halo horn effectIn my last article, I outlined one of the common human errors that occur when making hiring decisions – the halo/horn effect. This concept describes a series of unconscious biases that cause us to make less-than-optimal decisions when hiring new employees.

The most effective way to combat this is to create a structured interview that ensures each candidate is put through the same process. Doing this enables you to objectively rate each candidate against an absolute standard instead of ranking them against each other.

By structured, I am referring to the sequence of the interviews. In my experience, it is best to think through each step of the process ahead of time and map out the goals of what you hope to learn about each candidate. By having a game plan going into each interaction, you will be more focused and the interview will be a more productive use of your time. It is my recommendation to keep the process to four steps or less and to compress the time-frame of interviews to no more than two weeks to ensure you don't lose candidates along the way. Remember bad candidates will always be there – but good ones will not be on the job market long.

Let's say you're looking for a new dental assistant. Here is a suggested interview sequence:

Resume screen. After you place the ad, it is recommended that you wait for a few days before you start sorting through the resumes you have received. Divide the resumes into three categories: "yes", "maybe" and "no." By waiting to view resumes in batches you will be less likely to fall in love with the first one that comes in and ignore resumes that come in later. The goal of the resume screen is to uncover a basic set of skills and determine if the candidate is worthy of an interview. This step should cast your widest net and eliminate candidates that are grossly unqualified.

Phone screen. This part of the process should take a maximum of 20 minutes and allows you to set the quality bar for candidates and should help you eliminate any unqualified tiers. My recommendation for this step is to ask each candidate the same set of questions and to take notes to refer to later. Your memory is not as good as you think it is, and the chance of you remembering the details after talking to ten people is slim to none. Your main goal in this step is to begin digging into their technical skills, certifications and procedures they have assisted on. At the same time, you should be able to get your first glimpse into how they operate in the workplace by asking to explain why they left each position. This is also your chance to sell the benefits of joining your practice. What makes you better? Why would someone want to work there? Remember the best candidates will have options and you need to convince them that you are the best place for their talents.

In-person interview. This step is optional depending on the number of applicants you have or if you need further clarification after the phone screen. If you choose to do this step, I recommend bringing in another member of your staff to get a second opinion. Research shows that panel interviews produce better results than single person interviews. This can be very important for assessing a good fit for your practice. Your goal in this step is to narrow down the candidates to the two finalists, based on fit and technical background, to bring in for a working interview. This interview should have more in-depth questions and provide more detail on their technical skills. If you have a CEREC practice, you should have asked if they had experience assisting in a practice that uses technology during the phone screen – in this part of the hiring process you want to know more detail about that experience. Now, you want to know if they have experience with Omnicam, what role they personally played in running the software and other questions that would give you an idea of their experience level of using the system. Again, it is important to follow the best practices listed above in using the same questions for each applicant and taking extensive notes.

Working interview. For technical positions, such as hygiene or assisting, a working interview is a great way to assess if they really know what they are doing and how they interact with everyone in the practice. Be sure to pick a day that has a variety of procedures so you can get a complete picture of their skill set.

When it comes to a working interview, make sure you pay the person for their time. I will go over the three reasons why you need to do this in my next article.


Commenter's Profile Image Ashley Ho
June 23rd, 2014
For the working interview, of course we have to pay them. But should we provide them w2 or 1099. As I know if we give them w2 on that day, they are our employees and we have to follow employment protocols. And I don't think assistants can get 1099. I did working interview before and I loved it, but one of labor guy told me I should not.
Commenter's Profile Image Adam McWethy
June 24th, 2014
I would check with your accountant or attorney about any specific laws in your state. According to the IRS you do not need to issue a 1099 if you pay someone less than $600 in a year. http://www.irs.gov/uac/Form-1099-MISC,-Miscellaneous-Income- As for a w2 I would again check with your accountant or attorney but the DOL does not offer specific guidance on working interviews but in Arizona dental staffing agencies send out temporary assistants that are not employees and are paid out with a 1099 if they make more than $600 in a year with the practice.