Interviewing Pediatric Dental Assistants

Are You Asking the Right Questions?

dental assistant interview

Pediatric dentists have lots of education and training, but interviewing candidates for your dental team is often only learned through experience. Even if your practice runs smoothly, you might be missing important information during job interviews if you’re not asking the right questions.

You’re not alone; many dentists struggle with the hiring and firing of their team members. It’s not always due to a lack of confidence, either. I’ve witnessed many interviews where the dentist or manager did most of the talking. When you do all the talking, it’s easy to think your candidate said all the right things. You assume you’re on the same page because you hear what you want to hear. But if all the prospect needs to do is nod and smile as they affirm what is said, your opportunity to learn about your interviewee is severely diminished. At the end, you’re left with a thin evaluation that has little value.

You might be doing all the talking without even realizing you’re doing it. Interviewing potential hires is a different kind of conversation than interviewing patients.


Asking the Right Questions

Productive interviews are built on a foundation of asking the right questions and drilling down on the specifics.

For example, I worked with a dentist who lost his longtime scheduling coordinator when she moved to another city. He interviewed one of his pediatric dental assistants for the job, as well as a woman with experience as a dental receptionist. The latter had a great personality, and so she seemed a reasonable choice for the position.

When asked about her scheduling skills and technical aptitude, she gave vague answers. The doctor talked more than she did, and he heard what he wanted to hear.

The new scheduling coordinator did not meet his expectations, and he eventually moved the dental assistant into that role instead. Better questioning during the interviews would have helped this dentist hire correctly the first time rather than setting up a costly recruiting failure.

Instead of asking, “Are you good with computers?” he could have asked, “Which software programs have you worked with? What, specifically, have you done with those programs?”

If she had mentioned using Dentrix, Eaglesoft, or any other dental software to properly track and schedule appointments, he would have known she was familiar with the required skill set.

Questions to Ask

Here are a few sample questions you might ask during your next interview:

  • Have you ever scheduled to goal?
  • If so, how did you reach that goal?
  • You’re leading a patient to the treatment room when they begin to panic and want to skip their appointment. How do you handle it?
  • Where would you put a seat or a cement in the schedule?
  • How many patients would be an ideal number in the doctor’s schedule?
  • Do you believe in predeterminations? Why or why not?
  • How would you answer the telephone?
  • Have you ever had a disagreement with a supervisor or dental assistant? What did you do to resolve it?
  • How does your approach toward children differ from your approach toward adults?
  • When a patient arrives, how do you greet them?
  • What do you do once a patient is seated on the dental chair?

These questions are just the tip of the iceberg, of course. But asking more specific questions and letting your interviewee talk more than you do will lead to better interviews and better employees for your dental practice.

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~ Dr. Rhea Haugseth