The Art of the Interview
A brief look at the when, where and how involved in interviewing candidates for your dental practice
In my previous article ‘To hire or not to hire’ I wrote about recruitment and how to attract the right candidates. In this issue, I want to look more closely at the actual interview process, although we will still only be scratching the surface of what is a huge topic in itself.
By the time you come round to actually interviewing prospective candidates you will already have spent quite some time on the recruitment process. You will have written a job specification, a job description, advertised and screened the CVs of possible candidates for interview. The next step is to decide the ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘how’ the interview is going to be conducted. In the past 25 years, I’ve interviewed in many different circumstances. One of the most memorable and unusual was when I worked for a dental software company
and we were interviewing for a position on Friday 14 September 2001. The interview was scheduled for 11am, precisely the time that the two-minute silence for 9/11 was being held. We called the candidate into the room, sat round the table and started the interview by saying precisely nothing for two minutes! It was one of the most surreal situations I’ve ever been in and, yes, the candidate got the job, but that’s another story!
A lunchtime interview can work well, so long as you’re not interviewing while munching into your ham sandwich
So, is there a perfect time to interview? Probably not, but there are some times that are better than others. I would always try to avoid interviewing after a hectic day in the practice. You’re tired by then, concentration isn’t as good and you’re less likely to pick up on things that you may have, had you been more alert.
A lunchtime interview can work well, so long as you’re not interviewing while munching into your ham sandwich (sound familiar?). The plus side of a lunchtime interview, if held in the surgery, is that it gives the candidate a chance to have a look around and perhaps meet other members of staff. Remember, the interview process is a two-way thing. The person being interviewed is sizing you up as much as you’re sizing them up and they may take one look at the place and want to run a mile!
All joking aside, we would be wrong to assume that the interview process is one sided. On occasions when I have been the interviewee, I have viewed it as an opportunity to meet the person/people and decide whether or not I feel I would like to be involved in their organisation.
So, where should the interview take place? We mentioned above the benefits of conducting the interview in the practice, which gives the candidate a chance to see where they may
be working. Probably most of the interviews you carry out are for the position of a dental nurse, so there are definite benefits to keeping the interview in the practice.
If you decide to interview in the practice, do so in a place where you will not be interrupted by other members of staff or the telephone ringing. If you are interviewing in the waiting room and there is a television on, switch it off or you will find the candidate (and yourself) glancing every now and then to see what’s happening on the Jeremy Kyle show (okay, so you’re probably not interviewing at 10 o’clock in the morning, but you get the point). Visual and audio distractions can make the interview process more difficult and noise should be kept to a minimum.
You may decide you want to interview outwith the practice, in which case you will have to select a place and time that is suitable to all of you. I say ‘all’ because there should always be at least two of you in the interview process, one to talk and the other to take notes, which brings me nicely onto the next part.
So, let’s say we’ve decided that we will be interviewing in the practice, in a vacant room at 1pm during our lunch hour. I’m sure many interviews are conducted on a wing and a prayer, with no real thought given beforehand as to what you’re going to say. Nowadays, we can’t leave the ‘how’ to chance as there are so many rules and regulations regarding what can/cannot be asked/said during an interview.
Rule number one: keep it simple. There is no need to confuse either yourself or the candidate. Make a list of four or five questions which you will be asking to each candidate (open-ended questions) and then have another question, a random question relevant to the person who is being interviewed. For example: “I see from your CV that you enjoy skiing. Where do you ski?” The answer in itself isn’t really all that important but it gets the candidate to talk.
As I said previously, two of you is ideal to interview and sitting in an informal structure to help put the candidate at their ease. Allow them, in fact encourage them, to ask questions and build this into your time allocated for the interview. Don’t drag the interview out unnecessarily and don’t go down sidelines, no matter how interesting they may seem. If you like the candidate you can invite them back for a second interview and explore the sidelines at that point.
So, let’s summarise what is an absolutely huge topic of which I have only described the very basics. However, these points are a good place to start:
- Don’t interview when you’re tired
- The practice is as good a place as any to interview and has definite benefits of doing so
- Make the interview room relaxing and free from distractions
- Keep to the script, ask each candidate the same questions and don’t stray
About the author
Susie Anderson-Sharkey has worked in various capacities in the dental industry since 1991 and has been practice manager at Dental fx since 2006.