How to find staff for your dental practice

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how to find staff for your dental practice
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Finding staff may be getting harder but you’ll definitely improve your chances if you know how to identify the best candidates and then conduct a topnotch job interview. By Kerry Faulkner

Expert recruiters say dentistry is experiencing an intense shortage of candidates making it more important than ever that practice managers interview well to ensure they secure the top candidates. 

Figures show there are 7500 practices across Australia and most advertised positions in the sector are for dental assistants, followed by dental assistant/receptionists, with the skills considered most critical for the sector being technical job-specific skills, communication, problem-solving and critical thinking, teamwork and resilience, and stress tolerance. 

Cornerstone Medical Recruitment CEO Samantha Miklos explains that in the past, most of their clients were businesses in regional and remote areas. However, with the current candidate shortage, more metropolitan practices—both large firms and smaller clinics—are turning to specialist recruiters to help them win the ‘war for talent’.    

She says collaborating with a recruiter who specialises in dentistry is the quickest way to get the best candidate for the job. 

“This is why a lot of clients reach out to a recruiter. We have the time and expertise to understand quickly whether a candidate would be a good culture fit for a certain practice,” she explains. 

“We work with a large passive market of candidates; many are waiting for the right opportunity to come up and often we have already been in communication with them for a year or more.  

“Therefore, you can have peace of mind that if we submit a candidate, we know them more thoroughly than you can get to know them in one interview. 

“We’ve also gained the trust of candidates to be able to ask the tougher questions.”

Shortlisting potential employees can be time-consuming and Miklos advises those doing their own recruiting, usually the dentist or practice manager, not to shortlist candidates by the skills and experience on their CV alone, but in combination with their attitude and passion.

This is why a lot of clients reach out to a recruiter. We have the time and expertise to understand quickly whether a candidate would be a good culture fit for a certain practice.

Samantha Miklos, CEO, Cornerstone Medical Recruitment 

Give them a phone call before shortlisting.  

“Thank them and have a quick conversation; ask why they applied, what they are looking for, is this a role that really stood out to them and why,” Miklos says. 

“As a dentist, you are giving a patient an experience, so there is a huge consultative element to what you do and sometimes the best, most experienced candidates may not have applied for a job for many years—so they will be great at dentistry but not in presenting an outstanding CV.”  

Miklos explains it’s imperative the job interview strike a good balance between an informal chat and a more formal question and answer scenario. The more at ease the candidate, the better the outcome of the interview.

“Some interviews can feel like an interrogation, but candidates want to know they can connect with their future colleagues and get a real feel for who they will be working with,” she says. 

“By making them feel comfortable at the start of the interview by building rapport, you can make it a much more enjoyable experience. 

“The informal chitchat part too is where you can gauge a person’s attitude, willingness to learn and cultural fit. 

“Of course, formal questions are important and it’s important to go into the interview with a plan of what you really want to understand about the candidate. 

“For example, asking about salary expectations in the first few minutes can be intimidating, however if this question was asked later in the interview, the candidate would be more at ease and understand the importance of this question. 

Some interviews can feel like an interrogation, but candidates want to know they can connect with their future colleagues and get a real feel for who they will be working with.

Samantha Miklos, CEO, Cornerstone Medical Recruitment

“In this candidate-short market, we’re finding more than ever that dentists have multiple opportunities on offer, and taking the time to make the interview experience an enjoyable one can mean that your best candidate and preferred potential employee leaves your clinic with the feeling that your job is the one they really want. 

“Sometimes candidates will choose the role where they were made to feel the most comfortable and they can see it being part of their future career.”

The structure Cornerstone recommends for the interview is start with ‘getting-to-know-you’ questions to understand where potential employees are in their careers and use example-based questions (see below). In addition, include these three highly recommended questions to help reveal candidates’ expectations. 

  • Tell us about the best dental assistant you’ve ever worked with and how did you best collaborate?
  • Tell us about a time when you went above and beyond for a patient? 
  • What are the top three things you’re looking for in your next role?

With your preferred candidates chosen and the introductory phone chat complete, it’s important that the in-person interview be conducted at the clinic where they can meet the principal dentist and practice manager, see how the team dynamic works and get a sense of what a typical day would look like. 

“Candidates want a chance to look at the equipment and the rooms and see how everything works in the practice,” Miklos says. 

“The biggest thing we see is that candidates want to be supported in a clinic. 

“So don’t just quiz them on their experience, speak about how the clinic runs as a team, how they are supported, any mentorship on offer and team dynamics and values. 

“A lot of practices miss this because they are focusing on the practicalities of the role, and we’ve found some candidates are leaving their current role because they lack any progression opportunities and feel stagnant.” 

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