Last updated on September 21st, 2019 at 01:37 pm

When hiring, are you waiting for a “Unicorn” candidate to wander into your office?

You know… that candidate with,

  • 10+ years of dental experience,
  • that knows how to do everything in a dental office,
  • is also great with patients,
  • is looking for the exact compensation package that you’re offering
  • and wants to stay with your practice until the day you retire…

Gee…wouldn’t that be grand?

And as we know, things don’t normally work out this way in the real world. If you happen to get lucky and find one of these “Unicorn” candidates that plug right into your office and do an overly amazing job, well great! Good for you! But, like unicorns it’s a rare thing (or really with unicorns themselves an impossible thing…), so if you’re depending on finding a “perfect” candidate every time, then you’re going to have difficulty building an effective team.

If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that good staff are made, not hired. Obviously, you have to start off with a workable candidate – but it’s up to YOU the business owner/executive to turn them into that perfect staff member.

(Related: 4 Tips for Hiring Great Front Office Staff)

With that said, how do you make great staff? And how do you create a core team of awesome staff long-term?

It starts with three key things:

1. Understand the people you’re hiring

Of course you want to keep good employees long-term and create an environment that breeds longevity… however, many dentists get too caught up with this in the hiring process. Not everybody you hire is going to stay with you for 20 years, and that’s okay.

Don’t interview someone like you’re trying to get them to commit to being married within the first 10 minutes of meeting them.

In reality, outside of doctors and possibly hygienists, most people do not apply for a dental office job with the idea that “This is going to be my lifelong career.” And this is especially true for the front office.

A good percentage will stay and make it a career, but they don’t necessarily know that when they first apply for the job. Many are just looking for a job to do right now while they figure out what they like, or they are working until they go back to school, etc.

That’s a part of the pool that you’re hiring from, and it’s key to understand that.

The important thing is that they have the right type of personality and work ethic for your office. We have a few articles I recommend on exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate:

Once you’ve found your candidate, then it’s up to your office to provide an environment that creates a real career path for them.  With a career in view, now you have a solid chance at making this person a long-term employee.

I’ve had dentists tell me something along the lines of: “I interviewed this great front desk candidate, but they said they wanted to go back to school in two years. So, I didn’t hire them.” Are you kidding me? If they fit the bill hire them! When one of your worst-case scenarios is two great, productive years from this person in your practice, it’s not a bad move!

Now, let’s flip this around for a second. If you asked someone what they want to do long-term and they answered, “I just hope I’m your receptionist making the same $15 per hour for the next 30 years.” …you probably wouldn’t hire them! Why? Well, apparently, they have no drive or ambition, and there is a good chance that lack of motivation will be reflected in their work. If they’re not driven themselves, how driven will they be to improve practice performance, customer service and so on?

2. Don’t be overly slow and careful during the hiring process

The hiring process should be quick. If you have good ads, criteria for judging resumes, an efficient interview process, and good training, then you should have no problem getting candidates in quickly. It won’t be a big headache.

With all of this in place, if you still make the rare mistake and hire someone that doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. You move on. No big deal.

The bigger problem is holding onto someone that’s non-productive and a bad fit for your office because you’re afraid of hiring and training a new employee.

(Related: The Do’s and Don’ts of Hiring Dental Office Staff)

You’re better off getting good candidates in and seeing who works out, instead of leaving that position unfilled for long periods of time waiting for the “unicorn” candidate or holding onto someone who isn’t a good fit.

3. Create an environment that encourages long-term employee retention.

If you focus on having a company culture that makes it easy to thrive and encourages long-term employment, people will want to stay. Not everyone will make it and/or stay long-term, but you will wind up with a core team of amazing, productive team members.

We mentioned ambition earlier. Well, if you’re going to hire ambitious, driven people, there has to be room for upward movement in your office.

A growing dental office has administrative positions that are incredibly valuable and could absolutely be worth as much or more salary than a hygienist. A highly competent office manager, for example, is the executive who runs your business while you’re practicing chairside. In any other business, this would be called the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and a good one can make a ton of revenue for your practice.

(Related: 6 Tips to Finding and Compensating a Great Hygienist)

But in order for there to be career potential, your practice must be growing. If you’re not growing, feel free to contact us for a free Practice Potential Analysis with an MGE consultant, and we can help you discover why you’re not growing and develop an action plan.

These valuable superstar team members oftentimes don’t come from where you’d expect. Maybe it’s that person who initially thought they’d only be there for a year while they finish school. Or an assistant who eventually got trained to become the office manager and is awesome now.

Training is key. If you’re going to make great employees, then it’s all about training – which is often overlooked in dentistry.

This needs to be a focus in your office. Someone in the practice (whether it’s you or an office manager) needs to be in charge of it and take the time.

We make training easy for you with our online training platform DDS Success. We provide job training for front office positions, team training courses and continuing education and leadership courses for the doctor. But still, someone in your practice needs to be putting a big focus on training new employees.

I hope this helps! If you have any questions, you can reach me at ChrisM@mgeonline.com.


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