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Front Desk

by Stephanie Sisk

CDS dentists have many roles in their dental offices. You are doctors, first and foremost, but you are also business managers, new business development leaders and team-builders. This online column will help you stay on top of the latest dental trends and resources as you juggle all of your roles.

  • April 2, 2018

Are you considering hiring an associate?

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Spring is (almost) around the corner here in Chicago, and with it comes a sense of renewal, personally and professionally.

If you are a solo practitioner, perhaps you are at a professional crossroads of deciding whether you’re ready to bring on an associate. There are many things to ponder for this important decision: timing, hiring, effect on the staff and patients. It requires considerable time, thought and homework to arrive at the right decision, effort that’s vital to the endeavor’s success.

Dental consultant Roger Levin counsels an introspective accounting: “Do you simply need an additional doctor to handle increased production? Someone to run a second office? A specialist to broaden the range of dental services your practice offers? Or a dentist interested in taking ownership of your practice as you transition into retirement?”

In a column he wrote for Dental Practice Management, Dr. Levin said it is key to be thoroughly knowledgeable of your business’ financial standing before moving ahead. “Once you understand your current financial condition, you can begin to figure out if you can afford an associate and what the impact with be on practice production, overhead, revenue, profitability and income over time.”

If you’ve established your reason for hiring an associate and completed the financial assessment, the next all-important step is hiring.

As with most hiring, there is the concrete (“Where did you go to dental school?”) and the more esoteric (Is she curious about my practice? Did he greet my front office staff?)

“Evaluate candidates very carefully,” Dr. Levin said, “not only in terms of clinical skills but also their personalities and career objectives.”

The Office of Career and Professional Development, University of California, San Francisco, compiled a list of excellent questions asked of its newly minted dental school graduates. In addition to requisite questions about education and experience, the questions would provide enlightening answers from your prospective associate:

  • How would you describe your work ethic and approach to practicing dentistry?
  • What do you think most enjoyable and rewarding about being a dentist?
  • What are the quality you think are key to a thriving practice?
  • What qualities are you looking for in the practice you join? How do you define a successful practice?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What are you most proud of to date in your dental career?
  • What clinical skills do you wish to develop?

To find the right candidate, Dr. Levin advises interviewing a number of people and meeting with the leading contenders multiple times. “Arrange for your strongest candidate to spend time at your practice in a kind of trial run. Observe interactions with staff and other signs of how the new person would fit in. If no one feels quite right, start the process over again. You can’t afford to get stuck with the wrong person in such an important role in your practice.”

When you get close to a decision, ask the opinion of your staff, advised ETS Dental, a Virginia-based recruiting and placement company for dentists. After all, the staff will have to work with the new associate as well, and their comfort level is important to making the transition successful.

That the candidate appears sincere and enthusiastic, and shows an interest in your practice and your situation, should be part of the evaluation as well. Even a genuine smile is important, ETS Dental said.

Making the right hiring decision is important, with long-lasting consequences. The investment in time to find the right person is not wasted.

Photo by RossHelen, copyright istockphoto.com.


The views expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily the opinions of the Chicago Dental Society.

CDS presents Front Desk, a column addressing issues facing dentists and staff members experience in the office.

Front Desk is prepared by Stephanie Sisk, a freelance journalist.

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