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How to Hire Great Dental Staff: Part I

Posted Feb 23 2012 12:44am

The following is a guest post by Jill Nesbitt of dentalpracticecoaching.com . If you are interested in guest posting for Dental Heroes, please sign up here .

So, you just received 2 weeks notice from a well-trained dental assistant or experienced dental secretary. Sorry to hear that. I know the work it takes to hire and train a new staff person. The good news is that you have the opportunity to add a positive, enthusiastic, intelligent person to your team that may help your whole practice move to the next level. This is the first of a series of 5 installments on hiring dental staff. We’re going to walk through the steps of an effective hiring process so you can be establish a clear system in your practice.

Before we jump into where to find great candidates, stop and think about your practice and the specific needs of this position. It is a real challenge to lose a top staff person – If you don’t have other well-trained staff. By constantly developing the skills of your staff, you are always ‘promoting from within’ and then when someone leaves, you have the opportunity to move everyone up. For example, let’s take the assistant team – let’s say you’re in a 2 GP practice with 1 EFDA, 2 experienced assistants and one less experienced assistant. BEFORE anyone leaves, your goal is to have each of these assistants continuously developing their skills – that way they are used to learning new tasks and are comfortable with change. You should have a list of the procedures you perform and licenses they can achieve for the 2 experienced assistants to review – and they should be gaining these new skills on a regular basis. Hopefully, at least one of these assistants is taking classes to achieve her EFDA license. That way, if your EFDA leaves, you don’t hire a brand new EFDA who has no idea how things run – instead, you promote from within – even if there is a few month delay while your next assistant completes her education.

The practice philosophy ‘we promote from within’ does 2 major things for you. First, it establishes a culture of continual learning – because no one ever knows when the next opportunity will arise, but they have to be prepared in advance so they can take advantage when it occurs. Second, it virtually eliminates the stress and drama of hiring. When you hire based on attitude and career-growth, you are confident that you can teach the dental skills and you are relatively less affected by staff turnover. As with anything, there is a trade-off here. If you want to enjoy a practice where staff turnover doesn’t cause major problems – then instead you will be spending your time developing the careers of your staff. (As an aside, if you’re interested in a comprehensive staff training system, I’m developing this into an online training program and we’re in pilot right now.)

The rest of my Hiring Dental Staff series will assume that you are developing the careers of your staff and that you also believe in promoting from within. So, no on to where to find great candidates. Here’s my list:

1. Craigslist
2. Local dental assistant schools
3. Dental society sub list
4. Dental vendors, such as Schein
5. Networking
6. Resumes you’ve saved

You can find a great new hire from any one of these sources. First of all, I love Craigslist for hiring – it’s free to run the ad and you will get dozens of applicants. The quality of these applicants will vary – but you’re only hiring one! Plus, you know they are already savvy with computers and that’s a skill you can use. Next, dental assistant schools – call up the local ones and let them know you’re hiring. Ask them to send you resumes for graduates and anyone who is due to graduate very soon – you need them to be available for your full time hours. Next, contact your dental society – they usually maintain a sub list and you can contact these folks to let them know you’re hiring. Next, talk with your dental vendors and let your supply rep know you’re hiring a dental assistant – this rep visits dental offices every week and may very well know someone who is looking for a new opportunity.

Another idea is networking – ask your staff to spread the word and help you recruit. When we were hiring a hygienist not long ago, one of my existing hygienists offered to post on her hygiene school’s Facebook page that we had a position open! Finally, I recommend saving resumes throughout the year – most dental practices are approached occasionally by people looking for work. Take 5 minutes to talk with the person (I’ll tell you how to do this interview in my next article) and decide if they seem like a potential candidate for the future. If so, keep their resume in a folder – every time someone comes in that you like, just add their resume to the folder. Now, when it’s time to hire, these folks are your first contacts – costs you nothing to send an email to let all these people know that you saved their resume and would like to let them know that you’re now hiring if they’re interested – and if they’re not interested, do they know someone else that might be? People really appreciate this – and it can save you mountains of time from sorting through dozens of Craigslist resumes if you find a match in this first group!

Stay tuned for part II of the “How to Hire Great Dental Staff” series for more great tips on finding your next great employee.

Tell us in a comment below how you find candidates for your dental staff? What has worked well and what hasn’t.

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