The Interview Process

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The Interview Process

Keep in mind that communication as well as interviewing is a two-way street. While the owner doctor and prospective new doctor have different goals, each should assume that getting to know one another in order to assess a good fit requires flexibility and transparency during the interview process.  There should be freedom in asking and answering questions pertaining to the possibility of working together.  I want to make sure that you have everything that you need so that both of you feel comfortable in having your questions answered.  In the next addition to this process, I will give you my precise interview questions and their interpretation, but today I want to give you a broad-brush stroke approach to the individual elements of an interview.

The First Interview: This is most often done over the phone.  This should be mostly a social call to confirm or ask for their resume.  Be sure to listen carefully for content and process.  It is not what they say as much as how they say it.  We are looking for a very social personality with enthusiasm and great work ethic: A “whatever it takes” attitude toward starting a career. The purpose of the call is to determine whether you want to go further with the person.  Look for tone of voice, cooperation, upbeat, eager, and positive.  Make sure they have communicated well and have great people skills.  Close by confirming the need for their curricula vitae, and that you will confirm its arrival by email.  Let them know that whether you go further with them or not, you will contact them by email or letter to let them know one way or the other.  It is not fair to keep a candidate hanging on when you have no intention of offering them a job or even a personal interview.  If this person is someone that sounds like a possibility, try to set a date for a face-to-face interview at the office.

Sample Interview Questions:

  1. Find out what type of personality they have: Warm and open versus cool and rigid.
  2. Why do they want the job… want to buy in… want to buy you out?
  3. What is their objective in working here?
  4. What is their timetable?
  5. Why would they select this area to practice?
  6. Find out in a very casual way about their family situation.
  7. What is most important about this potential job or transition to them?
  8. Their job history?
  1. How did it work out?
  2. Have they worked elsewhere, and why did it fall through?
  3. What sort of practice are they looking for?
  4. Experience of the new doctor in the business of dentistry.
  5. Community ties?
  6. Financial needs?
  7. Overall personality compatibility of the owner and new doctor.

The Second Interview:

This would take place in the office.  Be sure that the interview is done while the staff is present in the office.  This removes the chance of any allegations of sexual harassment by either party.  Show them around and finally sit down and have a short conversation.  This will be done informally.  You want to get to know who they are, not what they have done.  Be very careful making any verbal commitments.  Verbal commitments can be construed as a verbal contract and are binding in a court of law.  This creates remedy for the young doctor if things do not work out.  Be sure you engage your brain before opening your mouth.  Never talk about compensation here.  If asked just say: “If everything else works out, don’t you think we could work out an equitable compensation rate”?  Take a photo.

Examples of questions:

1.Tell me about what is important to you.  (Value Situation Question)

2.What has to happen for you to feel ______________________? (Evidence Procedure Question)

3.Discuss how much would you need to make the 1st year?  (Financial Expectation)

4.What type of responsibilities would you expect?

Selection Process

There should be an overriding attention given to this selection process.  Nearly everyone interviews well.  It is difficult to always pick a winner.  We have divided the process into four areas that will help you keep your focus on what is really important.

1.  Values:

Conventional and reliable work ethic

Integrity and honesty

Responsibility for their own actions, decisions, and mistakes

Interest in and concern for the patient’s overall well-being

2. Interpersonal Style:

Comfortable with communication

Willingness to deal with difficult people

Genuine enjoyment of interacting with people

Easy to get to know

3. Work Style:

Meticulous in their work

Ability to balance the big picture with the small details

Concentration and persistence

Cooperative and flexible

Willing to be coached

Emotional resilience and positive attitude

4. Motivational Factors:

Enthusiastic to grow the practice

Importance of contributing to the bottom line

Enjoys the responsibility of ownership

Most of the qualified candidates that you will encounter are from an entirely different generation than you are.  As a young doctor looking for a job this is also true.  The point here is to study generational commonalities as well as age related goals.  Prepare for the interview by knowing and understanding the work perspective and age difference between the two of you.  Communication is so important.  Make sure you are certain that the person you are speaking with actually understood what you thought you said.

Staff Interview:

This is the most important interview that will be done.  As you know, I feel like every great dental practice should be Purpose Driven, Doctor Led, and Staff Owned.  Your team should have a say and vote in who is brought into the practice.  Do this correctly and you up your odds of a successful transition. If you are the doctor being interviewed, make sure that you understand that your long-term success in any practice will be decided by how the team feels about you.  Going in thinking and acting like you know everything is a sure strategy for a short-term opportunity.  Teams can vote you off the island pretty quickly if you don’t fit into the culture of the practice.

This interview has two parts.  There needs to be a working interview of 3-4 hours where the young doctor meets and greets patients, checks hygiene, and even performs some dentistry while being assisted by your staff.  In this way you will see how the young candidate reacts with patients and staff.  You are not overseeing this part of the interview process.  We want the staff to furnish ideas of how this doctor might integrate with your systems and team.

The second part of the interview is to have the staff (no senior doctor) take the young doctor out after the afternoon of working and have some food and drinks at a local restaurant so that they can observe them in a social setting.  You pay for the meal and drinks and let the staff get to know them.  Let this take as long as needed.  You should not rush this portion of the interview.  More of the true nature of the young doctor comes out when they are relaxed and in a fun environment than when just working in the office.  I always found that my staff was far more intuitive as to the potential compatibility of the candidate.  We often find that the owner doctor suffers from the “halo factor”.  You find someone.  You hit it off, and from that point on you tend to overlook small details that might spell disaster down the road.

Encourage the team to make the final call, and this will never be a problem.

Optional strategy for integrating the young doctor:

For years I have suggested that the senior doctor take a personality profile test and also have the prospective doctor take one.  An example might be the Oxford Capacity Test.  These are standardized tests that rate strengths and weaknesses in various areas of your personality.  By comparing the tests, you are able to point out areas of potential conflict that might arise in a business relationship.  Knowing these areas of conflict gives you the opportunity to confront them with any candidate.  Remember that you are not looking for a clone of you, but rather someone who would complement your personality and clinical and business skills.

There is one more strategy that we advocate in bringing in the new doctor and creating the best atmosphere to integrate them with your staff and patients.  Many of you will find this pretty extreme, but I assure you that it will reap incredible benefits for you.  Prior to ever beginning work on our patients, we require the young doctor to work in every position in the office.  In other words, they come in an equal or peer to the staff, not as a “Doctor”. They would work at the front desk until my best front desk person said they know the software, can answer the phone properly, ask for money and check patients out, confirm appointments, schedule, etc.  They then would work for the insurance/financial person until they had that down.  They would clean teeth until my best hygienist said they can chart, clean, diagnose, sell, inspire our patients to show up, do the treatment, and refer everyone they know.  They would then finish as my assistant until they had that down.  The ripple effect of such a strategy ensures that they understand every system, know where everything is, meet every team member on equal footing, and while learning this, win the hearts and minds of the staff.  Following this training, the staff will give the candidate the final thumbs up or down.  Regardless of what I think, they have the final say.  I have never had a trial partner fail when we followed this protocol.  What I hear from doctors who have never done this (I might add that they are the ones with failed partnerships) is that no young doctor would ever do this.  My reply is:  Then you have the wrong candidate.  Taking the time to explain the process to the young doctor, helping the staff to see the genius in this strategy, and explaining to both the long-term benefits goes a long way to helping them embrace this incredible step.

Second Personal Interview

This should involve your spouse and the spouse of the candidate, if married.  I would recommend this being done over dinner with the idea of having you and your spouse try to find out who they are, what’s important to them, and what they have done.  The two of you should also share about yourselves.   It should be a time of talking about philosophies and life choices.  Be sure and take your spouse’s council.  You should both agree that this is the couple you want.  You will notice I did not say doctor.  Like it or not, you will have a better result if you consider that you are getting them both.  Every doctor needs the support of his/her spouse.  You do not want to go further with someone who has a spouse who does not want to move to your location.  They should present themselves as of one mind and excited about the opportunity of working with you.

Hiring Interview

Call the candidate that you, your spouse, and staff have all agreed to hire.  Call and say: “Congratulations, you are the one.  If we can work out all the details to our mutual satisfaction is there any reason you wouldn’t want to join us?”  You would then have them come in to discuss the benefits, hours, compensation, and responsibilities.  As we have already noted, we are not hiring an associate, rather we are bringing in a Trial Partner who will be buying-in after a short trial period.  Next, we need to determine what you can afford to pay the young doctor.  Generally, I have a daily pay or a commission percentage of net production averaged for the month and pay whatever is greater.  We can go into greater detail later but I want to challenge a myth of how to establish the eventual compensation on commission basis.  Both the young doctor and owner are way off base on how they should look at this.  The reality of owning a business dictates that employees that produce must create profit for the practice.  If they cost more than what the business nets, it will not last and is unfair to both sides.  Any commission structure must consider the practice overhead.  If the overhead is so high as to make it impossible to pay a competitive salary, then your practice is not ready for another doctor.  Generally, you must have an overhead of no more than about 63%.  Any more than this means adding a new doctor would just destroy any profit or the potential for additional passive income.  This pay percentage of collections/production/hourly, should depend on an algorithm rather than some fictitious number fabricated from mistakes, myths, and poor business acumen.

The Compensation Algorithm: 

  1. Identify the average net collections
  2. Determine the average operating expenses
  3. Calculate your present overhead %
  4. Add the additional fixed costs needed to add a partner: Marketing, equipment, assistant, benefits, and any other additional staff.
  5. Add a rate of return of 5-10%. This is the passive income or profit you should make on any associate/trial partner. Keep in mind that if you pay 30% to the associate with a 70% overhead or higher, you have no passive income and in most cases are losing money.
  6. Calculate the adjusted overhead.
  7. Normal compensation should be around 25-32% including taxes, benefits, and any other additional signing bonus.

The amount you pay has to be customized for the overhead and production you currently have.  If this percentage or dollar amount falls short of you being able to hire a competent candidate, then your office is not ready for another doctor.  Go back to the drawing board and figure out how to recreate your business model with the idea of making a profit, structuring your schedule and systems to ensure an ability to weather any economic change, while building the ideal team.