Six Mistakes Dentists Make When Hiring (and How to Avoid Them!)

Tonya Lanthier


Remember the class you took in dental school all about interviewing and hiring terrific team members? No? Of course not! Chances are there wasn’t one. It is no wonder that dental teams are frustrated with the process of interviewing and hiring.

Just like prepping a crown, there is a process to hiring that, if done correctly, will yield a great fit, but if not, you will lose time and money and a bit of your sanity in the process. Here are 6 mistakes dentists make while hiring and a few tips on how to avoid them.

Not Asking the Same Questions

Oftentimes we go into an interview with the plan to “feel the candidate out.” We chat, ask about past experience and school, maybe jot down a few notes, and that’s it. Doctors and office managers base their hiring decision on how they “felt” about the candidate. In this case, there is no real metric by which to compare competitors.

This laissez-faire approach will not land you the best fit. What happens if you like 2 candidates equally? What if you and your office manager disagree? Without a standardized way to compare candidates, you will not get the most out of your hire. Instead, go into the interview with a standard set of questions each interviewee is asked. Our suggestions are as follows:

  • What type of culture do you think you fit best in?
  • What does your ideal work place look like? What did you not like about your last job?
  • What core values are most important to you?
  • What do you like about our practice, and why do you want to work here?
  • What do you think you could bring to our practice, and how could you add value?

With a standard set of questions, you can easily compare each candidate’s responses. Your assessment will be more balanced and based on measurable data rather than emotion. 

Ignoring Culture Fit and Core Values

Another major mistake is ignoring culture fit and core values. These 2 areas supersede skill in any hiring process. Skills can be taught, but culture and values are fixed. If you don’t have candidates who fit with your practice’s culture or values, it does not matter how good they are at dentistry. Eventually, cultural or value disagreements end employer/employee relationships.

How do you assess a candidate’s cultural preferences and core values? Start by knowing what your values and culture include. Make sure you have a list of company values, and then ask candidates specific questions about how they relate.

For example, one of your core values may be that patient and team member needs come before the employee’s needs. Ask candidates how they would feel about covering for a team member on a pre-planned day off. If they share the value of putting patient and team needs before their own, they will let you know they would happily step in. If not, they may ask more questions or try and offer alternate solutions.

In the same way, know your culture. If you are a fast-paced office that requires team members to be proactive, a candidate who loves stability and routine may not be the best fit. One of the best ways to make culture and core values front and center is to build the job description around your culture and value needs

Excluding Key People from the Process

One of your greatest hiring assets is your tribe: your team of highly motivated employees who already embrace your values and culture. Instead of a closed-door interview, bring in the experts. Have your team prepare questions that focus on what they need in a new tribe member. Make sure you choose tribe members who will be key to the new candidate’s success in the potential role. Give your team members time to provide feedback after the interview and weigh their opinions heavily in your hiring decision. 

Monopolizing the Conversation

One of the greatest mistakes is spending 70% of the interview (or more!) talking and only 30% listening. If you take up most of the conversational space, you miss out on relevant information from the candidate. When interviewing, try and stick to a 50/50 conversational ratio. Your interviews will be much more successful if you remind yourself that listening is more important than speaking. 

Not Knowing the Answers You Want 

You have your set of questions, you have your tribe on hand to ask them, you are prepared to listen as much as you contribute to the conversation—you are going to nail this interview! Well, not quite yet. There is one more thing you need to consider before the interview. What is it you want to hear from an ideal candidate?

If you ask, “What did you not like about your last job?” and candidates reply, “Nothing at all! I absolutely loved my last job!” did you get the information you needed? Do you really want to know about their last job? Or do you want to know something about a culture or values system they did not work well within? If you get an answer that does not truly answer your question, you need to dig a little deeper. Be prepared with a followup like: “Can you tell me about a job experience that wasn’t a good fit? What was it about that job that didn’t work for you?”

Ignoring Body Language

A second part of this scenario is ignoring the body language of the candidate. We all know how much body language (like eye contact, proximity, posture, touch, breathing, and perspiration) plays a role in communication. An interview is an excellent place to evaluate how candidates handle a stressful situation.

Do they carry themselves with confidence? Do they smile? Are they eyeing the door wanting to escape? All of these cues tell you something about how they could potentially communicate nonverbally with patients. If you are not comfortable with the way they present themselves, your patients won’t be comfortable either. 

Final Thoughts

There is a difference between hiring an employee and building a team. When you set out to build your dream dental team, take time to consider how you will set up an interview experience to deliver the best possible outcome. For more tips on hiring, check out the information provided on DentalPost, where we help dental professionals connect and create teams who excel. 

Ms. Lanthier is the founder and CEO of DentalPost, which she started in 2005 as a tool to help dental professionals connect and make better job choices and hiring decisions by using data. Since then, the company has grown into a networking community for more than 750,000 dental professionals and 38,000 dental offices. She is a member of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association and the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a supporter of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry’s Give Back a Smile program, and a volunteer at several charitable organizations including Georgia Mission of Mercy and the Ben Mansell Clinic. And, she is a board member of the Oral Cancer Cause and Dental Entrepreneur Women. She can be reached at

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