News |5 min read

How to Improve Your Hiring Process

Jennifer Steadman with text, "Real-world insights from AADOM authors"

The US Department of Labor estimates the average cost of a bad hiring decision is at least 30% of the individual’s expected first year’s salary.

If a team member’s salary is $50,000 a year, that’s at least $15,000 that you’re losing.

Not to mention the time, expense, energy, impact on the team morale, and stress the wrong person causes.

By taking your time in the hiring process and knowing a few things to look for, you can hire not only the right team member but the best one!

As the director of operations for 15 offices in the Boston area, I’ve interviewed a lot of candidates for positions with our team over the years.

I’m proud to say we have an amazing team that I have trained to use these tools, so they can hire great team members that support our culture and values at each location.

Employment application

An interview starts before you even meet with the candidate. You reviewed their resume when they applied for the position, and you determined that you wanted to interview them.

Before the interview, have them complete an employment application so you can gauge interest and see if they follow instructions.

Build your application based on criteria that are important to you and your team culture. Be sure to include:

  • Training and education
  • Experience and skills
  • Employment history
  • Previous employment questions
  • Alignment of core values
  • Acknowledgment and authorization to contact previous employers

I personally feel that the most important section is the alignment of core values.

Provide a list of a dozen core values and ask the candidate to choose the four that best represent their values. This can help you to see if the candidate is in alignment with your team, as well as if they can follow instructions.

Even though all the values in the list are great, you asked the candidate to pick four, no more and no less. Can they do it? You’ll be surprised how many people cannot follow the instructions!

The interview

The interview itself is my favorite part of the hiring process.

Prepare interview questions to assist in determining the candidate’s values and personality. Ask them to describe their role as a team member and what past coworkers would say about them.

Multi-part questions can show you if the candidate can handle multitasking and processing information quickly.

By having a list of premade and well-thought-out questions, you can compare each candidate equally.

I highly suggest that you have another member of your team in the interview. Not only does it give you another viewpoint when you debrief after the interview, but it also allows you to see if the candidate is comfortable around multiple people.

Some candidates may show that they are very stressed and even say they were not expecting to be interviewed by a few people, while others are very friendly and excited to meet another smiling face.

While you’re asking questions, take notes on not only what they say but how they say it.

Does the candidate seem confused or ask for clarification a lot? Do they speak clearly and confidently?

If you’re looking to hire an admin team member who’ll be discussing treatment plans, you need them to be able to speak confidently and calmly. You would not want to hire someone that spoke very softly and seemed timid when asking for payments.

Whether you’re conducting the interview with another team member or on your own, debrief after. Make any additional notes of things that you noticed about the candidate so you can remember when comparing all the applicants.

Skills assessment vs. working interviews

A lot of offices will choose to conduct a working interview. It’s great to see the candidate interact with your team, but it can also create some challenges for you.

Team members want to be friendly and chat with the candidate. They may ask if they have children or other personal questions. This can create some employment challenges and potential legal action if you find out the candidate is in a protected class and you don’t hire them.

At this point, you normally have not done reference or background checks. Also, the candidate is not on your payroll and is not covered under your practice’s liability insurance if something were to happen with a patient.

Instead of a working interview, try conducting a skills assessment.

This is where you ask the candidate to complete tasks of the position they’re applying for without ever interacting with patients.

What are some tasks that are important for you and your team?

For dental assistants, you may have them make a temporary crown from a model. Provide all the materials and see if they know how to complete the task efficiently. Have your doctor or one of your assistants review the completed product and watch them through the assessment to see their technique.

Dental hygienists are well versed in re-care visits, but it’s essential to understand their individual philosophy on patient care and periodontal disease management.

Consider showing them a few FMXs and periodontal charts to discuss their opinions on when to prescribe SCRPs or soft tissue management.

How comfortable is the hygienist with Stage IV perio patients, and what amount of time would they require for a quad scale?

Changing your hiring process is worth it

By revamping your hiring process and taking time to review and interview candidates for your team, you can eliminate future expenses and wasted time by hiring a warm body.

Include a trusted team member in your interview to ask your list of questions and get feedback afterward.

Take your time to find the best candidate who’ll be a great addition to your team and support your culture.

Meet the Author

Jennifer Steadman in a blue blazerJennifer Steadman, BSDH, RDH, DAADOM, specializes in business operations, recruitment and interview strategies, team development, and communication.

Her career has evolved from dental assistant, hygienist, practice manager, and now to her current role. In 2020, she was named AADOM’s Practice Administrator of the Year!

Her goal is to empower dental professionals to hone their strengths and become a positive light in the dental community.


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