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Six Hiring Mistakes Dentists Make And How You Can Avoid Them


Hiring the wrong person can be expensive.  A bad hire can cost your dental practice 2.5 times that person’s salary and even worse, devastate your team’s morale and your practice’s reputation. So how do you avoid hiring the wrong person?

In this two-part article I identify six common mistakes I’ve seen dentists make when writing job ads, interviewing candidates, choosing among applicants and onboarding the new employee. We’ll tackle the first three mistakes in this blog.  After each mistake are some some hiring tips about what you should do instead.

  1. Assume experience equals expertise

Have you written a job ad that contains the phrase “must have x years of experience”?  At first glance, this seems logical – you want an experienced person, right? But X years of employment doesn’t necessarily equate to proficiency so ultimately this requirement is not useful and it may deter great candidates from applying. What you really want to hire for is aptitude, ability and attitude. Everything in your hiring process needs to determine whether this candidate has the capacity to do the job, whether s/he can learn new things, and whether s/he has the desire/ motivation to do an exemplary job.

Sharyn’s hiring tip: Your ad should focus on the candidate’s qualities versus their credentials. Phrase it as “If you are the kind of hygienist who loves… then you will love our practice.” Once you get a resume, you can scan it for indications the candidate has the requisite experience. Craft your interview questions to determine if the candidate has an aptitude for the position, the ability to do it and an attitude of openness and conscientiousness.

  1. Hiring someone you want to socialize with

I follow a dentist on LinkedIn who wrote a long article about how he only hires folks he could see himself hanging out with. You may wonder what’s wrong with that? You need to LIKE your employees, don’t you? Then he proudly posted pictures of his team. His front desk team consisted of young, beautiful blonds and his clinical team are all young, beautiful brunettes. Again, you may be asking yourself – what is wrong with THAT?

Well, the thing is you are hiring professionals to do a job – not recruiting for a sorority.  Making hiring decisions based on a candidate’s appearance or personality traits or how much you personally like them, may result in inadvertent discrimination and a team that is so homogenous that they appear interchangeable.  Is life easier when you personally like your team? Sure, but the more important point is whether this person will add a useful perspective and energy and whether they will inspire and comfort patients.

Sharyn’s hiring tip: Most dental teams are composed of introverts and “s” types on the DiSC profile. These are great helpers but they aren’t natural leaders. There is an old saying that if two people agree on everything, then one of them is unnecessary. If you want folks who will initiate new projects, who will engage at team meetings and who will create energy, then seek out folks with a more driver style.

If those qualities are important to you, then during the during the interview, ask questions such as:

  • What would you do if you saw we had a problem with a system or a customer service issue?
  • What would you do if there was conflict or disagreement at a team meeting?
  • Tell me about a new project or innovation you made at your last job.
  1. Hiring when you’re desperate

Remember the advice not to shop when you’re hungry because it will cause you to buy junk food? The same principal applies to hiring. If you buy a bag of Cheetos, your worst consequence will be orange fingers; but if you make the wrong hire, it can be expensive and time consuming to recover. So, the key is to approach hiring like you should approach food shopping,  look for candidates while you have a full-team.  Waiting until someone quits or is fired means you may only have weeks to find a replacement. These days, it is going to take longer than 2 weeks to find a new employee.

Build a pipeline to potential employees the same way you want a pipeline of patients. Find ways to get to know dental teams who are currently employed at local practices, clinics or hospitals.  Become the friendly, helpful dentist at hygiene and dental assisting schools. Get to know the office staff at the medical offices you visit. Like a shark, you need to always be patrolling your community for new employees.

Sharyn’s hiring tip: Engage in perpetual recruitment by becoming well-known in your community and reaching out to individuals (including patients) who impress you. If you want a reputation as the go-to dentist in your community, then position yourself as the hub for local dental employees’ continuing education. Offer after-hours CE at your office with food and speakers or, given the realities of these days, host virtual CE. Attend local association meetings. Join or start a Facebook group for local dental employees. Or meet other dental team members at social events by organizing a weekend picnic or barbeque or even a bowling night. The key is to be a recognizable entity in your community so that dental employees who work elsewhere will want to work with you.

Stay tuned for the second part of this article where you’ll learn the last three dental hiring mistakes. To whet your appetite these are:

  • Doing most of the talking during the interview
  • Not including your team in the process
  • Having a vague job description
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Inspired Us to Dream Bigger, and it Works

“As an Office Manager, I’ve seen a great difference in my practice since starting with Sharyn. Three years ago our staff was in turmoil with a lot of infighting and gossip and some jealousy directed towards me.

I had given up because everything I did was judged. Now I have learned to have more one-to-one communication and by being more vulnerable with individuals I found my leadership voice. As a team, we’re all focused on the same goals.

Last year, in August we produced $88,000. This year we’re on track to produce $111,000 this month. I know it’s because we learned how to follow through with patients and communicate our expectations while building our systems.

Sharyn has gotten us out of our comfort zone and inspired us to dream bigger and it works.”

–Sharon St Pierre, Sperbeck Dental Care

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