Hiring Dental Staff: Part 5 Voting

It’s time to hire! We’ve survived reading through resumes, telephone interviews, onsite interviews and even a few observations. We’ve laughed at the girls that showed up to the interviews in tank tops and flip flops and we’ve enjoyed getting to know some of the candidates that might seem like a great fit for the practice. Now, it’s time to make our hiring decision.

Before the final decision is made, call references. Call at least 2 previous workplaces and speak with your candidate’s supervisor. (Hint from an embezzlement investigator: never use the phone numbers provided by the candidates, always look up the phone number yourself to avoid being scammed.) Be sure your release has been signed by your candidate before you call. Ask a few questions, such as:

  • What did the candidate do for you? What was her position?
  • How long was she employed by you?
  • When did she stop working for you? And why?
  • What were her work strengths? How did she get along with staff?
  • Was she punctual? Was absenteeism a problem?
  • Would you rehire her?

Write down who you talk to and their position as well as their answers to your questions. It’s usually very easy to tell the difference between a positive and negative reference. A positive reference will spend a few minutes with you and answer your questions.

A negative reference sounds like this: “Hi, this is Jill with HealthPark Dentistry, I’m calling to do a reference check for Susie Q.” The dentist replies, “Oh.”  “So, may I ask you a few questions? For example, can you tell me what Susie’s position was and how long she worked for you?”  The dentist replies, “The only thing I can tell you is that Susie was a dental assistant and she worked for me from January 2011 to June 2011. I can’t tell you anything else.”

Most employers want to avoid any chance of employment lawsuit, so instead of giving a negative reference, they just don’t say anything at all. I do the same thing. It’s code among employers for “this is a negative reference – don’t hire this person”.

In addition to calling references, it’s free to run a couple online searches – check your local courts website to see if your candidate has any criminal history and a general google search often pulls up a Linked In or Facebook profile that you review as well. Some offices pay for credit checks and/or background checks and swear the $15 fee is worth it.

Once you have your references, gather all the candidates questions, the staff reviews and put a packet together on each candidate. Now you’re ready to hire. Here’s the unique approach that we use: the dentist doesn’t hire the candidates alone, instead the staff votes. Now, this may sound bizarre but here’s our logic:

The staff are going to spend the most time with this person. The staff will be responsible for their training. Since staff get to choose who they want to hire, they are more motivated to help this person succeed.  Plus, it’s an easier start for the new hire once they begin because the entire staff made the decision together.

Here’s how to run the voting:

  1. One person runs the discussion – show a picture of each candidate and briefly review their work history and share a couple staff reviews. Invite comments from your team, ask “What did you all think of this person?” You will be amazed at what your team finds out during the observation days so encourage them to share the good and the bad.
  2. Once all the candidates are discussed, everyone gets one vote. “Raise your hand if you want to hire Susie Q for our dental assistant position.” Then just count and majority rules. I encourage everyone to vote, even if they didn’t meet the candidate on her observation day – they can read the application and listen to the discussion. I don’t force all staff to vote.
  3. If you have a few good candidates, then put them in order – who would you offer the position to first? If they turn it down, who will you offer the position to next? This saves you from going through another round of interviews if the first candidate only works for you a few weeks!

Call your top choice candidate to offer her the position and arrange her start date. Next, call the other candidates and talk with them on the phone to let them know they didn’t get the job. Yes, this is a tough phone call to make. Do it anyway. It’s not fair to leave someone hanging wondering if they got the job or not. Here’s what to say, “Hi Susie, This is Jill from HealthPark Dentistry. I’m calling to let you know that we did our staff voting for the dental assistant today and the team selected another candidate. I wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed meeting you and wanted to wish you the best of luck with your job search.”  If this was a second choice person, you can add a comment about how the team really liked them and ask if it would be acceptable to save their application for future opportunities?

After your phone calls to the losing candidates are made, there is just one more step. Get a card – blank or thank you are appropriate – and ask the staff to sign a card that thanks the losing candidates for coming in. We send flowers to candidates that live right in our town as well.

That’s all there is to the hiring process. Piece of cake, huh? Maybe not, but this 5 step hiring process helps us to select the best candidate at the time, involves the entire staff and gives us a standardized system that we can run smoothly every time.

For more ideas to improve the business-side of your dental practice:

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I am a dental office manager for a privately owned group practice with 6 dentists, 20 staff & 18 operatories. With an MBA and 14+ years experience managing dental marketing programs, human resources, technology, dental management, strategic planning and statistical management, I am interested in helping other dental managers develop their careers and help their dentists to run successful businesses.

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