The 5 most common hiring mistakes that are hurting your practice

July 23, 2013

In this new practice management column, Penny Limoli of Limoli and Associates shares tips and advice to help your dental practice thrive. This month, she kicks off the series with advice to help ensure you hire the right people who can help make that happen.

In this new practice management column, Penny Limoli of Limoli and Associates shares tips and advice to help your dental practice thrive. This month, she kicks off the series with advice to help ensure you hire the right people who can help make that happen.

"Practicing dentistry would be so much more enjoyable if I didn't have to deal with hiring and retaining good employees." 

Ever feel that way about your practice? I’ve worked with many dentists who do. Few dentists are born with the skills to recruit and hire top talent. 

In too many instances, we've seen dentists choose the first, somewhat qualified, candidate who rolls along.  This is what I like to refer to as a "crisis hire."

In this first of this practice management series on best dental hiring practices, I’ve identified the most common mistakes dentists make in dental hiring-and what you can do to avoid them.

Hiring mistake No. 1: Only recruiting new team members when there’s an open position.

Because most dental practices are solo operations, there isn't a push to grow and expand at the level that larger practices or businesses do. 

A few decades ago when I was a senior in college, there were "recruiters" who came to our campus to not only let us know what their companies had to offer, they were also looking for those bright young graduates to interview and potentially place in their company. 

These companies, which ranged from local businesses to Fortune 500 companies, weren't always in hiring mode.  However, they were aware that recruiting is necessary because they know change is constant. 

Employees take other jobs, move, or sometimes turnover occurs because of promotions or lack of performance.  Don't wait until you need to replace someone to build your database of resumes or names. 

Dentists and office managers should always carry business cards and give those cards to any potential candidates they encounter.  Let potential candidates know you may not be hiring at the moment, but you would love to have their resume in the event of an opening because you think they’d be a great fit for your team.

Hiring mistake No. 2: Not having a clear idea of the person you want to hire. 

First and foremost, hire for character, attitude and initiative.  These are traits and values that cannot be taught on the job. 

Most of the issues we see and coach in clients’ offices have to do with attitudes, immaturity or an inability to connect and communicate with others. 

If there is a lack of performance in a position, it will be easily corrected with structured training.  The issues that persist beyond that usually mean the person isn't right for the position. 

Wouldn't it be great to avoid many of these mistakes?  Make a list of your ideal employee as well as your expectations. Remember, you are looking for ideal candidates (there aren't perfect candidates) who closely match the culture you have built or are creating for your team.

Hiring mistake No. 3: Not having a set hiring process.

Just like you have a process to proceed with treatment planning for your patients, you should have a hiring process to follow when a position opens in your practice.

Put this process in writing. In our work with clients to recruit and hire the best team members available, we have every candidate complete a job application, even if they have sent in a resume.  An application gathers those details that aren't on a resume. 

For example, many candidates do not send in professional references with resumes. The job application should ask for those references. 

It also should include an area where the candidate lets you know whether he or she has ever been terminated from a position or convicted of a felony, as well as give you permission to have a background check and drug testing performed. 

If a candidate won't complete the application, you simply have been notified, early on, that this person isn't going to be a fit for your team.

Want more practice management tips from Penny Limoli? Watch this video for advice on how to maximize each patient visit:

Hiring mistake No. 4: Not using behavioral/work style assessments in the hiring process.   

Most of the positions in a dental practice, from assistants to administrators, require a friendly, persuasive personality along with a strong attention to detail. 

In addition, you have to be cautious how many dominant personalities you bring in to the office (especially if the doctors have a less dominant personality and work style).

Unless you are hiring for the office manager position, you need to hire team members who want to follow someone else's rules, but not necessarily help create the rules and enforce them. 

Using assessment tools will help doctors quickly spot the ideal candidates as well as the best training practices to assist in getting those individuals up to speed as quickly as possible.

Hiring mistake No. 5: Expecting to hire top talent at the lowest salary

While the economy is definitely tighter today than it was 10 years ago, dentists who want to recruit, hire and retain top talent will not be able to do so at the bottom of the pay scale. 

Be sure not to confuse top talent with years of experience.  Often the best candidates have only a small amount of experience but are very coachable.  Most dental practices should have their gross staff salaries at a range of 20 to 22% of collections. 

What should you pay? Contact a local hiring agency and ask what their candidates expect.  Also, tear down the walls and have discussions with your colleagues in dentistry as well as other health care professionals.  You want your salaries to be competitive, but not at the top of the pay scale either.

You've likely heard the saying, “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”.  Top talent is not only interested in a competitive wage, they also want to be part of an organization with a team that feels more like family.  After all, this is small business. 

To that end, be sure to offer not only a competitive wage, but also a culture where team members are given opportunities to get together outside of the office.  This could be a cookout, participating in a race or charitable event, a holiday party, a CE event or even a trip to the local bowling alley. 

Over the next few months I will cover more best dental hiring practices in this series with Dental Products Report.  Future articles will include: recruiting and hiring protocols, how to use work style/personality assessments, interviewing methods and how to make a job offer.  Stay tuned!