides to retain their employees, recruitment will likely continue to be highly competitive for dental practices.

Which Dental Professionals Are Planning On Applying For New Jobs?

Earlier in 2021, DentalPost reported via polling that 49 percent of dental professionals planned to stay with their current dental practice, while 29 percent had changed employers, and 22 percent planned to seek another job within the year. DentalPost’s latest annual salary survey of dental professionals that was completed in September 2021 indicates that across all dental professions, those numbers have changed. Across the board, far fewer dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, and front office team members plan to apply for new jobs. In the case of front office team members and dental hygienists, the number of those planning to seek a new job has dropped by more than half.

Why Are Candidate Pools Shrinking?
  1. Many clinical personnel who were approaching retirement decided to retire when the pandemic began. 
  2. Many dental personnel with school-age children needed to take time out that extended through 2021. 
  3. Dental hygiene and dental assisting programs graduated fewer new clinicians in 2020 and 2021. 
  4. Many of those who returned to work after the pandemic shutdown are reluctant to make more changes in their lives during a continuing period of uncertainty.
  5. DentalPost’s most recent salary survey, which will be published in January 2022, indicates there has been a significant shift among dental hygienists and dental assistants to working fewer hours per week. Some of these individuals are choosing to move into more flexible or lucrative temping arrangements, and a growing number have part time side gigs that are clinical and nonclinical in nature. Some have home demands squeezing them for time during Covid, especially now that in-classroom and after-school care programs have not returned to a reliable level for their children. And others, with dual-family incomes, decided they enjoy life more as part time employees.
  6. A great number of employers increased compensation to attract and retain employees during the last year. Because more dental professionals are satisfied with their current income than a year ago, fewer are motivated to apply for new jobs.  
How Does Dentistry Compare to Other Industries? 

By now we’ve all read in the national news about shifts occurring in the job market. Wage gains and other attractive terms offered by employers desperate for talent have more American workers exploring new opportunities. In industries other than dentistry, Americans are reportedly leaving their jobs in droves. 

Dental professionals may not be leaving their professions in significant numbers, but there has been a shift toward fewer hours, loss of workers due to early retirement, and fewer graduates. We can add to these factors the pressure of growing consolidation of dental practices into Dental Service Organizations (DSOs). 

Large DSOs and Dental Partnership Organizations (DPOs) have dedicated HR experts who work full time on recruiting, hiring, and team management. It’s easy to understand why solo practitioners are especially feeling the hiring squeeze. It can really benefit private practice hiring managers to step up their marketing efforts to attract new employees and to offer more competitive compensation packages. 

Dental Employers Who Show Initiative Will Beat Out Competition

At the start of the new year in January, we anticipate an increase in passive job searching. But survey data indicates active job applications are less likely to spike as they have in previous years. This means, hiring managers must take more proactive measures to attract interest.

Does your job post stand out?

We can learn a lot about our competition by looking at their online job. Is their post more interesting and attractive? Is there enough information in our job posting for a jobseeker to sense if there is alignment between their goals and our needs as an employer? Does the dental practice stand out as a place where we personally would want to work? Is contact information for a named person made available so candidates feel welcome to reach out? 

What knowledge, traits, and skills are most important in a candidate?

Knowing our core values as a team and what skills and personality traits are best for the position will save us a lot of time and help us find the right fit. DentalPost’s Assessment Tools are a terrific way to help discern this so we can focus on what matters most. For example, what skills does the ideal candidate immediately need? What skills can be learned on the job?

DentalPost’s SmartView is a new function that helps dental hiring managers look at the right things first – skills, assessments, and profile scores – instead of a candidate’s physical appearance, age, ethnicity, or gender. By using SmartView, hiring managers can intelligently increase the shortlist of candidates they want to interview.

Self Check: How much effort should we put into communicating with candidates?

Dental practice owners and managers can be proactive by seeking out what they need and want. Instead of waiting for job seekers to contact us, we can go to them. When reaching out to candidates, we can give them the best experience and make a great first impression. If the initial conversation did not go as well as it could have, we can follow up to make a great second impression. 

The second communication can be as simple as, “When we spoke, I sensed you were on the fence about whether our open position would be the right fit for you. I’ve been thinking about the great qualities you would bring to our practice and I would like to encourage you to consider working here. These are the reasons why I think you are a good fit… I would be happy for you to speak with our team members, not just myself, so you can learn about what it is like to work here from multiple perspectives.” In the most positive work environments, teamwork truly does make the dream work, so empower the team to help sell the practice to the candidate you would like to hire. 

Become comfortable with video call interviews over Zoom.

Face-to-face conversation from the start can offer an advantage over conversations that are simply over the phone. Invite candidates to email or text their questions. Respond promptly to demonstrate respect for their time and need for clarification. Text messages are a common way candidates and employers stay in ongoing communication. Staying in contact signals to a potential employee that the interest in them has not waned.

Compensation matters. Show candidates that they’re valued.

Dental professionals desire both appreciation and higher income. DentalPost’s salary surveys, year after year, have shown those two desires are not separable. If a team member does not feel well-compensated, they are more likely to feel unappreciated. DentalPost’s salary surveys demonstrate that benefits and bonus opportunities are very important too. 

Keep in mind that all dental employees, including existing team members, are likely aware of the job market and the higher wages new hires are receiving. To restore or maintain high team morale in 2022, a best practice is to give existing team members a pay raise that exceeds inflation and is felt as true merit and appreciation raise. 

Examine previous hiring processes.

In this job market, proactive employers, who use DentalPost’s premium features have an edge. What else can a hiring manager do that demonstrates an innovative, flexible practice? Zoom interviews? Check. Using SmartView to reduce unconscious bias when screening candidates? Check. Frequent, ongoing communication with candidates via email or text? Check. Realistic compensation expectations? Check. (Note that DentalPost’s upcoming 2022 Dental Salary Survey Report should help in understanding these expectations.)

Be aware that the following three types of hiring behaviors have had unintentional results in the past year:

  • Disconnects in communication will make candidates feel ghosted and are no longer in the running. They turned their interest elsewhere.
  • An overly lengthy interview process can result in top candidates being scooped up by competitors with a faster process.
  • Tying wages to achievement of specific milestones has been a turnoff for many good candidates who are job seeking now because their current employers did not deliver on promises.

Here are additional articles to help you actively improve your candidate screening, interviewing, and hiring process:

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