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How to Source and Interview Dental Assistants

How to Source and Interview Dental Assistants

By: John Rossheim

What can go wrong if you hire office staff that’s incompetent or only in it for the steady salary? Plenty: Failure to consistently send out patient reminders or test results can harm patients’ health and bring on a law suit.

These tips will assist with sourcing and interviewing dental assistant candidates.

How to Source Dental Assistants: 

  • Externships are a prime source of freshly trained dental assistants
  • Job postings, social media and word of mouth can yield qualified candidates
  • New grads in dental assisting may welcome temporary assignments

Recruiter Tips:

  • “Typically a dental practice will post an ad, or use word of mouth or social media," says Lori Paschall, president of the American Dental Assistant Association. "Dental assistants don’t necessarily know about online postings, or about the ADAA.” 
  • "I find dental assistants via externships, word of mouth, queries to community colleges and sometimes through manufacturers' reps," says Brian Nylaan, DDS, a Michigan dentist in private practice. “My personal preference is I’d like to get them fresh out of school, so I can teach them to do things the way I see fit."
  • "Many students get hired by clinical sites that they rotate through in externships," says Karen Casale of the dental assisting program at Manchester Community College in Connecticut. "It’s like an extended working interview for students."

What to Cover in Dental Assistant Interviews:

  • Communication skills in the technical context of clinical work are indispensable
  • The candidate's interpersonal skills and devotion to the profession should be tested face-to-face
  • Compatibility with the full range of staff in the practice is critical

Recruiter Tips:

  • "Ask what brought them to the field, and some technical clinical questions," says Paschall.  
  • "My office manager does the initial cut to three finalists," says Dr. Nylan. "Then we invite each candidate in to converse with the staff, and they give me their input. If I’m not totally sold, I may pay a candidate to come in and work with me for half a day." 
  • "We're in close quarters, and we have to make patients comfortable," says Dr. Nylaan. "So personality is a big issue for me.”

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