Hiring the Right People: The Value of a Skills Assessment

It's difficult to know for sure how any given job applicant will perform if hired. That's why one expert says you shouldn't wait til you hire them to find out.

First in a two-part series.

One of the most important aspects of operating a successful dental practice is assembling a top-notch staff. That means thought and consideration must be given to a thorough and well-structured hiring process.

There are many steps in an effective hiring process, as will be noted in this column and in Part 2 of this series next week. But perhaps the most important is a Skills Assessment.

What’s a Skills Assessment? Think of it as a dress rehearsal—an on-site dress rehearsal where you and your staff can see a job candidate perform the duties they will be expected to complete on a daily basis should they be hired.

But there’s a problem. Ann Marie Gorczyca, DMD, MPH, MS, owner of Gorczyca Orthodontics, and author of “Beyond the Morning Huddle,” doesn’t know if dentists ever conduct a Skills Assessment.

“We’re a service industry,” Gorczyca says. “And we all need to be engaged in thinking what we can do to make the office better. And in the Skills Assessment, you will find out if the candidate is engaged.”

Doing the Assessment

There are multiple steps in an effective hiring process (discussed later), but once you complete a verbal interview, it’s time to invite the leading candidate back for a Skills Assessment. For example, if you’re looking to hire a receptionist, invite them to come to the office and answer the phone several times so you can hear how they sound. But, do not pay them for that time.

“The reason you don’t pay them is an attorney told me that the minute you pay somebody, even if it’s minimum wage for one hour for a working interview, you have a legal responsibility to them,” Gorczyca says. “So heaven forbid something happens in your office, you would be held accountable.”

If it’s important to assess the candidate’s skill level on a patient, use a typodont. That way you avoid potential liability if the procedure goes awry.

Gorczyca says a Skills Assessment is important because it can save a lot of time and aggravation later. She recalls having often heard orthodontists ask the questions, “When is she going to learn? When is she going to be able to do the skill I hired her to do?” But, says Gorczyca, not everyone is trainable or capable.

“People have different talents, and you may be asking someone to do a specific thing that they do not have the talent for,” she explains. “So, when you do the skills assessment you’re going to find out if they’re a skilled receptionist or if they have manual dexterity. And it’s better you find out in the skills assessment than on the first day of the job after you’ve hired them.”

Other Key Steps

A Skills Assessment is just one part of a thorough hiring process. Gorczyca summarizes the other steps.

It starts with collecting resumes. Gorczyca recommends doing so via email and not including the name or location of your practice. “I have a friend who is a podiatrist in San Francisco. And she posted a job for an office manager. Within one hour she had 500 resumes. Now, imagine if those people had all called your office, or walked into your office, what mayhem that would have been.”

Once you narrow all the resumes down to approximately 10 candidates, phone each candidate and ask questions such as: Why are you interested in working for us? When would you be available for an interview? Does our pay scale work for you? “State what the pay scale is, because if someone is unrealistic about what you’re offering, or if for whatever reason they’re out of your range, you don’t want to waste your time with that person.”

Then check references, but do not simply phone the number listed on the candidate’s resume. Instead, call the number where they indicated they worked and ask for the HR person, or the office manager. “A lot of resumes have questionable references on them,” Gorczyca says. “And you want to weed out that this is not a personal friend or a relative. You want to speak to the person directly in the office.” Then ask the most important question: Would you rehire this person?

If the candidate makes it through those first few steps, it’s time to invite them to the office for an interview and a meet and greet. It’s an important way to record your first impression; your gut feeling about how patients will perceive the candidate. That step, and several others that follow in a successful hiring process, will be detailed in Part 2 of this series next week.