If you're running a dental practice, you probably don’t need anyone to explain how important it is to have competent and reliable staff. Not only does a dentist rely on their assistants to help with procedures and perform chairside duties, friendly and confident team members can have a positive effect on patients.
Careful interviewing may make the difference between hiring someone who looks good on paper and finding a true dental professional who is a real asset to your practice. Use these tips in your search for a dental assistant you and your patients can count on.
Know Where to Recruit Candidates
Putting out a want ad may not always yield the ideal candidate, so you might want to be proactive in your search for a new dental assistant. Other recruitment avenues you may not have thought of include your local community college, word of mouth and even manufacturer's reps.
Looking at assistants who have just completed local externships is another potentially good recruitment strategy. Because dental assistants typically do an externship right after completing their dental assistant program, these candidates have both fresh on-the-job experience and up-to-date educational training.
Review the Applications Carefully
The application is usually where dentists get their chance to check the nuts and bolts of each candidate's experience. The process may be confusing, though. Not every state has the same requirements for dental assistants. In fact, some states don't require training at all.
Certification by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) is one way to be sure that your applicants have graduated from an approved program. If you have the applicant's social security number, you can even check on the DANB website to see if their certification is current, according to Lori Paschall, president of the American Dental Assistants Association.
In addition to checking for their certification and program training, cross-reference the applications to see if potential candidates have experience with the procedures you perform most often in your practice, particularly if you are in a specialty field like orthodontics.
Manage First Impressions
Some characteristics you might want to consider when screening applicants include:
- Does the candidate make eye contact when they greet you?
- Are there distractions that might irritate patients, like gum chewing, strong perfume or fidgeting?
- Are they neatly dressed in business casual attire?
- Were they on time for the interview?
- Are they nervous and fidgeting or confident and calming?
There's a chance that you might revise your initial impression later on when the candidate answers questions, but psychological studies indicate that first impressions are hard to reverse. If you don't form a favorable impression of the candidate in the first few seconds, it may be difficult to be fully objective later on. Likewise, the "halo effect" of a favorable first impression might make it hard to notice deficiencies in a particular candidate later on.
Ask the Right Questions
The interview might be your best shot at assessing not only each candidate's dedication to the career but also their fit within your office environment. Consider asking questions that help you to measure the candidate's interest in your practice, their organizational skills, their communication skills and even their familiarity with office software.
Questions could include:
- What is the story behind your becoming a dental assistant?
- What steps do you take to prepare for the arrival of a patient?
- How do you make patients aware of the need for a treatment that they might not view as necessary?
- How do you handle a situation where the patient disputes the results of the treatment or payment plan when it's presented to them?
- How do you go about maintaining patient confidentiality?
Another way to assess a strong interviewee is to see whether they have taken the time to investigate the details of your practice. Rather than asking them the open-ended "Do you have any questions for me?" at the end of the interview, consider asking them a more pointed question such as, "What's the one thing you would do to make this office run more efficiently?" The way they answer that question is generally a good measure of how thoroughly they researched your office in preparation for the interview.
Having a bullet point list of each interviewee's main qualifications on an index card for easy reference during the interview is one potential way to stay focused. You may also consider paying top candidates to work in your office half a day so that you can see how well they interact with patients and staff.
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Treloar & Heisel is a premier financial services provider to dental and medical professionals across the country. We assist thousands of clients from residency to practice and through retirement with a comprehensive suite of financial services, custom-tailored advice, and a strong national network focused on delivering the highest level of service.
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Treloar & Heisel, Inc. and its divisions do not offer legal or job recruiting advice. Please consult a professional concerning these topics.