Working Interview vs. Skills Assessment

Why not consider skills assessments?

I replaced Working Interviews with Skills Assessments over 15 years ago. My clients have genuinely appreciated the shift and job candidates applaud the concept as well. In light of the pandemic I believe this approach to evaluating potential team members as well as the potential employees having the opportunity to evaluate the practice, is even more critical than ever before. Those that have not worked with me have been inquiring as to what the difference is between the two. Here is an overview of both systems that I hope will illustrate how they differ .

Challenges with the Working Interview

· How has the decision maker (dentist/owner) had the opportunity to truly evaluate the candidate while they are conducting business and treating patients? Receiving secondhand information from current employees can be skewed, slanted or inaccurate.

· How does the job applicant evaluate the practice culture/style while they are trying to navigate through the working interview on their own? Typically, little direction is offered as team members are busy supporting their jobs and managing their responsibilities.

· Not having some form of control can be dangerous, particularly in the case of reviewing a business office position. Often this person is alone at the front desk, or at best accompanied by another employee who will infrequently check in and out, enabling visibility to records including health histories, social security numbers, credit card information, etc.

· We are all hoping to locate employees that are structured and organized. Without exhibiting structure, not only is it difficult to evaluate the candidate, but those of value do not find the traditional “Working Interview” a beneficial way to evaluate if this is the environment in which they can see themselves long-term. I believe that Working Interviews, as they have been orchestrated for years, do not support long-term commitments from employees, hence the reason turnover is so great within our profession. Neither the dentist/employer nor the job seeker can collect enough information during a Working Interview to assess if this will be the best business relationship for both. Conducting multiple days of WI’s is an option, although the way they are presently utilized, I do not feel this is necessarily the answer to longevity.

Advantages of Skills Assessments

· They are conducted with structure and purpose.

· In the case of Business Office candidates, they are conducted under supervision (safer for everyone).

· When evaluating clinical candidates, the job candidates will be given a “road map” to track responsibilities. There will be little need to ask questions, and this approach enables the

reviewer to see how well directions are followed, although they will have the on-going support of the team should they require help at any time.

· The dentist/owner will have a much clearer picture of the skill sets the job candidate is capable of. These would be comprehension, the ability to follow directions, ability to apply decision making techniques, how they manage their time, and their ability to prioritize.

· Unlike Working Interviews that are typically one day or even ½ day, Skills Assessments should be conducted for a few. *Check with your accountant or financial adviser as to the best way to compensate candidates based on legal standards.

Constructing Skills Assessments

Business Office Positions:

· I prefer that all business office Skills Assessments be conducted during non-patient hours.

· A document should be drafted to reflect a cross-section of the responsibilities this position carries.

· This event should be facilitated (preferably) by the dentist, associate, or a “trusted” employee.

1. Are they familiar with your software? If not, offer them a quick overview of the product you use and ask them to perform a simple entry or two.

2. Do you have various materials for New Patient Intakes, Health Histories, Insurance information, etc.? Set up a mock situation with them to see how they deliver the information where you are in the role of the patient.

3. Offer them typical scenarios (examples might be: Patient is questioning their bill or why insurance didn’t cover; patient that was scheduled for lengthy appointment is wanting to cancel at the last minute–do they quickly offer to re-schedule or do they attempt to rescue the possible cancellation?

4. Since the Skills Assessment is an extension of the face-to-face interview and conducted during non-work hours, the Labor Board does not view this as actual “work”, so it really is not necessary to compensate for this review although I HIGHLY suggest that you do. Customary WI compensation should apply.

Clinical Positions (Dental Assistant and Hygienist)

· Skills Assessments for all clinical positions should be conducted during the workday. The job candidate should be assigned to a team member as their “go-to” person during the process. It is possible to conduct a SA using a typodont and scenarios as well, particularly during the Covid-19 Pandemic when observing distancing and limited contact is important.

· A template and road map should be created for these positions as well and they should be supplied with this template upon arrival the day of the SA.

· Their team guide should initially offer them assistance on the basics. Examples might be: Where are supplies kept? Offer a walk-through of the sterilization process. Does the hygienist need to call on team members to assist with periodontal charting or is it managed via technology?

· The hygiene schedule should reflect as diverse a day as possible with varied procedures. Please do not overload the hygienist with back to back difficult prophies and quad scales. A cross-section of treatments is one of the best way to observe skills. Be considerate and do not take advantage of “your guest”, after all even with guidance and support it is still new terrain to them.

· The clinical assistant should have the opportunity to assist with an assortment of treatments

as well. Their “buddy” should try to balance the treatments they assist with as they share the scheduled procedures with the job seeker.


· Opening one’s practice to numerous job applicants can be more challenging today during Covid-19. Applying Skills Assessment techniques will also help to minimize additional exposure to others.

· The “quality” employees truly do appreciate this format, which can be an indicator and a way of screening to the best behavioral styles to join your group.

· I also recommend as much “alone” time for the potential new hire and existing team to interact (without the dentist/owner). Many of my clients will have them go out to lunch as a group (unfortunately, during Covid-19 this is limiting)

· This method has proven to greatly reduce poor hires and increase long-term employment.

· The job candidates will be able to gather more information and will be more likely to terminate the process if they feel they are not the best fit, or that the systems and protocols do not align with their particular work style. Better to know sooner than later.