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Must-Know Tips For Hiring The Best Dental Team Members


Leadership teamwork Jan 02, 2018

In virtually every endeavor or profession, teamwork is critical to success. Dentistry is no exception; the way employees communicate, deliver quality care, and run their practice can all increase businesses earning potential. The common denominator of leading dental providers all comes down to efficient, hardworking, collaborative team synergy.


But great teams do not happen by accident, and hiring, growing and retaining the right people for your dental practice can be a challenging task. The good news: finding the right people and building an all-star team is possible, and we’re here to help.

In episode #1 of ACT’s “The Best Practices Show,” our CEO, Kirk Behrendt, chatted with Dr. Ken Allen of Caring Smiles in Fort Collins, CO, and asked him to share the secrets and strategies to finding top-notch teammates in the dental industry. In this post, we’ll discuss the primary takeaways from their conversation and offer nine tips to help you refine and streamline your hiring process. These strategies will assist providers in their pursuit of qualified teammates, and ultimately benefit the patient experience, efficiency, and enthusiasm for their practice.

#1 – Invest The Necessary Time

When hiring employees to build a team, a provider’s first mistake is failing to invest the resources, such as time and attractability, to secure quality applicants.

Now I know what you’re thinking – we’re all busy. But when building a strong team, it is rare the first applicants will fit the glove perfectly. Necessitate time for the hiring process; after all, if you’re not willing to dedicate time to attracting quality candidates, why should quality candidates invest time in you?

#2 – Align Your Values

Your hiring process should align with the overarching philosophy of your practice. Establish a process that reflects your office’s principles and vision; doing so will make identifying prospective team members who mirror core values much more natural.

According to Dr. Allen, team members are an extension of your practice and everything it represents, and for this reason, it is imperative that you hire the appropriate candidate. “They are the dental practice,” says Allen. “You want them to positively reflect your practice’s core values. So you can’t get it wrong, you’ve got to get it right.”

#3 – Write A Quality Ad

One of the most fundamental, but crucial, hiring components involves the job advertisement. Be cautious in your design; a dull, company overview can hinder your candidate potential. Instead, align the ad with your practice’s vision, and your goal to find not only skilled team members but ones who reflect similar values.

Ads should be concise, yet proficiently outline the skills, degrees, or certifications required for the role. As for job duties and expectations, remember a prospective employee can learn about your company from a different source. Therefore, aim to highlight company character, and have a light, conversational tone.

Most importantly, do not fall prey to the idea that your want-ad must fit within a standard mold – merely listing the title, qualifications and application instructions. If compassion, integrity, and empathy are your core value drivers, list them in the ad to further focus your energy on hiring applicants with a shared philosophy.

#4 – Observe Carefully

When you call a candidate, pay attention to how they answer their phone or the greeting on their voicemail. Don’t limit your perception of a prospect to their interview. Provide opportunities before and after for them to interact with current employees, as this can provide valuable insight into a candidate’s personality and fit.

It is also important to watch for red flags. For example, is the candidate respectful and professional when speaking with the dentist, owner, or office manager – yet, rude or dismissive with other staff who they may perceive to be “less important?” Noticing qualities of a poor teammate beforehand can save you from workflow disruption later on.

#5 – Screen Candidates: Do Not Interview Everyone

Obviously, not everyone will qualify for an initial interview, nor do you have the time to meet every potential candidate. If you require applicants to submit a resume and/or cover letter, your initial screen can be as simple as eliminating those who did not follow the instructions. Next, use the criteria established for your process, such as educational criteria, skillset and value drivers, to narrow the field of applicants further.

Consider group or panel interviews to maximize efficiency for your entire team. To increase turnout, Dr. Allen recommends, after finding/renting a separate meeting space, notifying applicants with a message, such as “Due to the immense response for this job posting, we’re going to hold a group interview.”

#6 – Be Willing To Train

A willingness to train can make all the difference in building a strong team. As Dr. Allen states, “sometimes it takes longer to un-train the wrong habits than it takes to train the correct habits.”

A dental assistant with 35 years of experience may be able to take an x-ray in their sleep, but with a negative attitude, all the experience in the world can’t make up for a toxic force in your team dynamic. If someone is the right fit for your team and their values align with that of your practice, the rest can be learned. Invest the time in teaching the right people – your patients and the rest of your team will thank you.

#7 – Never Settle

While a vacancy is rarely ideal, hiring the wrong person is far worse. Keep looking until you find the best fit. It can be frustrating to conduct numerous interviews and feel as though the perfect candidate does not exist. But by settling out of urgency, there is a significant chance you’ll end up re-hiring in the future. Finding a prospect who will not only be beneficial but happy working in your practice, this will increase the probability of retention.

#8 – Blindly Review Applications

While fit and personality are important factors, you must also be careful not to allow first impressions overshadow or outweigh a lack of knowledge or necessary skills. Carefully examine the job-skill-related questions or inquiries that gauge the applicant’s comprehension and attention such as, “Explain the job duties of this position, as we’ve described it.” If the applicant cannot answer these questions in a satisfactory manner, they should be removed from consideration.

#9 – Individual Interviews

After narrowing your candidate pool, offer the best remaining applicants an individual, follow-up interview and tour of the practice. Allocating bonus time for the “serious contenders,” with the required skills, abilities, and values, will further help you decide who best fits your team dynamic.

It is also important to not become so mired in your process that you require a high-quality candidate, who checks all your boxes, to start at square one and participate in a group interview or endure multiple rounds of phone calls. Dr. Allen recommends moving those who stand out – or come highly recommended by a current and trusted team member – to more direct stages of the process.

The Bottom Line

Like any other aspect of your life, your hiring process should reflect your core values and principles. By establishing a thoughtful and well-defined hiring process, taking into consideration the tips outlined above, you will have the tools to attract and retain the players needed to complete your “dream team.”

We’ll Show You How

At ACT Dental, we believe people are the “secret sauce” that produces positive health outcomes and patient experiences. Contact us today to learn how we can put our extensive experience in building teams to work for your dental practice.

Kirk Behrendt

Kirk Behrendt is a renowned consultant and speaker in the dental industry, known for his expertise in helping dentists create better practices and better lives. With over 30 years of experience in the field, Kirk has dedicated his professional life to optimizing the best systems and practices in dentistry. Kirk has been a featured speaker at every major dental meeting in the United States. His company, ACT Dental, has consistently been ranked as one of the top dental consultants in Dentistry Today's annual rankings for the past 10 years. In addition, ACT Dental was named one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States by Inc Magazine, appearing on their Inc 5000 list. Kirk's motivational skills are widely recognized in the dental industry. Dr. Peter Dawson of The Dawson Academy has referred to Kirk as "THE best motivator I have ever heard." Kirk has also assembled a trusted team of advisor experts who work with dentists to customize individual solutions that meet their unique needs. When he's not motivating dentists and their teams, Kirk enjoys coaching his children's sports teams and spending time with his amazing wife, Sarah, and their four children, Kinzie, Lily, Zoe, and Bo.