In today’s competitive marketplace, where hiring can feel like a no-win situation, it is essential to employ best practice actions that help you to hire and train dental team members quickly and effectively.
Your Scheduling Coordinator has just come to you and said that her husband has been transferred, and she and her family are moving out of state. She is giving you two weeks’ notice. She has been with you for five years and is the only one in your practice who really knows your scheduling software. What do you do? First—resist your impulse to panic. If you’ve been in practice for a while, you know this kind of thing will happen, and you know you will get through it. Take a deep breath and relax.
Next, you need a plan—a guide to help you hire and train a new team member wisely, efficiently, and with confidence. And the good news is, once you have devised this plan, you will be ready the next time an “in the unlikely event of a water landing” moment occurs.
5 Key Steps to Hiring and Training Dental Team Members
1. Craft an Effective Recruitment Ad
The goal of advertising for a new team member is not just to fill a position but to attract people with similar values and qualities—people who will fit into your culture and help you take your practice to the next level. So, the quality and tone of your ad are critical and must reflect your vision of care and service and what makes an ideal team member successful. You also want to stand out, while not relying on the highest pay as the sole motivator.
With that in mind, let's walk through the components of an effective ad:
- First, provide an informative title for the position: “Looking for a full-time Scheduling Coordinator.” This allows anyone looking for part-time work to exclude themselves right away.
- Then briefly summarize the location and type of practice, along with a few words defining your vision: "for a fast-paced, high-end Beacon Hill general dental practice that is committed to clinical excellence and has a reputation for stellar customer service.” You want to set the right expectations up front about your practice, so people can get a sense of whether they would be a good fit.
- Be sure to list hours and days: “Work with an outstanding team Monday to Thursday, 8-5. Some Saturday shifts required.” Once again, you want the people who can’t meet these requirements to self-identify right from the start.
- Qualities/Experience: “Your love of people, attention to detail, and sense of humor are the qualities we seek. Experience is appreciated, and knowledge of Dentrix software is our ultimate wish, but we will provide software training for the right candidate.” This is where you explicitly state the qualities you seek and desired experience. But don’t forget that some knowledge can be acquired quickly if you find the right person. In today’s competitive environment, you should be willing to train the best candidate. (More on that in a moment.)
- Finally, provide a simple call to action: “If this sounds like you, please email your resume to email@example.com.”
Notice what is not mentioned here: salary or benefits. If you have a defined salary range (or starting rate), go ahead, and include it, but I think this discussion is best to have later in the process when interviewing viable candidates.
Once you have your ad finalized, we come to the question of where to advertise. There are several local and national job-posting sites, such as Indeed.com. And don’t forget local professional message boards, especially for postings for hygienists and clinical assistants. When using job sites, don’t be afraid to branch out into other categories when considering where to place your ad. Someone working in a medical practice, for example—or even a concierge at a high-end restaurant looking for a change of hours—could be the perfect candidate to manage your schedule, so feel free to post in admin or other categories as well. Remember, the important thing is to find the person with the qualities you are looking for—you can always train them in the details.
Ok, now you have people ready to respond to your ad. Now what?
2. Establish Clarity for the Job Role
Don’t even think about interviewing applicants without having a written philosophy/vision statement and a job description. Yes, you want team members to be cross-trained. But each employee must still have a specific job title and a detailed job description outlining their duties and clearly defined responsibilities. Why you do what you do as a team, and what you expect of a candidate, must be firmly established before you can ask the right interview questions.
Take great care in developing job descriptions. Do not settle for cookie-cutter to-do lists. Always place your vision/mission statement clearly at the beginning of the description so the potential employee knows why the practice provides a high level of care and service to its patients. More importantly, demonstrate how the specific job title contributes to these outcomes. This provides a clear mandate to the potential employee on aligning future job performance and specific duties with the practice philosophy. It also provides a guide to refer to in future performance evaluations and salary reviews.
3. Conduct a Focused Interview
Take control of the interview. So, you can easily and smoothly transition from topic to topic, follow a step-by-step process. Keep in mind that because the applicant may be applying to many practices and receiving more than one employment offer, every step needs to be accomplished quickly. This does not mean skipping a step, but rather consolidating steps into one interview and moving decisively when necessary.
Remember, we are in a competitive market for good talent.
I suggest following a process like this:
- You may want to start by having applicants participate in a quick phone screening, conducted by a trusted team member, to only invite applicants who fit your vision and values. A simple three-to-five-question phone interview can help quickly screen out any obviously wrong candidates.
- As part of the actual in-person interview, review the resume and ask open-ended behavioral questions. What did you like about your former job? What parts of the job were challenging or unpleasant for you? What prompted you to seek another job? What qualities do you find important in your job? What was it about our ad that compelled you to apply? What does teamwork mean to you? Again, you are hiring for attitude and training for skill.
- Be prepared to ask some “what if” questions. How would you handle it if you were on the phone with a patient and the other line rang? How would you handle it if a patient called to cancel at the last minute? How would you handle a patient who insists on getting in for a non-emergency procedure when there is no room in the schedule? Explain that you realize they don’t know your specific practice protocols—you just want a sense of how they are likely to deal with typical situations.
- Have the applicant review your vision statement and job description. Ask if there are any questions. Ask what stands out in terms of what their values align with. What are their strengths and challenges?
- To hire quickly, the initial interview may need to be combined with “on-the-job” assessments to observe clinical strengths or to involve other team members to gain consensus on a “good fit.” Be sure to inform the applicant that you will call references as part of standard interviewing protocol and be prepared to follow up—quickly!
4. Make a Detailed Offer
If you and the rest of the team agree that a “love connection” has occurred and a job offer should be made, the next step is to write up the offer with a detailed compensation package.
The proposal should include:
- The hourly or monthly wage plus the dollar value of all the benefits you offer. Some examples are health insurance, 401k, CE courses, uniform allowance, dental benefits, paid vacation, paid holidays, and “well” pay.
- The start date, days/hours to be worked, and when benefits begin.
- Explanation of a “training period” of x amount of time, followed by a meeting to determine how the job is going for both parties. Also, state that if it becomes clear that expectations by either party are not being met at any point before the training period is completed, employment can be terminated by either party.
- An agreement that the employee policy manual will be thoroughly read and that the sign-off sheet with the employee’s name and date will be submitted to the employer by the start date.
5. Create a Training Plan
Congratulations—you now have a new team member! To get them up to speed as efficiently as possible, have a staff meeting outlining the training protocol, including which systems you want to focus on. Let the job description be your guide.
Your protocol should include the following:
- Determining training topics, including who will train and when the training will occur.
- Developing a training chart based on these categories. Track the progress of the training by having both the trainer and trainee sign off on and date the mastery of the skill.
- Setting the expectation that each team member will participate in the training. Set up dedicated times to work with the trainee. This may mean switching roles to ensure all positions are covered during training.
Use tutorials and quick reference guides if your new hire needs to learn your software. Scheduling training time provided by your software provider is also essential.
As a leader, be sure to give positive feedback on what is mastered as well as input on areas that need improvement. Retrain on any gaps that surface. Remain patient and helpful, and support verbal training with written materials whenever possible. Plan on check-ins at the end of the day to answer questions that have come up.
Finally, be sure to build a “training binder” that includes everything we covered here and all the specifics for your practice. Do this for each job description so that you will not have to “reinvent the wheel” the next time you need to hire.
Master this process for hiring and training dental team members, and you will always have the “right-fit” team who will work together to grow your practice.
Amy Morgan is VP of Practice Growth Strategy, a member of Spear Resident Faculty, and former CEO of Pride Institute.