The Articulate Dentist - A Blog by the Metro Denver Dental Society

Hiring From a Different Perspective

 By: Dr. William van Dyk

Reprinted with permission from Dental Practice Success, Spring 2021. Copyright 2021 © American Dental Association.

Dentists are continually searching for ideal employees. In many instances, they feel it’s necessary to settle for a team member who can’t perform at an acceptable level because the only alternative seems to be having an unfilled position. We’ve all been there, casting a wider net for someone who can step in and turn the practice around. I’d like to offer a four-step alternative that might help. It’s not a quick fix but it will build a great team over time. It’s based on a few assumptions. Assume that the best team members are already out there working in other offices, or have already left their dental professions because they were frustrated with their efforts to help a practice that didn’t want the help. Assume that the best team members want choices of where they might want to work. And, assume that there are variations in the work environment where team members might want to work. With that in mind, here is the alternative.

  1. We need to realize that we are not doing the real interview when we are searching for the right employee. In this marketplace quality employees are actually interviewing us. They have experience in a variety of workplaces and know what is important for their career enjoyment. When they come for an interview, they are looking for examples of what is important. There are many qualified employees settling for a job in an office that does not fulfill them. They would move if they found an opportunity to improve their life.


  2. There are some obvious things that great team members would like to see. Dental schools that want to recruit the best and brightest to their campuses create an interview environment that highlights the most positive aspects of their facility, faculty and current students, knowing that the best undergraduates have a choice. I marvel at the efforts of senior dental students to find a residency that meets their personal and professional goals and new dental graduates who search for a practice to join that matches their philosophy of practice. They may settle in a clinic or an available associate position for the short term, but they are looking for a much better fit somewhere else. It’s not hard to imagine that the best and the brightest in dental assisting, dental hygiene and front office personnel would also want to work in a place that meets their needs.
  3. The best candidates are looking for a leader worth following, a feeling of integrity, a firm commitment to patients and an opportunity to grow. They know that they need good leadership that will guide them and the practice toward success. If the practice owner is not a strong leader, that void is often filled by someone else in the office, creating a conflict of loyalty. And if the practice operates without the highest standards of clinical excellence and integrity, a good team member will be frustrated when treating patients who have not always received the best care or respect by the dental practice.
  4. The best employees want to continue to grow throughout their careers. They want to learn new skills. They want to be given greater responsibility, not to change careers, but to become better at the professional path they chose. A practice where continuing education is a must and support for advancement is rewarded will attract more qualified employees.

The interview process should not be an irritating disruption in the day. Begin with a phone interview by a trained staff member to clearly describe the position and evaluate if the applicant is qualified. For those who meet the minimum requirements, a pre-interview with relevant team members will help to highlight the practice and identify potential team members with qualities that match. (Great employees want to bring in new team members who will fit their work ethic). Then, the practice owner should schedule an interview with adequate time to both evaluate the potential of the person and also extol the virtues of the practice. This process will help you choose the best person for your practice.

Dr. van Dyk practices dentistry in San Pablo, California, and teaches in the department of Dental Practice at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry at the University of the Pacific. He lectures on a variety of practice management issues. Contact him at for more information.