On My Soap Box to Promote Elimination of the “Working Interview”

Opting for a Much Improved “Skill Assessment”

In my last blog post I posed the suggestion to do away with the traditional not-so-effective “Working Interview” that has become such an intricate segment of the hiring process within the dental profession. To reiterate my concerns, the structure for the day is generally non-existent with the job seeker coming in for the day or a few hours and is rarely given any guidelines as to where things are, little or no information on the operation and culture of the practice, no support materials to reference, and usually there is no one within the practice to answer their questions due to the fact that everyone is busy handling their personal assigned chores and duties.

Then there is always the issue regarding compensation.  How much is appropriate?  Must we pay them at all? Should we set them up as a hire, gathering all the necessary paperwork whether we hire them or not? And what about the fact that we are often exposing them to personal patient information (social security numbers, addresses, etc.).

My vast experience keeps telling me it is time for a change.  A change to safeguard these issues, along with giving us a much better picture of the candidate’s skill sets (or lack thereof) so that we have more substantial evidence in order to move forward and secure this hire or continue to search for additional candidates.

What I propose is to take an extra hour or two on a day without patients, perhaps a Friday if the office is closed, a weekend or even an evening if that is better. Having this event afterhours enables the doctor to pay close attention and observe the knowledge and ability of the job seeker. There is no need for concern over the confidential information that truly should not be shared at this point. With this planned extension of the hiring process, I recommend that you have a team member join you during this evaluation.  It would make the most sense to have your dental assistant present if you are seeking another assistant, your hygienist there to fill a hygiene position and someone from your business office if it is an administrative position.

You would pay the team member their regular hourly wage for the hour or two they are there, but you can also have your Employee Manual reflect this day and set a slightly different pay scale JUST for this particular segment of the process.  I’d much prefer that a current team member not only participate in this evaluation, but that THEY are paid for their time, in that this process should deliver much more valuable information than the old traditional “Working Interview”.

I would suggest that for whatever position you are looking to fill, you create a specific overview so that you are able to judge the ability they have for manual and hands-on dexterity, math skills, the writing and penmanship skills, as well as giving scenarios to assess how well they think on their feet and solve what could be difficult problems.

I encourage team involvement as much as possible when it comes to changing to new materials, new systems, new equipment and especially when it involves a new team hire.  Incorporating this additional step to the hiring process should not only assure you of a better chance for the right hire, it should also give you a much clearer picture of the capability of your candidate. Besides, I like the fact that your team member is not only involved in helping to make a more educated hiring decision, but that “they” will be the one to receive compensation for their time.  The evaluation is conducted during off hours and would be considered an extension of the hiring process so you are no longer at risk, nor is there any confusion regarding the job candidate’s compensation.

 

With this, I strongly recommend that you make sure to include reference (in writing) to a 30 day trial period so that you and the team are able to observe their interaction with all the team members, vendors and of course the patients.

Why not consider this new approach to hiring?  I’d be happy to guide those of you that might have additional questions.

Want to Join My “Movement”?

Replacing the Traditional “Working Interview”

I’m thinking it may be time for me to formally announce the fact that I am starting a “Movement!”

I am gathering fellow dental professionals to support my movement entitled NO MORE WORKING INTERVIEWS!

For as far back as I can remember there has always been confusion and controversy associated with working Interviews, or as I like to refer to them–Skill Assessments. Do we pay for them? How much must we pay the job applicant? Do you get the candidate onboard as an official hire prior to starting the process? Must we consider them as an employee and fill out all the necessary papers to make it official before we formally agree to permanently hire them? Can we give them a gift card in lieu of actually paying them? …and so on.

It occurred to me that when these “events” occur, the average practice has the job candidate in the office for the day. If they are applying for a clinical position they spend the day in the back office; or if it is a business position they are sequestered to the front desk. From what I’ve observed time and time again is that they receive very little direction, and often, due to the nature of the situation they show up and are required to navigate systems, protocols, and procedures on their own due to a lack of team members available to assist them and answer their questions.

How can you possibly determine the value of these candidates if they are lost and have no idea what is expected of them? Do those practices that regularly conduct Working Interviews “truly” feel as though they get all the necessary information required to make that confident final hiring decision?

I have recommended that when the situation doesn’t allow it, that my clients consider an Extended Hands-on Skill Evaluation. There are many times where it just isn’t applicable to schedule “my” structured Skill Assessment (working interview).

Perhaps we just can’t coordinate the time to have the job candidate spare a day with us. Perhaps the candidate can’t break away to come in for a traditional Skill Assessment Day, or maybe it is simply an awkward imposition for you and the team to have potential employees in during a regular business day.

I have often suggested we have the applicant in for what I call an Extended Hands-on Skill Assessment Interview. This can be set up for a couple of hours, but I don’t recommend that it be scheduled for longer than 3. The employer makes it clear that it will NOT be during the work day and that it is merely an extension of the interview process. The practice is not operational and there will NOT be any patient interaction at all. Another person should be present for legal reasons (typically a partner, associate, spouse or even a friend).

It is important that this been done after-hours or on a weekend when the practice is NOT rolling. There should be a blueprint and a structure in place for the evaluation. If it is an evaluation for a business

position, be certain that your patient base is not used and that you limit the applicant to only viewing areas that do not expose any patient information. I suggest that you utilize either a tutorial software piece or gather something from your software provider to use, and remember that any patient materials you might use should NOT have any private information.

If it is for a hygiene position, again you want to be sure that no patient records are opened or viewed. I would suggest that some “test” documentation be put in the system just for this purpose. Set up fictional information that can be reviewed and used as an aptitude assessment tool. The key to this review is that the job candidate does not see or have access to any patient information or practice records of any kind. Granted, a lot is missed by not having the hygienist physically working on patients, but I feel that with proper verbal reviews AND a structured timeline spelled out in the agreement as to the probationary period you will have a good sense of their skills and abilities.

Basically, what we are developing is an additional interview component that would be scheduled following the face to face interview that comes after the initial phone interview/screening. I have felt for many years that the average interview process for the dental profession has been less than adequate, so maybe it’s time to eliminate the traditional Skill Assessment (working Interview) entirely and change things up so that we are more compliant with the various state regulations and don’t set ourselves up for any additional penalties. Let’s consider doing things this way:

· A well-structured phone interview

· A well-prepared face to face interview

· An in-house (after hours) Skill Assessment that has been created to be able to see and view abilities, hear responses to typical office situations, and get a true feel for the applicant’s hands- on ability. This is to be conducted with another person present (preferably not a team member-perhaps a spouse or friend)

· A meeting for coffee or lunch ONLY with your team members and those candidates that continue to impress.

· In that it is an extension of the interviewing process and we make sure we have documentation signed by both you and the job candidate that this would be considered an additional segment of the interview process, there is no need to compensate for this review. Hence no concerns regarding a Working Interview or any similar “during-the-work-day” event.

If handled correctly, a lot more valuable information about your job candidates can be gathered and you now eliminate the concerns regarding how the onsite “working interview” is managed. In my next article, I will review how to set up this subdivision of the hiring process.

Making Changes To Assure Success

 

Quick fixes Rarely Bring Long-term Results

Making adjustments to the way we run our lives and our businesses is never easy. So much of who we are is ingrained in the day-to-day manner in which we conduct ourselves and manage our lives. Fear can easily take over when we attempt to change our comfort zone. Making alterations to the way we operate and handle things can be a shock to our systems.

All of us know to some degree that if things aren’t working satisfactorily then the only way to turn things around is to make changes. Recognizing the importance of making necessary change is not so much the act of enacting it, but sticking with it! We begin with all good intentions and a desire to move forward quickly for immediate results on what is needed. Then why is it that more often than not this determination begins to fade out and eventually disappear, and before we know it our old ways have resurfaced.

We know we need to lose weight, so leap straight ahead with a burst of determination. We don’t just join a health club, but start off BIG by joining a spin class and perhaps a very aggressive Zumba group. We don’t just cut back on some of our poor food choices, but we instead go on a fast routine working to stick with 1,000 calories or less a day. We don’t stop smoking with the aid of a counselor or support meds, but we choose to throw the cigarettes out the window (including the carton we just purchased) and go it cold turkey.

So what’s wrong with these approaches? Shouldn’t we be commended for the strong desire shown and a demonstration that says “we really mean business”?

Yes, a statement is being made and to the outsiders looking in they are quite impressed with your expression of sincerity. Truthfully though, these examples of making changes in one’s life will most likely be short lived. Taking an aggressive approach may sound encouraging yet when it comes to change, change that will stick, it takes planning and at a pace that doesn’t overwhelm.

This same principle applies to changes we make to our businesses. Bringing in new systems, crafting new protocols and getting those “cultural” issues set up and spelled out in the brand new Office Handbook that you are excited to implement can be exciting. Many employers apply these new ways of managing their business and teams in the very same way. Now that they are ready and focused to make the changes they are recognizing as needing to be fixed, making the shift can’t come soon enough. They are ready to roll and can’t wait to implement all that is suggested as soon as possible.

Again, enthusiasm and the desire to get things going is a wonderful thing, but being anxious to get as many changes made as possible as quickly as possible is a prescription for a quick failure. Just as weight loss programs bring long-term success through a slow and steady process, so does the process of making changes in policies and programs that have been a part of a business model for years.

Take one new format at a time and don’t necessarily put a timeframe on what needs to be revised, that is unless you are changing methods that are causing immediate harm to the business/team in some way. When an advisor that you respect and admire offers you advice that you know you need to pay attention to and strongly consider for the betterment of your practice, don’t let any of it throw you.

Between the two of you, evaluate the priority order for the changes you need to make and then slowly integrate step by step. Slowly incorporating new ways of handling things is definitely not easy for most of us, but slowing things down as much as possible will help us to become more and more secure with the change.

Slow and steady DOES win the race.

Do You Hire for the Person Within or the Outside “Packaging”?

Talent may not be “visible”

I fear that we are seeing more and more superficial rationale when it comes to building a dental team. I find it so disturbing when a client paints a picture of the team member they envision and the first words they mention are that they should “look good”, which means what exactly?

While I would agree that taking care of one’s self from the hygienic standpoint as well as a professional presence is important, I don’t believe that we need to be seeking out potential beauty contest winners.

To me, it’s much more about professionalism, dedication, the ability to take direction, to work well with others, to think before they speak, and of course to not flood the office culture with unnecessary dialog or disrespectful banter. While presenting a healthy “look” would make sense in that we are in the healthcare field, I will never support refusing to offer a great employee a position based on some level of perceived physical attractiveness.

Are they neat? Are they well-spoken? Are they talented and skilled? Have they proven to you that they are perfectly qualified to manage the job that was offered to them? If all this fits then it’s not about them, it’s about you!

I realize that this is a touchy subject, but I’m at a point where I felt it was important to bring my concerns out into the open in the hopes that it will bring to light some very shallow thinking and stimulate some healthy assessment when situations of this nature are presented.

Don’t pass up an ideal team member based on superficial values. Many very special qualities are not visible to the naked eye.

Eventually, You Have to Take the Leap

 

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Importance of due diligence during the hiring process

When it comes to guarantees, we can expect to receive them when we buy groceries that appear not to be fresh or when we have our cars serviced with guarantees attached, along with other large ticketed items.  This is a normal expectation.

The one area where we NEVER have guarantees is when it comes to new employees that we hire.  Over the years I have heard many many times statements such as, “She’s a great employee, but what if she moves?” or “He’s the best employee I’ve ever had, but what if he grows tired of my practice?”

While these are definitely concerns, I always let my clients know that there are indeed no guarantees when it comes to employees, be it their longevity or work ethic.  I also make the analogy of the risks we all take everyday just getting up in the morning. We could slip in the shower or, heaven forbid, get hit by another car while we are innocently sitting at a stop light.

Truthfully you do have some control when it comes to making a decision on a hire, although again, there are many things you simply can’t control. Examples are: guaranteeing that they will stay with you forever, continuing to prove themselves as the best employee you’ve ever had, and all the other accolades you hope would apply.

You can conduct background checks and drug testing, and weigh all the negatives and positives.  Many negatives can be addressed properly right from the start and corrected, since so much has to do with communication.  Thorough due diligence is a must, and when you feel all of your “I’s” are dotted and your “t’s” are crossed you really need to trust that you AND the new hire both made the right choice going forward.  Remember, they are taking a risk with you also, for there are no guarantees for them either. What they hear during the interview protocol and skill assessment might have to be enough for the new hire to believe that they too found their long term employment.

Take risks my friends, but make sure they are calculated risks.

It Pays Dividends to Take Your Time

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Rushing a Hire is One of the Biggest Mistakes an Employer can Make

I’m so frequently asked what the biggest mistake I see when it comes to dental team development. Although there are a number of things, by far the biggest mistake of all is hiring too quickly in my opinion.

The hiring dentist receives an ideal, picture perfect resume and almost sight unseen is ready to make the applicant an offer. Then there is the job candidate that presents beautifully, with a resume in hand in a shiny folder. Or it’s the applicant who arrives early and introduces herself to the front desk, shaking hands as she moves from one to the other. While all of this is admirable and great to experience, this is not enough to make a well educated hiring decision. Not by any means.

It’s a process that we need to go honor–one that takes time and one that requires much more than simply the superficial things that initially might impress. Making a hasty decision based on a first impression is not the way to enter into a long-term hire, one where you and your team member can celebrate years of “togetherness” and basically establish a match made in dental heaven.

They do happen, as I have seen many and the one commonality is that there was not a hasty decision made from the side of the new employee or the employer. It took time for everyone to see if the fit was right, if the personalities jibed, the practice culture was aligned, the dentistry was in synch and the mutual respect was reciprocal. These things take time and time is what should be invested by both parties in order to be sure that everyone can expect a long-term, healthy business relationship.

How many marriages have endured based on a very short courtship? Take the time to be sure–from both sides–and once everyone involved agrees, it’s a matter of maintaining the bond that you have created.

Attracting the Candidates You Want to Meet!

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Advertising Verbiage Does Make a Difference

A client called me last week in a panic. “Deb”, he said, “I’ve been running an ad for a couple of weeks and we have found that the majority of those who respond don’t fit our needs and the few that seem like possibilities once invited in don’t even show for their interview. Out of the 3 that had some of the qualifications I’ve been looking for, one called hours before their interview was scheduled to inform us that she has accepted another position and the other two just plain didn’t show up, and this was with confirmation calls! I’m so discouraged and can’t figure out what the heck I am doing wrong.”

I began by reviewing the verbiage and approach they used with their advertising,

I said, “Doctor, you need to ask for what it is you are hoping to find”, and with this I proceeded to explain how I craft ads that send the message to those that you are wanting to attract and GRAB.

When I asked him if he could pinpoint what he felt was lacking from the few that did respond he said that none of them were sincere. I would agree 100%, so I suggested that we take things in a new direction.

Here’s the ad I crafted for him:

“Sincerity” is the key word for us when it comes to filling this position. Are you “sincere” about continuing your current experience within the dental field? Do you “sincerely” appreciate making a difference for others? Is your interest in managing your responsibilities a “sincere” one? Is the dental profession one that you are “sincerely” proud to be a part of? Are you “sincerely” interested in learning new systems and perfecting your current skills? If any of this resonates with you and if you come with some significant experience as a *true dental professional*, then we would really like to hear from you. The most important qualities are that you bring:

* A strong desire to contribute to a “sincerely” devoted team

* That you have been responsible for various dental business office duties

* That you pride yourself in your attention to detail and your ability to prioritize as needed

Locating that perfect employee is much like selling a home, it only takes one! Tons of resumes may seem impressive, but what good are they if none of them are appropriate for your practice and requirements?

Sure enough, within the first few hours that the ad ran I received 2 resumes. Both “appeared” (I never use the resume as the beginning and end of all to make that hiring decision) to show me some of what I’ve been hoping to find. They both included cover letters that responded to my ad and were well constructed resumes with what seemed to be valuable backgrounds, but it was still too early to pop the champagne.

I conducted my first phone interview today and was pleased to say that so far all is good. I always ask why the job candidate responded to my ad, it’s interesting what I hear.

Some will say “what did your ad say?” I hear the imaginary alarm go off… Noooo! The ones that remember and share with me why they responded continue to get my attention.

This particular candidate couldn’t wait to share with me before I even asked. “Deb”, she said, “I read your ad and then I read it again and again and couldn’t respond fast enough. You wrote this to find me! I’ve been working in a corporate environment since I moved to town, and although I’ve lasted almost a year, I just know this culture is not for me. I am sincere and I do care so much, yet the style of this practice is holding me back from developing the wonderful relationships that I was able to create and nurture in my other practice. I really could relate to the message you were sending with your advertising.”

It’s early in the process, but so far so good and once again it’s like I always say: “Ask for what you are looking for!”