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.

Who’s the Boss?

Take the reigns

“So Deb, I’d like you to please speak with Cathy and help her understand why we should not be sending out pre-determinations for basically every patient in the practice.”

“And Deb, can you also have a conversation with Suzie, my dental assistant regarding how important it is to stay in the room and sit beside the patient while I am in the other treatment room conducting a hygiene check?”

No matter how many times I hear this, it’s still mind-boggling to hear requests of this nature, particularly when I learn that these concerns are not new and current. It’s surprising how many dentists are working with employees that have handled things “their” way for years!

Why is this so prevalent in our business?

How can situations like these be ignored month after month and year after year?

I can make some guesses as to why. Perhaps the fear of confrontation? Could it be not wanting to enter into the hiring vortex if this employee refuses to manage the practice the way the employer wants things handled? Could it be that the employer doesn’t necessarily see any of this as a major concern? In practice, all of these examples are often reality.

Let’s review some of the fallout that could stem from turning the other cheek and letting this all go:

· Areas of the business that are left unattended means lost revenue

· The business will slowly fail due to unorthodox systems

· You can expect to compensate new and efficient team members at a high rate in order for them to fix the sad condition in which your incompetent employee left your business.

So please step up and become the boss. Lead the team based on your choice of systems, your choice of protocols and your cultural style.

After all it is Your Business!

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.

Managing Team Conflict

notlistening

Whose job is it anyway?

I Stopped at my favorite local Starbuck’s today and things were jumping.  Could it be coffee for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day?  Nonetheless, after I placed my order I couldn’t help but overhear what sounded like a heated discussion between one of the baristas and the store manager, Erica.  The level of conversation was high and continued to escalate in spite of the crowds and cross-banter at the coffee bar that should have drowned it out.  I’m sure that not only could I hear the conversation, but I suspect many others could as well.

“She never picks up after herself”, said Trevor, “and with that she runs out the door as quickly as she can and the end of her shift and I never see her grab the garbage or do anything to help the rest of us. I’ve really had it with her. You need to address it as soon as possible.”

The body language was almost as interesting as the dialog, with Trevor leaning forward and Erica looking stunned with almost a glazed look in her eyes.  It appeared as though Erica was near tears and didn’t know how to respond.  I was hoping that with every word Trevor uttered she would be intentionally moving him toward the back room, but this never happened. With Trevor’s rambling, it was obviously difficult for her to get a word in, or move him away from the patrons at least. Erica was clearly very uncomfortable

My coffee was placed on the bar and as they called my name I grabbed it as I heard Erica say, “Okay, stay a little later with me and help me make a list of the things you want me to address with Stephanie. Is there anyone else that has similar issues with her?”

Whoa, really?, I thought to myself.  I see a couple of things here that are unacceptable and problematic at best.  Why not stop him right away noticing the crowd that had been forming in the store? Why not immediately take him to a quiet place for a moment so that others wouldn’t be privy to the conversation? And why oh why would you encourage this employee to continue his anger with you so publically? These aren’t your issues, they are between him and a fellow employee and should be resolved between them without any interaction from their managers, bosses or superiors.

My experience today reminded me of those I have witnessed while working in practices over the years. It’s the team members airing their issues and not always in the most healthy manner or most opportune time. It’s the dentist/employer who will stop and listen to this rhetoric getting much more engaged in the story than they should.

Have you established guidelines and very specific “language” in your practice culture overview or employee manual to manage issues of this nature?

Direct your employees to solve their own problems and become more self-sufficient, for if you continue to offer them a platform to vent, their problems will immediately become yours.

Outside of the Box Thinking

officeinabox

Must every employee be fulltime?

When I am asked by my clients to help them locate some strong candidates to fill a particular position within their dental practice, the usual request is that they require a fulltime dental professional to add to their team. While this is understandable the majority of the time, there are occasions when the questions I ask reveal the need for a permanent part-time employee and not necessarily someone on a fulltime basis.

Granted it isn’t always easy to determine the exact man/woman power to effectively manage the needs of a practice, but there are things that I like to consider when guiding my clients through the process. In some cases it’s based on the physical size of a practice and how the work area lends itself to the flow of activity during the work day; while in other situations it’s based on the lack of proper systems, protocols and efficiency measures applied within the business model.

More times than not, the lack of systems is one of the main reasons an employer/ dentist assumes that there is a need to hire more help; when truthfully without proper direction and protocols an efficient team can easily be mistaken for a group that just can’t keep up with the workload .

I encourage my clients to assess and evaluate the systems or lack of that they apply within their practice along with making sure that everything is clearly defined and every team member (whether it is in their job description or not) is aware of the methodology established within the culture of the practice.

I suggest taking a good, clear look at the structure and overall organization within the business and how it relates to running and managing the various duties that are distributed among the group.

Are the employees assigned responsibilities that they can not only manage properly, but thoroughly? Do their duties align with their ability?

Is everyone clear with exactly what they need to accomplish to successfully manage each day, each month and end of year?

Here’s a thought–what about seeking a permanent part-time employee to manage the overflow that may not necessarily require an additional fulltime employee? I will say that it’s a little more difficult to find a permanent part-time employee than a fulltime one, but once you and your team can pinpoint the specific area(s) that are lacking within the structure of the business, seeking out the necessary team support will be so much easier.

Part time permanent positions when designed correctly are very effective for both administrative as well as clinical positions. If the box is organized, it’s ok to think outside of it!