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5 Common Hiring Mistakes to Avoid in The Dental Practice

I am just going to start out by saying that in my experience, the office manager and associate are the hardest positions to hire for in a dental office. Unfortunately, your first time hiring one of these roles is not always the last time. Almost every dentist I have talked to about hiring an office manager or an associate has had some sort of failure or disappointment in the past. I want to spotlight the key reasons for this, so you can learn from others’ mistakes and succeed at hiring an associate or office manager in the future.

I understand that finding a good candidate is a hard thing to do, but once you have someone you think is a possible fit, there are still things I think dentists and owners fail to do to successfully integrate this person into their office. Since there is no guarantee of how long it will take to find the right candidate (only the universe knows that answer), I am going to encourage you to focus on the following 5 areas you do have control over.

When hiring an associate dentist or dental office manager, here’s our top 5 common hiring mistakes to avoid:

1. Rushing through the interview process.

Often, by the time the office is in need of an office manager or an associate, it is too late. When you wait too long to find the right person for the position, then the pressure and need for someone to fill the role becomes so intense that the candidate is not truly vetted well. This position is a key position in the office, and time should be taken to make sure they are the right fit. If you are too focused on rushing to get them in and productive, then the process will inevitably fail. Don’t try to fit a not-perfect person into the role, and be sure to allow them the time necessary to integrate successfully into their new position.

2. Giving the new hire too much responsibility up front.

Just because someone has been hired to be a dentist for the office or the office manager, doesn’t mean they know your office policies, culture or processes. It is important to avoid giving the new employee too many responsibilities to start, so you allow them time to acclimate to the office. Give the new hire enough time to learn the office and become familiar with how things run before you pile too much onto them.

3. Giving the new person too much freedom.

This is the other side of the previous point—don’t give them too much responsibility, but too much freedom is also a bad idea. There needs to be a clear expectation of their role early on, in terms of what they are allowed to get involved with and what decisions are not theirs to make. Regardless of whether the person has experience in the past doing this role, they should not have total freedom in your office until they have learned and proven themselves. There also needs to be some checks and balances put in place to make sure that the work they are producing is to the standard of what is expected in your office. Allowing them to just start working, without ensuring they are good at what they do, can lead to a lot of cleanup later.

4. Offering an inadequate introduction to the team and the patients.

Whether this person is the new associate or the office manager, the introduction to the team and the patients in the proper way is vital to their long-term success of being accepted and trusted. If you just hire them and dump them into the daily schedule without properly introducing them to the team, you will deprive the team of an opportunity to know the new person’s experience, their background, and what their role will be, plus expectations for how the team needs to welcome them to the practice and be open to working collaboratively with them. When you take the time to introduce the new person in an effective way, the team will then be more likely to speak highly of them when introducing them to the patients, which is important since these two roles deal a lot with the patients directly. The better the team feels about the additional person, the more the patients will too.

5. Failing to ensure that the new hire agrees with you on the big things like management style, treatment planning or clinical skills, and patient care philosophies.

Prior to hiring the candidate, make sure you and the new person have agreements in vital areas and that you two build a relationship where communication is open and easy. It is important, if this new key person is going to represent you, that their operating philosophy is similar to yours. If this person comes in and does not have similar beliefs to yours, eventually this will seep into the team and become obvious to the patients. Even if the new hire’s thoughts or beliefs are good but just not in line with yours, it is important that you and the new employee hash it out behind closed doors until you come to a mutually agreed-upon answer or treatment plan. You and this new employee need to show a unified front to the team and the patients, because if you don’t, the team and patients will start to reject the new employee. Your team and patients are loyal to you, and if this new person starts to bring in ideas that are not the same or similar to yours, the team will reject them. It will also start to look like the new employee is undermining you, which is never good and will definitely cause them to fail.

Whether you are hiring for an associate or an office manager, the idea is this person will not only take a little bit of the load off of you, but also become someone else that you can work with, trust, and collaborate with to help grow the practice. Just like they need to support you and your philosophy, you need to support them. Remember to keep those lines of communication open, and allow them the opportunity to get to know you, your team, patients and practice.

If you want more information on hiring, communication tips, and growing your team check out our courses and our document library to help get you started.

Laura Nelson

Laura Nelson, BS, MS, FAADOM is the founder and driving force behind Front Office Rocks, and the leading provider of on-demand virtual training and resources for dental practices.