Ask yourself ‘are you asking the right questions?’

When it comes to interviews, make sure they’re relevant to the job description… and you’ll get the answers you want to hear from the candidates

12 February, 2019 / management
 Susan Anderson Sharkey  

One of the big plus sides to social media in recent years has been the comparative ease of networking with colleagues in what has up until now seemed a pretty lonesome road much of the time where practice managers are concerned.

Facebook networking forums continue to be a great source of linking with other like-minded colleagues in the industry and, in particular, the many and varied practice manager forums that have opened up. It was while browsing one such forum recently that I came up with the topic for this month’s article. A lady had commented on the forum that they were hiring a deputy manager and were looking for advice on what questions to ask at interview. Having written previously under the title ‘The art of the interview’, I thought this could be a good follow-up to that earlier article.

To start with, the position of deputy manager will differ from practice to practice. No two practices are the same and each practice is run differently. Thankfully most dental practices nowadays have a practice manager, whether this be full-time or a manager who divides his/her time between surgery (clinical) and admin (non-clinical). However, it’s much rarer to have a deputy manager, someone who will stand in for the manager when they are either ill, on holiday or away from the practice.

In deciding what questions you want to/need to ask a prospective deputy manager candidate, you must first ask yourself what tasks you will require them to undertake?. What level of responsibility do you plan on them having? There’s no point in asking a question that is totally irrelevant to the job description, so first and foremost you need to write a job description with the roles and responsibilities of a deputy manager in your practice. After having written the job description, you will have to think of what skills and attributes are required for the role. Once you have these fundamentals in place, you are in a much stronger position of compiling a list of questions which will hopefully elicit answers that will let you know whether the candidate is right for the job. Let me give you an example.

One of the questions you have compiled is “Give me an example of a time when you have had to manage conflict between two members of staff and what was the outcome?” You ask the question and the candidate looks a bit flustered and admits that they haven’t actually had to manage conflict. And the reason they are flustered isn’t because of the question but because “managing conflict” was never mentioned as being part of the remit of the deputy manager. If it’s nothing to do with the remit and it’s not relevant then don’t ask the question, and furthermore don’t penalise the candidate if they don’t have experience in a field in which they are not expected to work.

Of course, there are general questions that are always good to ask to get the interview rolling, such as:

“Why do you wish to be considered for this role?”

“What attributes and qualities can you bring to the position?”

“What have you done to prepare yourself for this interview?”

“We have another four candidates, why should we hire you instead of the others?”

“What do you know about our company?”

These are all pretty generic questions that can be used to interview for any position. They are a good starting point for getting the candidate into the way of answering your questions and provide some general insight into the candidate before moving onto the questions that pertain to the particular job in hand.

So, to summarise:

  • Use the job description to formulate the interview questions.
  • Keep the questions relevant to the position.
  • Start with a couple of generic questions to help to put the candidate at ease.

And finally (and this is the fun part), by all means pitch a curve ball at the end. Ask the candidate something they’re not expecting. At a recent interview when it got down to the final two candidates I posed the question to them “What would you do if you walked out of here and found £1,000 on the pavement?” It may seem a totally irrelevant question, but I wanted to see how they reacted when they were taken off guard and posed with a moral dilemma. The funny thing is, when I asked a number of members of staff the same question, not all of them gave the “correct” answer!

“and by all means pitch a curve ball at the end. Ask the candidate something they are not expecting”

If you wish to contact Susie about this article or other practice management issues she can be reached at

Tags: 2019 / ask / questions

Categories: Magazine / Management

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