The Hiring Process


Part 3

Determining salary

  • Start by considering what the wage would be for this particular position once they are fully vested. This would mean that they have successfully accomplished all necessary tasks, proven their ability to work well with others, show true responsibility for the position they hold, stay on time, and basically prove to be the “model” employee we all hope to find.In the way of an example, at this point you are comfortable to compensate this “valuable” employee at $23.00 per hour once these areas are reached.  
  • Review the areas that the new employee will be required to attain in either skills or completing proper licensure requirements, etc.
  • I typically recommend that the goals required do not exceed 4 major skill sets with 4-6 weeks to meet them. With this in mind, the increments to reach each milestone might be $2.00 per accomplishment.So in the case of our example, the starting wage would be $15 per hour for the initial hiring wage with $2.00 increments once goals have been successfully met. At the completion of one month this new hire would be earning $23.00 per hour. 

Offering the position

  • After gathering the above information, you should have enough to make a well educated initial offering. It’s important to consider what the wage would be for this particular position once they are fully on board, successfully accomplishing all necessary tasks appropriately, proving their ability to work well with others, show true responsibility for the position they hold, and basically prove to be the “model” employee we all hope to find.
  • Based on the Skill Assessment Day(s), you should know where you see them fitting within your initial incoming pay scale. Obviously if they did very well, their compensation should reflect this and they should start at the higher end. But keep in mind that everyone has their own learning curve yet no one should ever start at the top, with the example I’ve given this would be $23 per hour.
  • This initial salary is VERY temporary and it is important to let the new hire understand this and be totally aware of this. The owner and potential new hire should sit down together and discuss the areas that will need to be worked on (example: learning the software, getting x-ray certification, total understanding of the insurance products offered, etc.)
  • I recommend that no more than 4 goals be set (the rest will come over time). Make these goals the ones that are most critical and need to be gained sooner than later.
  • With these goals in mind and listed on the Hiring Agreement (do you have one?), the time frame for reaching the goals should be listed along with the dollar amount that is connected with the skills once they are attained. Acquiring each goal should not take longer than 4 full work days/ one work week (other than the licensures).
  • As a goal is met, the salary increases by 1-3 dollars per hour depending on the degree of accomplishment and how meeting their set goals has positively affected the business/bottom line. Keep in mind that the salary that you designate as a wage reflects someone who has proved themselves, reached their goal successfully and in a timely manner and have great value to you, your team, and your practice.

This system might appear to be time consuming, but honestly in the end you not only have an employee that is worth the compensation they are receiving, but you will also find that they will be able to prove to you and your team that you will not later feel any “buyer’s remorse”, or that you have overpaid them. They will be worth every minute invested, and they too will appreciate how this structure helped to integrate them into your practice fairly.

This method will also cut back on the huge amount of turnover that occurs in dental practices everywhere on a regular basis. It is an example of a major component when it comes to hiring slowly as it resolves many concerns for you the employer.

You will find that your team replacements will be reduced both from your need to dismiss for lack of performance, or due to the new hire’s need to move on due to frustration from poor direction as a new team member.

As you continue to maintain team longevity, don’t forget to conduct regular reviews both for growth purposes and salary increases. Continue to utilize this system as new skills are required that may warrant additional increases based on increased employee value.


Determining Fair Compensation

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Part 2

So I speak of establishing a fair wage for the position you are filling based on the market you are in, the skill sets required, the amount of work/responsibility that the job entails and all the other components that make up the initial salary offering.

There are a number of things to consider as you construct the first step; which is the fair wage range that you will establish.  I speak of “range” because you will come across some excellent candidates that may have the skill sets you require minus one or two things that can be learned over time–often a short time.

Get into the habit of speaking in terms of range initially (example: $ 14-18 to start). This is the compensation that applies if and when you determine that one of the candidates has what it takes to join the team after the following has been accomplished. The owner/doctor should have a number in mind that would be the eventual compensation when all the skill sets are satisfactorily acquired. This is the salary they have earned by proving themselves and the goals that are set.

In preparation

  • Conduct due diligence re salary ranges in your area.  There are many websites that offer this information such as  Check with dental colleagues in your geographic market that have similar practice styles/cultures to yours.
  • Carefully list (on paper) all the necessary requirements that the candidates must have coming in the door. Be as thorough as you possibly can. It’s great if this can be a team exercise so that you gather everyone’s input.
  • In what areas are you flexible? What if the applicant has some skills or licensures to attain such as x-ray or anesthesia certification, knowledge of your software product, utilizing digital x-rays, fabricating cosmetic temps, etc. ?

These abilities and skills will vary from practice to practice and doctor to doctor, but if you hire based on the person, understanding that they come with most of the skill sets you are looking for, then please be open to an additional short learning curve to get them up to speed or give them time (specified in writing) to acquire the necessary certifications.  No dental professional, no matter how experienced they might be will be able to walk into a new practice and immediately know how everything is to be handled.  Every practice is distinctly different.

  • Conduct a Skill Assessment period (with fair compensation) over a day or two to determine how they fit with the team, your patients, your practice, and the job description that has been constructed for the position.

NOTE: Many refer to this extension of the interview as a “Working Interview”.  I haven’t utilized this term in years, as I believe it is misleading and often without structure, so please have an outline created for the candidate to follow and someone to guide them as they go through their day(s) whenever possible. Also be sure to check with your accountant or Financial Adviser as to how you should compensate them for their time (by Federal Law you MUST pay them at least minimum hourly wage for the time that they are present in your practice in a “working” capacity.)

  • Have your team meet with the best candidate(s) in a non-threatening setting–perhaps for lunch or coffee without the dentist/owner present.  This informal meeting should help the existing team determine if the applicant appears to be a good fit for the group and, often lots of additional important information is shared during these meetings. The majority of the team should be in approval of the chosen candidate, if someone objects there should be a legitimate reason as to why they are not supporting this decision.  Ultimately the dentist/owner should have the final say.
  • Once you have thoroughly gone through the above steps, you are now ready to create your Hiring Offer and Progressive Salary Structure.

Watch for the 3rd and final post on this topic as I discuss The Progressive Salary Structure;  how to create it and utilize it to benefit both the employer and the employee.


“What do you want (or need) to make?” – a FATAL question

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Part 1

The title of this article is based on a phrase that should never be used during the interview process, yet it is asked almost universally by dental interviewers everywhere!

Although I have been in dentistry my entire career and am not familiar with other industries and how they manage this area of the interview, my guess would be that this is a rare occurrence in other industries.  Why do we in dentistry allow the employee to tell the boss how much they should be paid?

When this question is asked by the interviewer/owner/dentist I always want to ask, ”What are you thinking”? Why are you not prepared to inform the applicant as to what the position “merits” based on the job description, the amount of experience, the professionalism of the job candidate, etc.

Posing questions such as “what did you make in your last position?” or “what do you need (or want)?” seems nonsensical to me.  As the interviewer, do you actually use the response of the job candidate as a “measuring stick” and guide as to how they will be compensated?  We all have our “wants” and “needs”, but what does it have to do with your making a smart business decision for the health of your practice?

What about the applicant that is coming from a long-term job and has rightfully earned a considerable amount based on longevity, contributions, and accomplishments within the practice and expects the same from a practice where they have no history and have proven nothing?

What if you pay a team member that is totally new to your practice more than one of your very competent, loyal people in the same position?  Wouldn’t it seem obvious that this would be construed as a de-motivating slap in the face?  I can’t tell you how many great team members have come to me over the years looking to move for exactly this reason!

How about the applicant that has moved from a high cost of living geographic area to a lower one (or visa-versa?)

First and foremost, when a position becomes available in a dental practice there is more to prepare for than just placing an ad. The big missing link here is the due diligence that MUST be conducted in order to determine what the open position requires in experience, skill sets, and any other qualities that make up the ideal candidates.

Checking with local dental peers as to what their compensation may be could seem like a logical starting point, but this can be comparing apples to oranges depending on your practice type, culture, and needs. And how do you know that the other office isn’t vastly over (or under) paying according to the market?

My next post will walk through the PROPER process for determining correct compensation levels.  I believe it will be an eye-opener for many of you.  Please stay tuned!


Showcasing our Strengths and Downplaying our Weaknesses

Bringing “Balance” to Create a Successful Team

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Sometimes it’s difficult to determine where the “strength” in a team originates.  Not everyone is assertive or would necessarily be considered a “groundbreaker”, but that doesn’t mean that a great dental team can’t maintain a healthy balance of the “doers” and the “ followers”.

The key to the success of a team is that everyone recognizes the strengths and challenges we all have.  They don’t look down upon those that may struggle in certain areas, but instead celebrate the talents that do shine in all of us.  It’s a matter of being able to support each other and pick up the slack for those on the team that lack the abilities that others might possess.   A well-rounded, efficient team learns how to work effectively by utilizing the gifts in each other.

Examples might be:

  • One of the clinical dental assistants is extremely proficient in fabricating temporary crowns while the other is exceptionally patient with children that are less than cooperative while in the chair.
  • It’s about Suzie at the front desk who really understands the challenges when dealing with insurance companies, while her co-partner Janie reigns supreme when it comes to  maintaining a well constructed schedule.

Granted, the ideal dental team is interchangeable in many ways, but recognizing areas of proficiency should not be overlooked.  Whenever possible the “personal” acumens we all have should be pushed to the forefront and taken advantage of.

Traditionally the business office team is responsible for everything related to the management of the practice itself. But who’s to say that Jennie, one of the clinical dental assistants, can’t occasionally make recare calls knowing that she is so in tune with the patients and has always maintained great long-term relationships with most of them?  I call this “Creatively Utilizing Team Strengths”.  As an acronym, this process “CUTS” to the chase.

I wrote a previous article entitled  “Trying to Force a Square Peg into a Round Hole”.  I’m not looking to contradict myself here, but in some cases we can make some slight changes to our job descriptions. It’s the complete shift of roles that I do not endorse.

So what I am saying is to be innovative with the job descriptions you develop and consider the strong points and advantages we each display.  Work with this and don’t be afraid to build unique responsibility lists for your teams.  You will truly be working toward the Dream Team everyone is seeking!

**All of your team’s individual strengths can be documented and accredited with, the new sensation for discovering and rewarding your team’s contributions.

Running Away From Home

“Hirer Beware”


We all know the importance of good, healthy communication.  It’s what can make or break a friendship, cause others to be slighted by taking something the wrong way, or on the other hand it’s what can define a great long term, successful relationship.

Behind the walls of most dental practices reside dental professionals that are not always comfortable to express themselves frankly to their fellow team members or employer.  Many will circumvent an issue or just not talk about it at all, but instead they create their own communication style which can be less than effective and often risky.

Take the case of the dental team member who works hard and tries her best to serve her employer and practice as a “model employee”.  She loves her job, her patients, her team mates and her doctor, but is she really appreciated and most of all–do they feel the same about her?

In an attempt to get noticed and rather than bringing her concerns to the attention of her employer, she chooses to take an unconventional approach (which actually is more common than you might think). Take a look at this video and see if it looks familiar. Whether you are an employer or an employee this “dramatization” could very well hit home.