Are You Missing A Critical Component of the Interview Process?

Can you recognize “Soft Skills”?

My client orientation is probably more thorough than most. I want to learn as much about the practice dynamics as possible. I ask about the practice culture, the history of the practice, where this new client sees him/herself in the coming years.

Do they have a mission statement? How much experience do they feel the candidates I present require to effectively fill the position they are offering? And when it comes to the “skills” required I will often pause and ask them “What about “soft skills”?” It’s surprising to me how many either don’t know about soft skills or don’t appreciate their importance.

So, before we discuss the skill sets that will either make or break the candidates offered, I first discuss how critically important that I feel soft skills are to the hiring process. I believe that soft skills should supersede skill sets first and foremost. Behavior is something that is ingrained within our psyche. These are the characteristics that cannot be taught.  If soft skills are strong and in place, then “skill sets” will follow organically.

What are Soft Skills?

  • The ability to successfully oversee Conflict, Stress and Time Management.
  • Fine-tuned Communication Skills
  • Healthy Emotional Balance

For those professionals that have been able to address their soft skills and further build and cultivate them successfully is “the gift that keeps on giving”.  These are the people that could pick up and learn what is expected of them and naturally grow and enhance the new skills that they master.  These are the people that don’t necessarily multitask but prioritize, which is a valuable and manageable skill.  These are the people that give more effort to maintaining an even keel rather than making waves. These are the people that take their job seriously, are loyal and respect others’ feelings.

So, I recommend that we make the evaluation of skill sets a segment of the interview process.  I’d be lost without my SELF Profile when it comes to vetting team members.  Although I understand that this is a small snapshot of our behavior, it can still deliver additional information that can prove very beneficial when it comes to making your final hiring choice.

For those of you that administer and are trained in facilitating DiSC, I strongly suggest you incorporate this in your hiring protocols. This assessment evaluates behavior and not “personality” as many think it does.  It will require some training to be savvy in the interpretation of this assessment, for it isn’t always cut and dry. Consider incorporating the gathering of soft skills during your interview process. It really will deliver additional information that will prove invaluable.

For those of you that are interested in my own dental-specific SELF Profile Assessment, I’d be happy to discuss the possibility of administering it to candidates that you might be considering (or even for existing team members). This is accomplished remotely and is coordinated with a ½ hour phone call with the candidates in question to be sure that the results generated by the profile align with how they present.

My Adventure Building a Sales Team

What I learned when I stepped out of my comfort zone

It takes an attentive, focused team to locate and assemble the BEST team members!

With a goal to recruit 10 Sales Executives from various markets nationally over the course of 8 weeks or less, I was able to meet the challenge and proudly delivered viable candidates to InnobioSurg of America for their review as they continue to methodically apply a thorough vetting process.

The advertising verbiage that I created was brief yet offered the interested candidates enough information to pique their interest, which then generated a valuable response from many sincere, motivated, passionate and talented job seekers.

My role was then to capture their “soft skills” based on my phone interview coupled with the facilitation of my SELF Behavioral Profile. During the process and prior to advancing them to the second interview, I made certain to continue both phone interaction as well as email exchanges. I’m always watching, listening and vetting—probably more than most.

I am happy to announce that orientation for the 10 candidates chosen will be commencing on May 6th through May 10th. There will be structured onboarding with speakers currently on the team to both welcome them and share some of the highlights of the company’s philosophy.

The new sales force team is positioned in Seattle, Atlanta, Arizona, Detroit and Dallas. Many have strong backgrounds selling dental implants. Others bring knowledge in medical/dental devices and one is a dental hygienist with fine-tuned skill sets in periodontics, with another who was a Research Scientist in the Department of Periodontics at the University of Washington. I have recommended that we create a very specific job description for this extremely talented recruit. We are currently developing this for him, adding more value for the dentists that utilize the products and services offered by IBS.

It was a pleasure for me to contribute to the process and I’m proud to announce that this project was not only completed on time, but actually a few days ahead of schedule. Some of the secrets to this successful endeavor:

· Working cooperatively as a team

· Not opening too many markets at once

· Daily open communication regarding candidate status

· Paying close attention to how each job applicant managed each stage of the process

· Not one of my ads made mention of salary or perks, just factual information referencing the position along with the phrase “Competitive base salary/generous performance-based commission scale.”

· Making sure that all prospective job candidates were kept abreast of where they are in the process

· The majority of the responses were from truly interested, career-focused job candidates who were more interested in the “health” of the company and their sincere desire to grow with the organization. Stability seemed to be the one word I heard the most and the Uniqueness of the company was also of great interest

It does take the harmonious cooperation of a “Village” in order to successfully build a strong Dream Team! This was an ambitious undertaking for me, considering that I managed this project while maintaining my other business obligations successfully.

At first, I thought it would be a bit of a stretch for me to enter into a slightly different genre than I have been accustomed to, but it wasn’t that far removed from what I have been managing for my private dental practices all these years. It was a very rewarding experience that I enjoyed, and it appears as though IBS was pleased too. I’m now seeking an Experienced Business Assistant to support the COO here in the states.

Does Your Practice Have a Culture Guide?

This is a “must have” when conducting a face-to-face interview

Is your team 100% clear with everything that contributes to your culture, along with the message you wish to stand behind for your practice, the team, as well as the message that you will be sending out to the community?
This document should include the practice philosophy and flavor of your practice. What is your practice watchword? Do you have a Mission Statement and is your team aware of what it is? The dialog within it should be rich with the soft skills that you see as necessary requirements for every team member to honor, respect and adhere to.
Some examples:
  • Autonomy when it comes to sharing private information with other employees (like their salary structure).
  • How to resolve disputes and disagreements with fellow teammates.
  • What are our main priorities as we service our patients?
 Consider utilizing this short but comprehensive overview as a vital piece to present and discuss with job candidates PRIOR to even hiring them.  The more information that is shared up front, the more successful the final hire will be.  Ask them if they are okay with the culture you have created and continue to nurture within the walls of your practice.  Confirm with them that they do not have a problem respecting the protocols that are in place.
Many interviewees will acquiesce for the moment, but later feel as though they will not be personally able to agree with the structures of the practice as outlined. It is far more important to know this up front, rather than investing the time and effort to integrate a new employee when they may never feel comfortable aligning with your culture.
My recommendation is to have them review your outline during the interview itself. Then ask if they are comfortable to sign off and agree to its content, at which point they will either agree or choose to move on.  This is not a binding agreement, but it will give the job candidate pause to think about whether or not they can move forward with the process, understanding that this will be the culture that they are entering.  Some will find it totally acceptable while others might feel as though they can’t see themselves conforming to the cultural style you have established for your practice.

The State of the Dental Job Market

Adjusting hiring to fit the market

Working in this arena as I have for many years, I closely observe the trends and the highs and lows that occur in the job market. It will swing to the side of employers and then swing back to the side of the employees, and all spots in between.

Currently the opportunities, particularly in healthcare, are voluminous, with open positions from hygiene to clinical assistant and administrative personnel to marketing assistants.  The requests I have been receiving for my help with placement have been coming from all parts of the country from employers basically experiencing the same challenges.

“I need help. Reliable, experienced and highly professional job candidates. Where are they, and how can I afford what they are requesting?”

If locating, integrating and maintaining a strong team wasn’t tough enough, it is now getting tougher. Like most other aspects of business, it’s governed by supply and demand and unfortunately when the supply is weak the demands become strong.

While I often find myself talking my clients down from the ledge based on the stress and challenges of building and maintaining a great team, there is still no need to ruminate. If you haven’t had a firm grip on your hiring methods or systems, now is the time you need to instill them more than ever before.

Learn to recognize the sincere, logical and sensible job seekers.  Those that are not entirely focused on dollars and perks. Those that are not looking at you as a stepping stone or leverage until something better comes along, but those candidates that truly have value and the best credentials to assume the position you are wanting to fill.

It’s often a “knee-jerk” reaction when desperation is at hand for employers to offer the moon and the stars and outrageous salaries just to get a new hire on board.  They will even throw a number out there that causes them buyer’s remorse and loss of sleep simply to get the help.  They will offer everything from travel expenses to 2 weeks of paid vacation for less than a year of employment, not to mention a salary that they know will be difficult for them to deliver.  Hence, one of the main reasons that we experience the employee turnover that we do in our industry.

While I highly support rewarding tenured, valued employees (and the sky’s the limit here) it is never wise to overcompensate based on fear and scarcity. Think of the loyal employees that have been with you for a while.  Those that have done a great job for you over time, have had your back, support you, your patients, their team members and your practice. Have you acknowledged them lately? Don’t ever take your long-term employees for granted and please consider them when you onboard new ones. I understand that there can be some level of desperation considering your existing team could be running short-handed, having to chug that much faster and as a result, they too are anxious for help.

I have had numerous conversations lately with job seekers that are adding dollars to their price tags simply based on the fact that we are in the midst of an employee shortage. Those of you that know or have worked with me know that I am very turned off by applicants that are totally or mostly money-driven.

I continue to believe that fair wages are heavily based on skill sets, attitude, work history and market; and although historically when the supply of anything is down the cost increases, I do believe that it is important to look beyond the hire and never forget those team members that have come through first.

The Progressive Salary Program that I developed years ago is a great way to responsibly integrate new hires. It’s a system for “all seasons” and one that is a balance for both the incoming team member and the employer.

Watch for information to follow as I will be giving a series of (free) webinars on this topic along with many others that will surely resolve some of the issues we all struggle with when it comes to hiring and related subjects.

 

 

Interviews Are Not Interrogations

No time for the “third degree”

As we close out another year and begin to lay the groundwork for a new one, I would like to address an area that seems to be more and more prevalent—that is the purpose of the initial face to face interview and what my observations have been this past year. I’m uncertain if this is the result of anxiety of the process itself, entering into it with a negative outlook rather than an open mind or simply an impatience to collect quick answers rather than garnering valuable information in order to make an educated decision for both the potential employee and employer which enables both to gather important facts to lay the groundwork for the rest of the process.

While the purpose of an initial interview is to share and gather information between the potential employee and employer, we must not lose sight of what this meeting is to accomplish. “I love being interviewed” or “I love conducting an interview” are statements that are rarely if ever stated by the interviewer or interviewee. The face to face encounter is a very important segment of the interview process and one we shouldn’t take lightly and rush through. It is the time for both parties to get their first exposure of one another and the first opportunity to share information regarding the practice culture, style and philosophy along with the skill sets, abilities and temperament. This hour or so is meant to be an uninterrupted time to capture some valuable traits, so preparing well and making sure it is a safe place to share is important.

One of the very first considerations is to set “the stage” for the interview. This requires creating an environment where it is safe and comfortable and where the exchange of information is open and honest. You want to establish an atmosphere that promotes openness and complete honestly as the approach taken will make a tremendous difference for both the job seeker and interviewer. What I am experiencing are verbal exchanges that are clearly causing a smokescreen that will often cause job candidates to run the other way and potential employers chose to move on to other candidates. How does this happen? It occurs when the “tone” of the conversation becomes more of an interrogation rather than a healthy and informative think tank.

“Why did you leave your last job?” “I’m concerned that you have never worked with our software.” “It is important for you to understand exactly how we set up for an implant.” While these are all valid questions that certainly need to be addressed as the process moves forward, there is more to discuss and establish up front. And job seekers, questioning salary, benefits, vacation arrangements and sick pay are subjects that should not take precedence during this initial interview. When statements of this nature monopolize the discussion, it tends to become more of an interrogation and less of a “getting-to-know-you” opportunity. What about– “What interested you in the field of dentistry?” “What are your long- and short-term goals for your career?” or “Doctor, what is it that you hope I will bring to support the health and growth of your practice?”

Sadly, many great employer/employee connections have been known to come to an abrupt halt based on focusing on topics that should be managed later in the process. Perhaps my bringing this to your attention will cause many of you to look at the purpose of the initial interview in a different light, thus rescuing what could be the perfect, long-term hiring commitment based on the ability to identify the strong viable candidates and the practice cultures that are ideal for the new team member.

The Cell Phone “Connection”

Ah, the cell phone!

How did we ever manage without it?

Well, we did for hundreds of years and many lived to talk about it.

One of the many frustrations that I hear from clients is the “relationship” their team members have to their phones. My clients share: “They need them by their side all day long” or “The employees with children are always insisting that it is imperative for them to have access to their phones in the event of an emergency” or “I only use my phone during breaks and during lunch” is the promise of many.

But how many team members are truly disciplined enough to restrict their phone usage when there are no firm cell usage practice rules?

How did we ever exist without cell phones back in the 60’s or 70’s? How did we care for our families, check in with our spouses, learn that our mother needed an emergency appendectomy?

They called the office and asked to be connected to you either immediately or if it wasn’t necessarily a critical situation, then as soon as you, the employee, had an opportunity to call them back. This is how it was accomplished during the pre-cell phone era.

While some employers have successfully managed to develop these office protocols, there are still many that have lost control and subsequently the ability to restrict cell phone usage. The Morning Huddle Phone Protocol is one that I endorse and is observed in many practices. This requires relinquishing all cell phones into one common location, away from the business of the day including all patient interaction. And would you believe that the teams that follow these

guidelines manage very well. No children are neglected, no parents or husbands stress due to not being able to get a message to you at work, and yet no emergency calls go unanswered.

This is managed very simply. All it takes is a phone call to the office with the caller either leaving a detailed message for the recipient of the call, or perhaps the timing is such that the person who is meant to receive the call happens to answer it as it comes in. Nonetheless, this is a much more efficient way to manage calls as well as assuring that many more messages get to the right person immediately. After all it’s highly unlikely that one can carry a phone around in their pocket and continue to be an effective employee.

Let’s face it, even on vibrate the timing to take the call must be perfect. It’s difficult to answer a cell phone during a procedure, while checking out patients, answering the business line or simply when trying to stay on schedule.

I know we have all been on fast-track since technology has played a big role in our lives, but I do believe that there are some situations where we need to allow technology to take a back seat and instill old values and go back to simpler times.

Transparency

A business practice that seems to be disappearing

“Transparency” is a word we are hearing more and more today, whether it be related to politics, everyday life or in business. Along with transparency, I like to include good old-fashioned healthy communication and valuable exchange of ideas. Technology has enabled us to communicate in several additional formats that were not available to us as recently as 20 years ago. Emails and texts are a lot more convenient and quicker than face-to-face communication and even voice-to-voice interaction is becoming an archaic form of interaction. I feel this has added an additional layer of stress to the current climate of dental team development/maintenance.

From my vantage point I have observed a considerable amount of non-transparency and in some cases, avoidance of sharing and addressing issues that were once approached via reasonable and considerate personal interaction. There appears to be some avoidance of sharing information to eliminate any form of possible confrontation. Texting a message from an employee to an employer that they will not be in today. Really? Or even worse, texting a message to an employer that they will not be back to work–ever! The convenience of non-confrontational interaction appears to be more and more widespread and this includes employers as well. Although I have never been comfortable supporting the dismissal of an employee in a very clandestine manner, I used to feel that in many cases there were no choices but to handle things on the QT. I’ll be totally transparent to admit that in the past I felt that in some instances there were not many options to manage the replacement of an employee unless it was handled secretly. Today I have come to realize that this difficult business decision can be approached differently.

There is nothing more stressful to an employee to learn that their employer is secretly looking to replace them. The release of this information can show up in numerous ways as many of us have been on either side of the process.

Quite frankly, over the years I’ve had a change of heart and no longer support nor understand why it must be done in this fashion. Before the proverbial rug is pulled out from under someone, initially I have always encouraged the need to share the performance concerns with the employee, along with giving them the tools and the opportunity to correct their shortcomings. If the necessity for dismissal stems from disciplinary reasons that although once addressed are not resolved, then this would be due cause to sever the business relationship as well. Nonetheless, secretive measures are almost never the way to go and I now feel strongly that there are better ways to address this.

My proposal is to apply some transparency, open healthy communication, and an approach of “honesty first” prior to cautiously getting the word out that you are seeking a replacement for a current employee. If the attempts of cross-correction doesn’t appear to resolve the issue at hand, then a one-on-one conversation regarding the need for both parties to move on in a healthy, respectful manner might be in order.

I will often hear a client voicing their concerns about sabotaging the practice, abusing other team members, or just downright leaving the practice. Truthfully, I have found that transparency and honesty does make a tremendous difference. There is suddenly a level of respect that flows from the employee in question, an appreciation for the openness and the fact that they were shown respect for an uncomfortable situation.

That’s not to say that they still might leave based on being disappointed or hurt, but the employer can’t ever feel as though they didn’t try their best to make a difficult situation as comfortable as possible. As

for the existing employees, it sends a message of “our employer tried his/her best and handled things as fairly as possible”.

We tend to forget the effect that this all has on the valuable employees that are excellent performers but that could possibly fear for their jobs.

Don’t Say No to Excellence

Passing on the right employee for the wrong reasons

So here is the scenario:

I get a call from a dentist requesting my guidance and the conversation goes something like this:

“Deb, I interviewed an amazing clinical assistant whose talent and attitude just knocked my socks off, yet I just can’t bring myself to hire her.”

“What is the reason?” I ask.

“Well, she shared with me that she plans on applying to dental school within the next 3 years and I can’t justify hiring someone (though so well qualified) if I have to say goodbye to them in a couple of years.”

“Let me understand. So you were both aligned with the salary offering, hours, days of the week, job description, etc., and you are passing on offering the position since she can only give you 3 years?”

“That about sums it up”, said my client.

Here was my response:

First off, she was forthright enough to share this information with you as many would not. This speaks highly of her character.

The fact that she could only assure you of 3 years of employment (even if it were less) is not a viable reason to not consider her for hire, and these are a few reasons why.

* The response I make quite often is, “I’d rather my clients have 3 years with a valuable, talented and reliable employee than 13 years with a less than adequate one”.

* Training a well-rounded employee, one that is passionate and enthusiastic, is usually a smooth and easy process.

* Having someone like this on your team will help to maintain a strong practice and team, along with serving as an excellent example for the group.

* Infusing your team with this level of employee can enhance the value of your practice and the care your patients receive, as well as potentially garnering positive internet reviews from your current patients.

* Because you both have been open and honest with each other, sharing transparencies and open communication will mean that when the time comes for her to move on, you will find no one will be more helpful or knowledgeable when it comes to filling their position than this employee.

* Their position within your practice will set standards and protocols that can then be replicated, transferred and passed on to her successor. Chances are she will help in locating and evaluating her replacement–I see this all the time.

* Her contributions and demeanor will very possibly add to the positive work environment for the rest of your team.

* Employees that are interested in “bettering” themselves should be supported and commended and quite frankly, celebrated!

In times like this, when there are not enough employees to go around, please don’t miss out on what could be the best hiring decision you’ve ever made!

What Do You Want?

Preparing for appropriate compensation

One of the topics that I see recurring on a regular basis in many social media forums is that of dental team compensation. It’s a subject that seems to show up more often than any other.

Questions such as “what do you pay your dental assistant?” to “when do you give increases?” While these inquiries are important, I find that the one major addition to the hiring process is simply going back to an area that should be obvious–yet so many simply skip it. Few prepare for this, the most important facet of the hiring process.

How many are aware of their market?

The range of salaries for the various positions?

How many have even an idea as to how much the position they are wanting to fill is worth?

I have some concrete protocols in place for my clients, but before we can even move forward with the process, I ask that they not only check their budget, but also conduct some due diligence related to their specific market. I’m not sure how we all drifted off from these very basic standard guidelines, but somehow we often count on the job candidate to set the standards.

Compensation based on what the job candidate made in their past position, what they “want” to make or what they “need” to make is not only a completely illogical approach, but one that will typically result in major problems down the road.

In preparation for hire, consider some valuable diligence so that YOU set the stage.

What’s your budget?

What does the job entail?

Are they the only business office employee, clinical assistant or hygienist in the practice? Working alone can require more responsibilities and could affect salary.

Are there specific certifications required?

Are you asking this employee to participate out of the traditional 8-5 4 day/week schedule? Yes, this can warrant additional compensation in some cases.

I work with my clients on touching many points prior to making the final hire, but if you consider applying one of the above parameters, I can assure you that you will be ahead of the curve. Heck, you may even find that you are much more successful onboarding new employees and experience a lot less costly turnover.

Team Mutiny is Nothing to Take Lightly

Losing several team members in a short amount of time is probably NOT a coincidence

Losing employees is a part of doing business, but receiving resignation notices from several team members a few weeks apart is a “sign”.

Granted, things happen. Spouses/significant others are transferred, employees retire, team members want to work closer to home, and yes, there are those that know they are just not a fit or are simply not happy.  But when 2 or 3 employees give their notice over the course of a few weeks or a month you need to know this is not coincidental and is something to look at and explore.

There is a catalyst that is causing this “chain” of events, and though it may be difficult to look at and uncover the reason this is happening, it’s important that the employer closely review why they appear to be dropping like flies.  If this syndrome is not addressed I must sadly tell you that it will happen again. 

There are several areas to investigate and some deep introspective thoughts that must occur in order to stop the bleeding.  This is not an easy thing to do, but without properly addressing the problem and identifying the catalyst, it will unfortunately be but a matter of time before it happens again.

How are your leadership skills? How are your communication skills? Do you support an “open door” policy with your team members when it comes to voicing their opinions and concerns? Do you recognize their contributions to the practice (as well as watch for those that tend to take advantage and lean on others whenever they can)? Is the practice environment one that is democratic with mutual respect all around? 

And what about your team?  Do you feel that they work well and in harmony with each another or do you see where one team member is bullying the others even if it appears to be minimal from your vantage point? When you look at your team objectively can you see where one team member is more assertive than the rest? And let’s be totally honest and up-front—are YOU afraid of this person to some degree, thus letting a lot of the negative behavior slide?

There have been many times when I can see this occurring within a practice and the client/dentist–although very much aware of this–excuses poor behavior just so that they don’t have to replace this person and go through the hassle, or they fear that they will sabotage the business if they are dismissed so they simply turn the other cheek rather than to address the issue.

So, if you have ever experienced a mutiny in your practice, please don’t look at this as a minor problem and simply replace those that have chosen to walk and not look back.  You might say, “I just located all the wrong people” and in some cases one or two bad apples can slip in, particularly if you are not managing the team properly. 

However, the odds of multiple poor hires are very slim and cannot be attributed to poor interviewing protocols, although on the rare occasion it can happen.  Check your practice climate, evaluate it honestly along with the culture you have created. Then self-examine your short-comings as you openly study your existing team members.

I’m a very positive thinker and tend to look at the bright side. Nonetheless, if you can relate to this scenario you need to be realistic and course correct accordingly.