Are you the owner of a dental group practice? If so, then you are familiar with the process of interviewing and hiring associate dentists. You know the type of questions to ask, the kind of dentist that will fit into your group and ultimately be successful. You are comfortable throughout this process since you share a similar background and can always fall into a clinical conversation that non-dentists are simply excluded from.

Does your management team interview associate dentists?

For one location large groups or multi-location groups owned by a dentist, often a small group of staff serve as team leaders – these staff play a significant role in managing the practice. Thanks to their dedication and additional effort in helping the group succeed, often a dentist owner would like their input on interviewing associate dentists. However, there are no guides for these team leaders to help them participate effectively in this interview process.

This article series is for dentist owners to share with their team leaders so they can interview associate dentists and provide solid feedback to the owner. Often team leaders represent the most senior staff from each team: hygienists, assistants and administrative team. These staff have stepped up to provide leadership to their respective teams as well as coordinate together regularly to problem-solve matters of scheduling, training and overall operations.

Benefits of team leaders interviewing associate dentist candidates

When it is time for the practice to add a new associate dentist, these team leaders are an amazing resource for interviewing potential candidates. They care deeply about the success of the practice and want to make sure a quality dentist and person is selected to join the group. They know their teams intimately and they know the personalities involved, so they are an excellent judge of whether an associate dentist will mesh with the people. For example, wouldn’t it be nice to have the expert opinion of your assistant (or EFDA) team leader on whether the associate dentist will work successfully with the primary assistant planned to work with him?

Next, team leaders understand how the practice runs from several different perspectives. They can ask intelligent questions of the candidate that you, as the owner dentist, would never consider. Highly practical team leaders want to understand how a new associate dentist will work in the group – and whether they will fit into the existing flow of personalities and style. They know what it takes to run an on-time schedule or to handle the quirky equipment in room – and they have watched other dentists in the group figure out ways to make things work (or not). Having someone with this level of expertise take the time to interview your associate, and then share their findings and opinion, may alert the owner dentist to areas of concern as well as a sense of whether this associate dentist may be a good fit for the group.

Finally, another benefit of having team leaders interview potential associate dentists is to help the candidates truly understand the practice so they can make an informed decision about joining the group. When a team leader hygienist and assistant sit down with an associate dentist candidate to ask a series of pertinent questions, this is a great opportunity for the dentist to learn how the practice really runs – and what they will face day-to-day if they choose to accept this position. Team leaders will be honest about the fact that the practice is not perfect, but they also show their appreciation and respect for the quality of care provided and the role they play in patient care.

This is also an excellent opportunity to judge how an associate dentist handles these team leaders. If a candidate treats these staff members with disdain or simply “blows them off” to focus on the dentists in the room, this may be a red flag for how this dentist will work with the management team. Run successfully, group practices encourage staff leadership – and dentists often appreciate the additional effort a team leader contributes because he/she is the direct beneficiary of a well-run office.

If you are the owner dentist in your group, you may want to save this article series for your team leaders – and keep it on file for the next time you are planning to hire an associate dentist. The purpose of this article is to encourage team leaders to think about their practice and have an opinion about what type of dentist / person will be successful. The key is the fit.

As the team leader, think about each of these 11 interview questions. What do you really want to know about this associate? What have you observed that failed in the past, and what red flags do you think you may have missed? Or, what are the characteristics of the associate dentists that are still working in your group now that you might like to find in your next dentist? Feel free to use these questions as a conversation guide – and if you’re new to interviewing associates, you can even team up together to find out the answers.

We will start next week with our first round of questions!

Jill Nesbitt, MBA is a group practice dental consultant offering free practice management resources and an online dental staff training program . If you are hiring an associate for your group and would like organized systems to support your growth, read her group practice case study .

ETS Dental is a Dental Recruiting firm specializing in finding and placing General Dentists, Dental Specialists, and Dental Staff throughout the United States.

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