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Episode #305: How to Avoid Making the Worst Hiring Mistake of Your Life, with David Harris

the best practices show podcast May 28, 2021

Hiring without due diligence will cost you your time, money, and mental health. To teach you how to make better hiring decisions for your practice, Kirk Behrendt brings back David Harris, CEO of Prosperident. From drug tests to social media, David gives you the best tips to weed out bad candidates early on. Want to know the habits of time thieves and embezzlers? Listen to Episode 305 of The Best Practices Show for more of David’s advice!

Main Takeaways:

Hiring the wrong person is costly — in time and money!

Weed out unsuitable candidates as early as possible.

Dental practices need to do drug tests and background checks.

You can't reliably do background checks yourself!

Broaden your applicant pool and don't hire in a hurry.

Don't give predictable questions in interviews.

Check applicants’ social media pages.

Don't use phone numbers that applicants give you. Google it yourself.

Confirm exact dates of employment, not approximate dates. Look for gaps.

Ask former employers about applicants’ final positions.

Also ask if they would rehire them.

Use a reference number in the application to test if they follow instructions.

Require applicants to record a brief video as part of the application.

Make applicants invested from the beginning.

Standardize your application form so that you're not influenced by visuals.

Verify credentials and check photo IDs! And check IDs when they're not ready.

Involve staff in the interview process.

Be upfront about the scrutiny applicants will be under.


“If you put 200 dentists in a room and you asked them, ‘How many of you enjoy hiring staff?’ I'd be very surprised if anything more than two hands went up. Dentists hate this job. And like any job that you hate, when a shortcut magically appears in front of you, you're really tempted to take it. And that gets you into trouble when you're clearing snow off the roof of your house and you take shortcuts, and it equally gets you in trouble when you hire staff.” (05:33—06:06)

“The reality is that most dentists make hiring decisions with less information than they should have. And the part that should get their attention is that, in most cases, that information is right there in front of them, and they just either didn't realize that it would help them or didn't realize how easy it was to get full information so that they can make a good decision.” (06:43—07:07)

“If you want to play the HR lottery and hire people blindly in the hope that they turn out okay, when you're wrong — and I'm going to say “when” here as opposed to “if” — you're going to dump a lot more time into that than it ever would've taken you to vet this person properly at the beginning.” (08:03—08:26)

“About 70 million Americans — so that's one in four adults — has a criminal record.” (08:33—08:39)

“We’re entrusting dental practice employees with money, with protected health information, with sharp instruments. We just need to know a little bit more about them than traditionally dentists do.” (10:06—10:23)

“There is no website you can go on to and pay $50 and have it reliably tell you whether or not somebody has a criminal record . . . Unfortunately, it’s not something you can do yourself and go to some website and get the answer.” (12:22—12:59)

“One of the mistakes that a lot of people make is that they're hiring in a hurry. The reason that they're hiring in a hurry is that somebody leaves on short notice, and then the poor doctor is starting from zero and trying to build a relationship with somebody that they're going to hire and do it all within 48 hours. And that's never a good idea.” (15:01—15:24)

“In your life, when you meet people who you think might be a good fit for your practice — and you can meet them in all kinds of different places — start keeping track of that.” (15:26—15:36)

“If we have to choose, and most times we do, between personality and knowledge, personality should win. Knowledge wins in a couple of narrow circumstances.” (17:17—17:26)

“[Dentists] fall into the trap of asking questions to which there are obvious answers: ‘Do you mind working evenings?’ If you want the job, there's only one possible answer to that question. ‘How are you with people?’ ‘Everybody likes me!’ Or, ‘Tell me three of your strengths and three of your weaknesses.’ Anybody who’s been coached on how to do a good interview will give weaknesses that are really hidden strengths.” (22:51—23:23)

“You don't learn much by asking [applicants] questions with predictable answers. Put them on the spot. Give them that roleplay and see how they do.” (25:10—25:18)

“There are lots of reasons why people change. Sometimes, it’s something you do that sets them off. Sometimes, it’s something in their own life. And there's not much that the hiring process can do about those people. Most times, that's not a hiring mistake, per se. It’s a failure to observe staff once you hire them.” (26:32—27:00)

“One of the things I look at is time of day when they're posting. And really, what I want to know is, are they a time thief. If this is a person who’s posting on social media during working hours, then what's happening in the office they're working in is, there are a whole bunch of other people scurrying around doing their work while they're taking this extended bathroom break and catching up with their friends.” (29:01—29:25)

“Another thing I look at is how well they express themselves, how they communicate with other people. Is this somebody who flames people? Do they talk at a level of articulation below what we want? . . . If somebody’s not gifted with the ability to communicate well, hopefully, they know that, and their resume and cover letter reflect a higher standard of communication because they’ve had some help. Well, nobody gets help with their Facebook posting. So, it’s a chance for us to see how they’ll be communicating if we hire them and decide if you like it or not.” (30:41—31:34)

“Phone everybody who has employed this person in the past five years. When I get Dr. A on the phone, what I need to do is confirm dates of employment and get exact dates. Not approximate dates, exact dates. What was this person’s start date, and what was their end date? And compare those to the resume.” (33:33—33:51)

“Look at gaps in employment, because the other option is I pretend I never worked for Dr. B. ‘I was traveling through Europe,’ or, ‘I was home with my children,’ or something. So, when somebody says that to you, what you say next is, ‘Great. I just need to verify that. So, you were traveling through Europe. Bring your passport in.’” (33:56—34:17)

“Don't make the mistake a lot of dentists make. They get the former employer on the phone and they say, ‘This person says she worked for you from January of 2018 to October of 2020.’ Because if you say that to any human, they will all say the same thing: ‘Yeah, that sounds about right.’ What you need to do is ask the open-ended question: ‘What was this person’s start date and what was their last day with you?’” (35:08—35:34)

“And the other good question to ask that's kind of along the same lines is, ‘What was their final position with you?’ Because we know this, a lot of people will give themselves that upgrade to first class. And the way the upgrade works is, they were a receptionist in their last position, but they're applying at your office now. And what does their resume say their last position was? Office manager. So, if they're lying about that before they’ve even started work for you, all hell is going to break loose when you hire them.” (35:34—36:08)

“The one question I want answered, and I will pester the crap out of people till they answer it is, ‘Would you rehire this person?’ And if I get the sense that I'm dealing with somebody who’s a very linear thinker, sometimes I'll phrase that question a little more specifically, ‘If you had a position that this person was suitable for and if they were available, would you rehire them?’ Because sometimes, that’ll take away the prevarication that sometimes people will have.” (36:31—37:01)

“You want people who are really unsuitable to separate themselves as early in the process as you can. Why? Because that stops you from investing time and energy, for example, in interviewing somebody who’s unsuitable. Start by setting up a couple of arbitrary rules. And the kind of thing that I'm talking about here is, when we hire, I always have a reference number and I tell people to quote that reference number in the cover letter. I make the reference number up; it means absolutely nothing. But I get two kinds of applications in. I get some who quote the reference number and some who don't. The ones who don't, I throw away immediately because they can't follow instructions.” (40:44—41:31)

“Require people to record a brief video and send it to you as part of their application. That does a couple of things. It weeds out people who can't use computers. And, in my mind, you cannot function effectively in a dental practice if you can't handle the basics on a computer. And you're setting just a little obstacle there. And people who really aren't motivated for the job just won't bother.” (41:52—42:18)

“If somebody’s being looked at for a credentialed position — so an assistant, a hygienist, or an associate, or conceivably a dental therapist in some states — we need to verify that they have that credential. We cannot simply accept a piece of paper from them because paper is not worth the paper it’s printed on anymore. Forgery is pretty easy in 2021.” (52:11—52:33)

“Check photo ID. If you don't do that, you may end up hiring somebody whose sister is a hygienist as a hygienist. And the time to check photo ID is when you interview people. If you hire somebody, they know there's going to be an I-9 form coming. They know there's going to be an identification check then, so they’ll be ready. The trick is to catch them when they're not ready.” (52:55—53:24)

“The person who says to you, ‘Well, I didn't bring [an ID] with me,’ I kind of wonder why any adult would wander around town without a credit card and a driver’s license. So, if what they're telling me is true, I'm sort of questioning them, and I'm very open at that point to the possibility that this person is trying to hide some baggage by pretending to be somebody else.” (53:41—54:12)

“One obstacle that you'll run into, and I'll tell you exactly how to transcend it, is somebody says to you, ‘Please don't call my current employer because she doesn't know I'm leaving.’ And there are two possibilities here. One is that this is a legitimate request. The other possibility is this person actually got fired three weeks ago and this is their way of preventing you from calling somebody who just fired them . . . What you tell the person who says that to you is, ‘Look, I understand completely. And I certainly would never want to get you in trouble with your current employment relationship. But I am going to let you know that we don't hire anybody without speaking with their most recent employer. Now, in understanding this situation you're in, I'm happy to defer that and make it the very last step. But we do have to have that conversation.’” (56:32—57:27)

“We saw one embezzler who had worked in 15 different practices and stolen from every one of them. And she was a great interviewer. Very polished, resume looked good. She knew how to use the practice management software — and I'll add, in ways that the doctor never imagined. She came well-dressed, well-groomed to the interviews. And the 15 victims — and I will say that word again, 15 victims — had all decided in the interview to hire her and didn't feel the need to probe in any way into her background. I mean, it was all there. She had a criminal record. And by the time she got to number 15, there were 14 other dentists who, if called, would say, ‘Run the other way from this woman.’ And clearly, those calls were never made.” (1:00:27—1:01:29)


David’s background. (03:27—03:58)

Why this is an important topic in dentistry. (04:22—04:55)

Don't be tempted by shortcuts. (05:30—07:07)

Hiring the wrong person is costly. (07:37—09:37)

Many dentists don't do background checks. (09:42—11:39)

Where to start with background checks. (11:54—12:59)

Where to start with drug tests. (13:04—14:09)

Don't hire in a hurry. (14:42—19:03)

Broaden your applicant pool. (19:33—21:03)

Know what you want before you hire. (21:47—22:47)

Ask better interview questions. (22:47—25:32)

Unexpected employee performance change. (26:01—27:56)

Don't hire without looking at a person’s social media. (27:56—31:34)

Look for what's not there, and questions you should ask. (32:01—36:08)

Other questions that should be answered. (36:29—37:19)

A hesitant “yes” means no. (37:34—39:02)

Ways to screen applicants. (39:39—43:02)

Tips for standardizing your hiring process. (43:02—46:15)

Additional advice to avoid big mistakes. (46:44—49:23)

A bad hire is expensive. (50:23—52:02)

More due diligence items to put in place. (52:03—54:42)

Involving staff in the interview process. (55:02—56:07)

Other non-negotiables in hiring. (56:29—59:57)

Example of a serial embezzler. (1:00:25—1:02:23)

David’s contact information, webinar series, and book. (1:02:48—1:05:22)

Reach Out to David:

David’s company website: https://www.prosperident.com/

David’s Instagram: @davidharris9406 https://www.instagram.com/davidharris9406/

David’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davidharrisprosperident

Further Reading:

David’s book, Dental Embezzlement: The Art of Theft and the Science of Control https://www.amazon.com/Dental-Embezzlement-Theft-Science-Control/dp/0228818753

Prosperident’s Hall of Shame: https://www.prosperident.com/prosperidents-hall-of-shame/

Prosperident monthly webinars: https://www.prosperident.com/category/prosperident-webinar-pages/

David Harris Bio:

David Harris – CEO of Prosperident: Dentistry’s Embezzlement Experts

Under David’s leadership, Prosperident has expanded over the past three decades to become a team of more than 20 highly specialized fraud investigators, forensic accountants, IT specialists, and support staff. David’s vast investigative experience, coupled with his youth-filled misadventures and his past military service, have given him a unique insight into embezzlers’ mindsets and actions. He is passionate about sharing his wealth of knowledge with dentists and dental specialists.

David is a much sought-after speaker and an accomplished author on the topic of dental embezzlement. Dental Embezzlement: The Art of Theft and the Science of Control is his most recently published book.

David believes that the best educational experiences are enhanced using humor. His entertaining and insightful presentation style has made him a favorite presenter at regional, national, and international dental conferences.

David’s professional qualifications include Certified Fraud Examiner, Certified in Financial Forensics, Forensic CPA, Chartered Professional Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Licensed Private Investigator. 


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