DEBRA MILLER | DIRECTOR OF COACHING
It’s a puzzling situation that we find ourselves in when it comes to hiring. Dental jobs should be among the most desirable. They are very stable jobs in a caring and supportive environment with a relatively small team where every person has a vital and appreciated role. Plus, they are pretty good jobs income-wise. And yet, finding qualified or even interested team members is like pulling teeth recently.
Last month, at our Mastering the Effortless Endodontic Practice seminar in Philadelphia, an informal survey of doctors revealed that over half of them have an unfilled team position in their practice. That means that if you are looking for someone, and half the doctors in your community are also looking, there is some pretty significant competition for skilled dental personnel.
Even worse, doctors talk about hiring someone who literally doesn’t even show up on their first day, or someone who stays for a few weeks and then jumps ship without warning to go to another practice for 50 cents more per hour. At Endo Mastery, we believe that a team that performs well should be paid well, but if you end up in an all-out bidding war for new hires, it creates additional problems. It’s hard to justify paying a new team member more than someone who has worked for the practice loyally for several (or many) years already.
I believe the turbulence in the employment market will eventually settle down, but until then doctors in many dental markets should not expect to easily hire someone who has high level experience and skills.
Personality and trainability
If a new hire can’t come with the whole package already in place, then you need to hire at a lower level and train them up. In this regard, you’re going to have to start somewhere, and you should focus on finding people who have a great personality and who are trainable. That’s attitude and aptitude!
Attitude characteristics that are desirable include people who are fundamentally happy, drama-free, a people-person who is caring and empathetic, highly communicative (which is different than being excessively talkative), self-motivated to do well in their job, and a team player.
Dr. Goerig always likes to ask prospective employees about their current or past involvement in team sports, because that often reveals someone who has some competitive drive to do well, knows how to work with others to accomplish goals, and is accustomed to being coached.
For aptitude, you want someone who has a natural ability to learn quickly and become proficient. Look for people who are engaged, highly curious, detail oriented, have an ability to stay focused, and track record of teaching themselves new things. Some people are doers, which is what you want. Watch how fast they walk because that’s a big indication of how much energy they bring to everything they do.
Keep your eyes open everywhere
If you are prepared to hire for attitude and aptitude—and train for dental to the level that you want—then your pool of candidates expands significantly. In fact, you can find great people in non-dental environments who would be so grateful for the opportunity for a dental career.
Look for people who you notice repeatedly that they excel at face-to-face interactions with you in the businesses you patronize. That could be a barista at the coffeeshop (service-oriented), a bank teller (detail-oriented), or the person behind the counter at a jewelry store (very accustomed to talking about high-value items so that people happily pull out their credit card).
Give them your business card and say, “If you are thinking about making a career change sometime, give me a call.” That way, you’re not committing yourself to anything until you’ve had a chance to vet them more thoroughly, including having your office manager in the conversation.
You will know if you have a good candidate when your office manager agrees that the potential hire has an energy level and ability to be a great team member.