Hiring a new front desk person

We have found craigslist to be very useful for recruiting new dental office staff. It is important to “cast a wide net” and try to draw in as larger pool of applicants as possible. There are lots of good people out there looking.

We run the following ad on craigslist under both the “medical / health” and “admin / office” categories.

“Administrative Position: We are a very busy dental office seeking a friendly, energetic, personable, motivated front desk person to join our team; must be familiar with basic computer operations and have outstanding people skills; great communication and customer service ability more important than experience; dental office background helpful but not mandatory.  You provide the attitude and we will provide the training and a great career potential. Tuesday thru Saturday, 8 am to 5 pm.  Please send resume to (new email address you set up in gmail).”

Contrary to the beliefs of many dentists, we have had very good luck training people who have had no previous dental experience. We find it is much easier to “train dental” than it is to “train attitude”. Learning to use your dental software is really much easier than you think if the new employee is motivated and has the right attitude. Obviously, is not always possible in every case to do this.

We have had very good luck using the following system:

1. Place the ad on craigslist with an anonymous response. In other words, you do not want prospective employees calling your office about the job opening.

2. Try to look at each emailed resume and be prepared to look at a bunch of them. You are going to try to rule a few people out rather than rule a few people in. It is very difficult to tell from a resume anything about the caliber of the prospective employee.

3. After excluding the few people were obviously not qualified (for instance a live a long distance away), send back an email to the applicants asking if they would be available for an “open interview” and a particular time. For example, “next Saturday between 9 and 11 AM.” Ask them to respond to this invitation to confirm this they will come to this open interview. Also ask them to put the word “interview” in the subject field of the email. Asking people to do this very simple step will eliminate an amazing number of them. Sad but true.

4. Prospective employees can come in any time during the open interview interval IE in this case between 9 and 11 AM. The purpose of this interview is to very briefly meet each person. It is actually quite easy to pick out the good prospects. For most people, 3 to 5 minutes is more than sufficient. It’s a good idea for a male dentist to have a female co-interview the applicants. You will be amazed at the incredibly high “failed appointment” rate for these interviews. This is why we have found it’s a waste of time to try to schedule specific appointment times for applicants. We spent a lot of time sitting around waiting.

5. Good prospects can be scheduled to come back to “meet the staff” and spend a little time in the office. It’s been suggested by some others that is not a good idea to call this a “working interview”. But that’s what it really is.

As Howard Farran says, “the staff does the hiring.” While we absolutely believe this is true, we think it is a very good idea for the dentist to be involved in the brief, initial interview process.

Whether it’s high unemployment or the poor economy, we have found that there are many really good prospective employees out there. The strategy of casting a very wide net seems to be the most effective way that we found to interview and eventually select the best employee.

Good Luck!

Bruce Stephenson, DDS, FAGD