As I travel to dental offices across the Metroplex, one of the most common questions dentists ask is, “What should I look for when I hire a dental front desk person?” This a loaded question with a lot of moving pieces however, once you understand the methodology it can be quite simple.
First, write a job description for this new hire. It doesn’t have to be formal. Just jot down bullet points of what the duties will be. Next, evaluate the position and think about whether this person will be interacting with patients when they visit the office or will be behind closed doors filing insurance, updating recalls, and following up on outstanding treatment. This is very important because the tasks will depend on whether this person will need dental knowledge or not.
If you’ve decided that the position requires some dental knowledge, then the possible recruiting avenues are specific dental job sites, Front Office Trainingdental placement agencies, and industry referrals. At this point, you may ask, “Wouldn’t the new hire need dental experience regardless of the job description?” The answer is DEFINITELY NOT!
Have you ever had a dental emergency? If so, the first thing you do is call your dentist, right? You’re in pain, your schedule has just been turned upside down unexpectedly, and you may be worried about the financial aspect of dental work. When you call your dentist, would you like someone with dental knowledge asking a bunch of questions, knowing full well that it hurts to talk? Or, would you rather have someone who is compassionate and empathizes with you? Most folks would prefer the later.
It is important that a dental front office person interacts with patients face-to-face and has the customer service skills needed to make the patient feel comfortable and safe. This person is the first voice of the practice, the first impression when a patient walks in, and most likely the last person the patient sees before leaving the practice. None of these skills require knowing a thing about dentistry but they all require knowing how to win over people in the workplace.
Now, the question is where do you find these folks? My advice is to stay away from the standard “dental” recruiting methods. Instead, try to think of the last retail person that “wowed” you. Visit them again and ask if they have any friends looking for a new position. People are usually friends with “like” people, so chances are they will say, “Yes”. Even better, they may inquire about the position for themselves. Another great way to find these candidates is to visit online sites that general business owners use such as Monster, CareerBuilder, Indeed, etc.
Once you’ve found a candidate whom is interview worthy, the true test begins. Most customer service folks will know exactly how to answer interview questions, dress appropriately, etc. However, there are some key items to observe while talking with the potential new hire. Behaviors such as eye contact, a firm hand shake, good posture, and a sincere smile are all must-have qualities in a successful front desk team member. During the interview, more important than the answers they give are the questions they ask. Have they done any research on you or the practice? Are they asking questions that exude motivation and “hunger” to succeed? Do the questions being asked by the possible new hire show a commitment to a long-term career move? Does their customer service philosophy match the mission of the practice? You get the idea.
Last, narrow the search down to two candidates. Ask them to do a four hour working interview, paid of course. You need to hear them interact with patients, listen to how they answer phones, and watch how they fit in with the rest of the team. Once both candidates have completed their working interviews, get your staff’s opinion of each person.
It’s time to make a decision. Take into account staff comments, but remember the final decision is yours. By now, most likely your gut is telling you the right choice. But if you are still stuck, make an old fashioned pros vs. cons list. Think about the future of your practice and the direction you want to head with your own career. Which candidate fits in with that path?
Last it’s time to make an offer. Be sure to put everything in writing and get it signed by the new hire. Make sure to include a “new hire probation period” in the offer.
Congratulations. You have hired someone who will create a warm, welcoming environment for patients and help grow your practice!
About the Author…
Tracy Civick is a nationally recognized speaker, coach, and author who focuses on motivating dental front office teams to grow practice revenue and get a better handle on the daily dental practice front office tasks. Her memberships include The Academy of Dental Management Consultants and AADOM, Academy of Dental Office Managers.