Interview Scenario Series – The Administrative Department

SetTheStage HireMe

Setting the Scene

Conducting interviews is a real drag for darn sure!  You’ll never hear anyone say “I really enjoy the interview process” no matter what side of the desk they’re sitting on. The techniques I will share should not only serve as a guide to make the most of the time spent with the job applicants, but they will change the way you conduct your interviews from now on.  This should not only enable more effective hires based on acquiring some very valuable information, but will also alleviate the stress level for the interviewer and probably for the job candidate as well.

My hope is that the thousands of hours I spent interviewing prospective dental hires and the information I pass on to you will serve to save you some frustration, angst, and anxiety. The role-play videos that I periodically post will help you to better evaluate job seekers. Just the manner in which the candidates react to the questions posed will open your eyes and suddenly be more revealing and valuable to you once you know what to look for.

The tricks of the trade and the little suggestions I offer should make a marketable difference in the way you perceive the candidates. How they present, as well as how they respond to the scenario questions will play a big part in your decision to move them forward in the process.  It’s the “situational” questions that will make a tremendous difference in how you interview your prospective new employees and more so, the information you garner from speaking with them.

You’ll often read or hear me mention that it is most important to consider “hiring for attitude before aptitude”.  This is a mantra I have learned to believe in and am conscious of with every interview I have ever conducted.  It should be one of the main things you focus on as you move forward to conduct yours.  We always say “some things can NOT be trained and attitude is one of them”.

Granted, the interviewing process can be most stressful for the person being interviewed.  Many candidates almost go into shock; they clam up or perhaps begin to babble, not saying much of anything out of fear.  Their reaction to this “drill” can cause the candidate to not present an accurate impresson of themselves.  First and foremost, it is critically important to assist the job applicant in trying to relax, get comfortable, and most of all not to feel threatened or awkward.  This can be accomplished by making this simple statement “I know this is not fun for you, the interview process is one thing almost all of us are frightened to death of, including me.”   Somehow making this declaration changes the tone of the interview and 9 out of 10 times will immediately relax them.

The video clip I am offering is that of an appropriate scenario question for the candidate that is interviewing for an administrative position. The question not only reveals “how” the candidate would resolve the challenge in question, but also how she reacts to the question as she imagines herself in this moment.  The “demeanor” that surfaces from envisioning this particular situation is quite interesting and so very telling.

What did we learn from presenting this scenario to this particular candidate?

  1. She immediately exhibited “signs” of irritation at being interrupted. Why? This is an extremely critical reaction and one that occurs often.
  2. She envisioned herself as maybe a bit of an “elitist”, taking her role (and I’ll bet her title) and putting it ahead of what needed to be accomplished.
  3. She didn’t answer appropriately in that the VERY first thing would be to remove the irate patient from the reception area and out of the range of others.
  4. This is an example of an “attitude” that is not one that we would want to encourage or cultivate within our team.

More scenarios will follow that apply to other dental positions.



Trouble in Paradise – When parting ways is the only way*


Part 2

*Please note that the protocol presented here only applies to an employee who had truly added value to your practice, and other than not being a fit for the culture due to not agreeing with the changes that needed to be made would still be employed there. This would not be applicable should the employee be a truly detrimental “Bad Apple”; the approach to which I will address in future posts.

Although it’s clearly uncomfortable for both the employer and the employee, for the health of the practice it’s essential that one of them “make the move”.  Addressing  the “elephant in the living room” and to cleanly make their separation is the ONLY way to relieve the pressure that has been building.  It’s likely that both are equally traumatized by what ultimately has to happen.

What could make the process easy on the employer is for them to understand that they are not necessarily sending this once valuable employee out in the cold.  Although they are not conforming to the practice style that you have created, they might still be very well suited for a different practice culture.  Sitting with them and having a frank discussion on this subject will begin to make the end result a little easier for both to handle.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that this employee couldn’t be a qualified, valuable team member for another practice–perhaps one that supports a program that aligns more comfortably with their way of working and thinking.  Just because you part ways doesn’t mean that either of you were wrong, or that the employee isn’t “hirable” by another practice. It’s just that for your particular environment, the fit wasn’t right.

Although giving references today is a slippery slope, it doesn’t mean that the outgoing dentist can’t support this team member by letting the new prospective employer know about all the good the employee  brought  to the practice.  In spite of the differences in how they viewed the practice philosophy the employee was still on time, was honest and trustworthy, knew the job well, and up until recently the patients and team members really enjoyed having them around.

There is nothing objectionable about sharing information based on the employee giving  their full “written” consent and approval  to share it. After all, they do have some wonderful qualities but now their way of seeing things going in the same direction are no longer moving together in unison and current goals are no longer aligned between the team member and the doctor.  Granted, this in itself could be cause for the potential new employer to say “thanks, but no thanks” because, regardless of the reason, he/she may still feel that this is not a candidate they would consider. That said, there could still very well be a dentist who is totally comfortable with what this candidate brings to their open position and how their practice operates.

The point is that it is not in the best interest of the employer or employee to continue to try and maintain an ongoing business relationship when every effort has been made to recover what has been lost, and yet it is clear that they are both fighting a losing battle. The current team will also respect the decision the dentist has made as the Practice Leader and how diplomatically he/she went about resolving the problem.

This approach will not only help the employer realize they have done their best and are continuing to support this long-term employee as best they can, but also the employee can appreciate the efforts being made by their present employer and should respect them for taking the high road. This solution will ultimately keep everyone content, including the present team which is no doubt feeling the stress along with the patients, and which may not realize exactly what the problem is, but can feel something uncomfortable in the air.

If and when the employee leaves, everyone understands that the explanation is simple: “He/she was a good employee and we will miss him/her, but it was time for us to part “friends”.  I often wonder why in these situations it is so common for doctors and team members to give a long and lengthy explanation when clearly details are not required.  Less is more.

Now watch as the cloud starts to lift and the environment suddenly softens and the pleasant, welcoming atmosphere returns once again.


Trouble in Paradise? What to do?


Part 1

So you as the employer have begun to see some signs along with a number of your team members who have pointed this out to you.  You are beginning to ask yourself if a particular employee appears to still be a fit for your practice.


  • Have you each grown in different directions and is your vision and focus no longer in tune with how she sees things advancing?
  • Is there resistance to accommodate the new changes you have begun to implement?
  • Does the employee in question appear to be “stuck” and unable to conform?

You know there was a time when she was so enthusiastic and positive; when she openly shared her delight to be there on a daily basis (which was visible to everyone). Where has this positive energy gone? And even more important than that is the biggest and most important question of all: what’s going on with her and can she rekindle the excitement and respect for the position she has held for years, or is there no way to recover this once “model” team member?

Often an in-depth, honest, open conversation can uncover some underlying reasons for this change and the relationship can be salvaged. But often it is a sign that it is time for both parties to “cut bait” and just move on.


  • Can this relationship that seems to be dwindling, be recovered somehow?
  • Did the conversation reveal any hidden reasons for the change in demeanor?
  • With some work and understanding can things be corrected putting everything back in its proper place again?
  • How long does an employer wait to see if and when positive changes begin to surface, or perhaps on the flip side, when they become increasingly more negative and possibly disruptive?

When time proves that nothing is going to change and significant improvements are not going to happen in spite of the “healthy” conversations between the two of you, then it is time for both to begin planning both of your futures.

Let’s assume that this all makes sense, and the approach to resolving this conflict has been handled appropriately thus far–but there is a catch.  Getting to this point is not at all uncommon, but what is even more prevalent in our business is the fact that now things just stagnate into status quo.

Neither the employer nor employee is ready to take things to the next level and make the necessary adjustments.  Why? Because it’s difficult for both of them to make the next move, partially out of fear and partially to avoid any uncomfortable conflicts between them, or the team, or in the case of the dentist/employer, the patients.  This is what they both have in common and why neither one is comfortable to further address things.


They both continue on with the same dynamics, the same disinterest, the same frustrations on both sides, and they continue to just roll along with no changes at all other than the fact that the work environment grows more and more awkward and the negative energy becomes more and more intense.  So what we have here is an environment that speaks unhappiness to all that enter it. Why? Because this is as far as the employee and employer are “emotionally” able to take it, and we are now left with not only a visibly unhappy practice culture, but two very unhappy people.

WHAT TO DO? – Part 2 coming soon.


Oh No! I have to hire again!

A dreaded process for everyone


Those of you who have had the responsibility of conducting interviews as you seek to acquire new hires know how stressful and often futile this “drill” can be. The turnover of employees within the dental field is larger than in many industries, and many practices are sadly forced to make this almost a monthly event.
Most endeavors that we pursue in life take practice to master, but this shouldn’t have to apply to locating the right employees for your dental practice. Having created a successful dental-only placement agency that later expanded to a national dental placement franchise system, I have taken this journey and will gladly pass on some “pearls” for those of you that haven’t had as much mileage in this particular area of practice management.

Interviewing literally thousands of potential dental hires face-to-face, in addition to supporting 8 national franchise locations and all of their interview challenges, my interaction with dental team acquisition has given me a tremendous amount of experience in this area. This exposure served as a perfect launching pad to hone in on some unique skills and techniques. I’ve been able to gather valuable information via years of trial and error; passing this on to those that can make use of the guidance.

Because I was responsible to deliver the best choices for my clients I felt it was important for me to assemble as much valuable information about the job candidates as possible. I realized it was necessary for me to create systems and methods so that I was able to ascertain information that would assist them in making wise and well-educated hiring choices. First and foremost as a segment of my interview coaching, I had to be certain that everyone respected all legal guidelines and that the proper questions were presented in the most ethical and correct format.

Asking someone “what do you want to make?” or “what do you need to make?” or “what have you made in your last position?” provides no real insight into the true value of a candidate. Think about it. Are you really going to hire them based on what they want, need, or made with a past employer? You should never let these questions reflect what you are planning on compensating them. This area will be addressed in detail in future posts.

The message I want to send here is an approach to take during the interview process that I developed many years ago. It is the equivalent to the glass being half full or half empty and how each person perceives the question stated exactly this way. When presented at the proper time and in the proper context during the interview process, it can be extremely valuable and incredibly revealing. To set the stage:

You have conducted a good part of your interview and no mention at all has been made of salary or compensation which, by the way, should not be discussed in detail in an initial interview (I will further explain in detail in future posts).
Here is a video to illustrate this and 3 very typical responses:

You can easily see the proper response in the examples, with the third meant to demonstrate how you respond to the candidate that wasn’t certain about the question and how to answer. Keep in mind that you must always stick to the question exactly, word-for-word and then listen closely for the response. Typically the most powerful indicator of all is from the candidate that responds quickly and answers without skipping a beat. Usually the candidate with the “right” answer doesn’t have to ponder what they think your intent may be.