New dentists must look for ‘right match’ in job hunt

New dentists looking to enter the workforce have a lot to think about. One of the first things to deal with is the job hunt, specifically the interview process.

Leading up to an interview, there is preparation, research and paperwork to be done, but dentists should also remember that they are not just being interviewed, they are interviewing their potential employer as well.  

There are many questions that are appropriate for a new dentist to ask an associate during an interview.

“Remember that in order for working relationships to be successful, both the employer and employee have to find the right match,” said Natasha Lee, DDS, course director, practice management and jurisprudence, at the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

To find the right match, a new dentist can ask the interviewee about the following:

  • the practice’s production;
  • collections;
  • patient flow;
  • which procedures are referred out to specialists;
  • how the call schedule is handled;
  • dental benefit plan makeup;
  • current staff structure; and
  • office policy on cancellations or no shows.

“When new dentists interview, it is very important they interview the office to ensure it would be a good fit for them, too,” said Nicholas Marongiu, DDS, chair of the New Dentist Committee. “If you are not comfortable in the office or comfortable with the owner or staff, you are not going to be comfortable with patients, and patients will perceive that.”

There are pros and cons to working in different types of practices, and according to the Practice Support Center’s Guide for the New Dentist, one of the dentist’s objectives in interviewing is to determine what it might be like to work in that particular office. For instance, in a fee-for-service oriented practice, patients are usually there because of the relationship and confidence they have with the owner dentist.

“Don’t be shy about asking why they are hiring. If the owner doctor is not busy enough already, the position may be less of an associateship and more of a space-leasing situation where they expect you to build your own practice by bringing in your own patients,” said Lee, who also is a past member of the CDA Committee on the New Dentist and current member of the ADA Council on Membership.

From the prospective employer, new dentists should expect questions such as:

  • “How has your education prepared you for this position?”;
  • “How would you handle a patient who arrives 20 minutes late for an appointment?”; and
  • “If our new patient volume decreases, what would you do?”

“Expect to be asked about your personal strengths and weaknesses, former jobs and why you left them, things you like and dislike about dentistry and what your ideal job would be like,” Lee said.

Before new dentists even get to this point, however, they need to make sure they are prepared. They can practice a mock interview with a friend or family member and role play the questions they may be asked or they wish to ask the practice owner. Working on body language and expressions is important, according to the Guide for the New Dentist. Dentists should also practice their posture, make sure they are comfortable making eye contact and smiling, practice not crossing their arms and facing the interviewer squarely.

Marongiu said body language is very important in dentistry and an interviewer will likely be assessing it during an interview.

“Albert Mehrabian, professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA with an emphasis in human communication, is famous for developing the ‘7 percent – 38 percent – 55 percent rule.’ This rule breaks down human communication into 7 percent words, 38 percent tone of voice and 55 percent body language,” Marongiu said. “So, be aware of your body language as it can make or break your opportunity regardless of clinical abilities.”

Lee suggests walking in to the interview dressed to impress, with a folder of information, including:

  • curriculum vitae or resume;
  • professional references;
  • diploma copy and dental license;
  • evidence of professional liability insurance; and
  • letters of reference.

“Having all of your information available at the time of the interview shows that you are prepared and organized,” Lee said.

Marongiu suggests taking the time to get nice paper to use for printed materials and having a professional head shot photo taken to add to the resume. 

“It is a very competitive job market out there and you must make yourself stand out,” Marongiu said.

Other possible interviews for new dentists can include large group practice interviews. Large group practices have their advantages and disadvantages, and that is something candidates should be aware of (a list of pros and cons of working at large group practices is available in the “Employment Preparation” chapter of the Guide for the New Dentist).

New dentists also have the opportunity to do a working interview, which allows candidates to practice in the clinical setting and provides the opportunity to observe how the practice owner conducts the office. It’s also a way for practice owners to observe a new dentist’s techniques and see how they interact with patients and staff.

After any interview, Lee and Marongiu suggest the candidate send the practice owner, or whoever conducted the interview, a thank you note.

“Let them know that you are grateful for the opportunity to have interviewed and that you are interested in the position without being overly assertive or assumptive about expecting to be offered the position,” Lee said. “And remember, an interview that does not result in a job offer is still an important learning experience.”

Topics: New Dentists