How To: Interview for Filling Dental Positions

This post is part of our Dental-Office Manager series.

So, you're newly promoted or have just been handed the task of interviewing candidates for the open position in your office. Where do you start? I remember the first time I had to conduct interviews. I was hiring for a position that was new in our office. I realized we needed an extra person to sort of rove about and help in the front and the back. I hopped on Craigslist and posted a vague job ad with my own email address to respond to and my inbox was absolutely flooded with potential candidates. Rookie mistake.

Write your Job Description first!

#1 - Write the Job Description first and work backwards to your ad.

Your job ad must be clear about WHO you're looking for and WHAT they'll do. So, naturally you need to know those things. I was hoping if I simply put the job up the right person would show up! Nope. That's not how it works. Your ad should come directly from the Job Description and clearly communicate what kind of person will get this job and thrive in it.

Pro Tip: I like to throw in some sort of task like making their header be their favorite leadership quote. This helps me scan my in-box quickly and delete all applicants that didn't follow the simple instructions to even get in.

Group Interviews save time!

#2 - Know your schedule and work the interviews into it. Not the other way around!

Ok, so the job ad was too vague and the amount of responses were too high. I was already up to my eyeballs in "now what?"! I combed through the stacks of resumes and narrowed it down to about 8 people and started to call to set up interviews. Again, rookie mistake. Trying to coordinate their schedules with mine was such a hassle. There were back and forth phone calls and voicemails and logistics to deal with and it totally consumed me.

Block some time in your schedule to conduct interviews and then give them as options to choose from. Especially for a entry-level position! Don't allocate a lot of your valuable time to finding this person. Make it make sense. Leave clear voicemails offering a couple times to choose from for their interview so they can call back and leave a message of when they'll be there. I suggest you do group interviews for these kind of positions to save yourself the trouble when half the applicants don't even show up. YES. It happens and it's a real bummer in your day.

Pro Tip: Pick two days, a Monday and a Thursday let's say, and pick two times slots an AM and a PM, then schedule multiple candidates in each block. Group interviews save tons of time and have other benefits as well.

Know some of your questions then go with your gut.

#3 - Have a few job specific questions to ask, then go with your gut!

The point of the interview is to get a sense of the person and how they'll do in the position and with the team. Your questions should be designed to get them talking. I am not a fan of the standard work history questions that have rehearsed answers. This shows me nothing I can use! I like to ask things that I know are applicable to the job and the team. For example, if we tend to have days where we get slammed with emergency appointments and previous employees have complained of missing lunch or working late I may ask them to tell me a time where they went the extra mile to accomplish a task. Leave the question open ended (not a "yes" or "no" response) and kind of vague and see where they go with it. Perhaps they've recently graduated from school and can share a story from there. What matters is how they speak about it and what they did. Then ask them follow up questions to elaborate. This is where you go with your gut and see what happens. Let the pressure off and get to know them.

Pro Tip: Don't tell them it's a group interview. I know it sounds cruel, but it will help you see how they handle surprise and stress which is something they MUST be able to handle with composure in a dental office!

Dental Interview

#4 - Bring them back for a second interview one-on-one.

Here's where you can be a bit more giving with your time. Have them back to speak directly with you and whomever they will be working with or trained by. Make this more informal. Ask them to wear comfortable cloths or scrubs and expect to be there 30 minutes or so. This is where you can get to know each other and get a feel for the two together. Do they enjoy chatting? Is the conversation going well. Did the candidate come with good energy and a smile. I think some healthy nervousness is a great sign that they want the job and will work hard, so don't misinterpret that.

Pro Tip: Throw in another curve ball here like asking them to take out the garbage. Again, this may sound cruel, but they'll actually be taking out the garbage won't they? See how they respond. Exuberance or rolled eyes? You know who to keep and who to cut in that scenario.

#5 - Ask the team to weigh in.

The point of bringing them back and having them spend time with potential trainers and coworkers is to see how they fit. So, ask the team what they thought. They'll have seen things you missed and trust me, they want the right person even more than you do since they'll have to train them and rely on them all day! This also shows your team that you value their input and want to find the right person for the whole team.

#6 - Doctor meets them last and says "yay" or "nay".

That's right! I'm a firm believer that the first two steps are only to sift out the bad fits and narrow it down to one or two candidates that are great choices. Then let doctor decide! Or later, once you're a pro you can hand off the first tow steps to the team leads where the position will be placed and you can make the final decision.

Pro Tip: If you're rushed to fill this position introduce them to doctor at the end of the second interview instead of as a third interview. If you're going to do this be sure you have carved out at least 10 minutes in doctor's schedule to give them some headspace to actually interact and ask any questions they have. You don't want this to be a hallway conversation if you can avoid it.

Now, go get 'em!