Attracting good staff is getting harder

17 June, 2019 / editorial

Many dentists are just not good at recruiting 

It is noticeable how often the same jobs are advertised again and again. Some practices don’t seem to be able to recruit the right staff and thereafter, to retain them. 

High turnover can be hugely expensive in terms of the disruption it causes as well as the time and cost to recruit and train new staff members. It also gives a very bad impression to patients, who like continuity and the feeling of belonging to an established, stable practice. Good clinicians and support staff can very much pick and choose in today’s environment. 

Given that the revenue of the practice can only be generated by the clinical staff, it is obvious that the right clinicians and people who support them are crucial. This article will look at how a practice owner can give themselves the best chance of success in the recruitment and retention challenge.

Why not consider holding interviews at the practice on a Saturday morning so you can focus on the candidate

First, however, let’s look at why so many practices get it wrong.

The recruitment process starts right back at the consideration of the sort of staff member you are looking for. The job description and the person specification are not meant to be just another piece of admin, but a key part of understanding what the role is and what sort of candidate would have the best chance of success. 

This applies just as much to a general dentist as it does to a lead receptionist, a TCO or manager. Having a vacancy to fill does allow you to aim higher and recruit someone with more of the experience, skills and attributes in line with practice values than their predecessor.

The advertising process allows you to create a shortlist: let’s aim for at least three. Having only one candidate at the interview stage is likely to mean that you convince yourself that they are right for the job, as you have ‘no choice’. The adage, ‘Recruit in haste, repent at your leisure,’ is extremely prescient. Be ready to politely say ‘No’, to all applicants as you will waste more time with the wrong appointment than you will with just starting again.

The interview is a two-way process. If your advertising of the position has encouraged good candidates (who fit the specification), you now want them to see the level of professionalism that you aspire to in your practice because you want your chosen candidate to accept the position. It comes across as extremely unprofessional to squeeze in an interview at lunchtime (and quite possibly be running 15-20 minutes late for it!). Why not consider instead holding interviews at the practice on a Saturday morning where you can fully focus on the candidate and the process or what about at a local hotel, say from 5-8pm?

Why is it that recruitment in dentistry is often handled so unprofessionally? It is likely because historically dentists (who become practice owners) have never, ever experienced a well-managed, effective recruitment process themselves. Hence, apart from the odd article they may have read, they have no real idea about how the process could be made more successful.

So, back to our recruitment process. Five candidates have been asked to interview, booked 45 minutes apart. A scoring sheet has been prepared, created from the job description and person specification. You have a colleague or somebody with you who can be relied upon to score candidates objectively, even if they know nothing about dentistry. 

The candidates may have been asked to complete an online Excel assessment, prior to selection for interview. Or perhaps provide a Kolbe score. Having other means of assessing a candidate (other than just the interview) is strongly encouraged. What about the money question? For most roles, people are used to being asked, ‘What is your current salary?’ It is unlikely that a manager for instance would expect to double their salary in one move. Therefore, we can ask a dentist too. 

All things being more or less equal, dentists don’t go from grossing 10k a month to 30k a month. So, you can ask and you should. If they don’t want to answer, that’s fine – too – just wish them every success for the future and keep looking!

After the interviews, what about a two-hour trial period on reception? Even for dentists. Can they interact and empathise with patients? When all the scores have been added and the lead candidate is clear, you can now make them an offer.

Assuming you have found your ideal candidate, you now have to get this person working effectively in your practice; delivering the gross that you both expect and becoming a valued member of the practice team.

So next time, we will look at:

  • Job offer and pre-starting administration
  • Induction
  • First month 
  • Reviews.

With recruitment such a crucial part of the success of a practice, it pays to take it very seriously and be ultra-professional. The standout candidates are then more likely to accept your offer of a position within your practice and you will be snapping up the best staff, honing your team to give you the edge on the competition.

Make changes to your hiring strategy if you want to attract top candidates 

Richard Pearce lives in Northern Ireland. Following a business career in various sectors and an MBA, he joined his dentist wife in dentistry. Richard combines his wide commercial experience with being attuned to what it is like for an associate dentist, a practice owner and a practice manager. His unique perspective ensures he can assist a practice owner with every area of the practice to create a more profitable practice and to achieve their smart objectives.

To find out more visit the Smart Practices website,

Tags: Good staff / Management / recruitment / Richard Pearce / smart practices

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