You’ve just hired Susan as your chairside assistant. You’re not exactly thrilled with your choice, but with the dwindling pool of potential dental assistants, you’ve done the best you could to find someone you feel you could work with. She’s had some experience at other dental offices, she said, and she feels pretty capable of doing the things you told her you needed done as your chairside assistant. You’re too busy to check on the references, but she brought copies of recommendation letters from previous employers that looked pretty good. She’s also had some experience in retail, so you think she might work out talking with patients about dentistry when you’re not around. The staff met her briefly, and afterwards they told you they thought she was nice. You asked her how soon she could start working, and she told you she could start tomorrow; you’re pleased with her availability and eagerness. You noticed she was a little quiet during her interview, but she seemed agreeable with most things you talked about. When she came in for the interview, she was in jeans and a sweater, and her hair was a little windblown, but after all, you did schedule the interview the same day as when she called.
Mistake #1: You hired someone you weren’t excited about because you really needed that new assistant now.
Did you REALLY need that new assistant? Not every practice needs that “extra” assistant, whether it’s the second, third, or even fourth assistant. Make sure to evaluate how that person will be contributing to the bottom line of the practice, not the overhead. Many doctors like to have that extra assistant as “insurance” in case someone’s sick … which usually results in someone taking sick days!
Is that assistant needed NOW? When an employee leaves the practice, whether by their choice or yours, it’s almost a knee-jerk reflex to re-hire – quickly. First, evaluate why the person left. Sleep on it. Talk it over with your team. Learn the lessons. You may avoid future costly mistakes by giving this area some careful consideration.
Not EXCITED? Oops. There was something “in your gut” telling you not to hire the person. What was it? Talk it out with someone you trust. There IS a reason for your feeling, and it’s probably right. Pay attention to these hunches and feelings, even if you can’t put your finger on it right at the moment. Save yourself being 20/20 in your hindsight after ignoring a hunch.
A “dwindling pool” … yes, many of us have experienced only a few applicants to our open position, making it sometimes a choice between the “lesser of two evils” in that new employee. Don’t do it! Consider hiring someone with good verbal and problem-solving skills, someone interested in dentistry, has excellent attention to detail, eager to learn, and presents themselves in a positive and healthy light. Ads in newspapers – although our most common approach to finding new employees – usually limits us to attracting only those people currently unemployed. The best employees are employed, so consider attracting the right person to your practice that fits the profile of what you’re looking for. Sources can include existing patients, light industry, and through contacts both personally and professionally.
Mistake #2: She “said” she had experience at other dental offices … did you check?
Never, never, never hire someone whose references you haven’t checked on. Make sure they actually worked there and left on good terms. Confirm that the letters written were actually written by the doctor or office manager. I’ve personally experienced these being forged, even though they “looked” real. Also, confirm dates of employment, starting and beginning pay, and availability for re-hire. If they are for a registered or licensed position in your office, confirm with your State Board they there are no outstanding violations. More importantly these days, complete a background check on your finalists. You might be surprised – and glad you spent the small amount of money to do it. Too many offices (including myself) hired someone that ended up making you a victim, too.
Mistake #3: Never hire someone without working with them for at least a day.
She said she though she could do the things you need her to do. How do you know if she can? Always have that person work with you for a day. In most situations, you can have it be a “working interview” and do it without pay, but pay a fair wage, if you must.
Even though the person may not be very productive with you the first day, it’s important to see how comfortable they are learning, working with your team, and what skills that actually DO possess. If red flags show up immediately, you don’t HAVE to keep them around the whole day. Best to sever ties quickly than continue punishing yourself! Be glad you found out now rather than after you’ve already hired them and now have to break the relationship they now have with your office.
Next, we’ll take a look at the remainder of the pitfalls to avoid when hiring that new employee – and save yourself not only headaches and staff problems, but thousands of dollars!