The Working Interview

The “Working Interview”, is fast becoming an essential part of a comprehensive hiring process. Ok, they’ve been around for a long time but when we’ve interviewed offices that have suffered from a chronic case of “Bad Hire Syndrome” we found that their idea of a working interview was more like a quick tour of the office and a meet and greet…if that!

Let’s face it, reading over a candidates resume, talking to them over the phone to hear “how they sound” and inviting them in for the first interview are all important but BEFORE you make a decision on a “final” candidate’s references and take someone else’s (often a stranger) glowing endorsement as fact…please have them in for this all important and often opinion and decision changing experience. After all your definition and expectation of “solid clinical skills” …may in fact be different than someone else’s…right?

A well planned “working interview” is a great tool that can save you, your staff, your patients AND the candidate from having to find out (hopefully sooner than later) that it just wasn’t quite the “Fit” you were all looking for.

We’re not suggesting that having a candidate in for a working interview will 100% Guarantee whether your candidate is the ONE…but they have shown time and  again their value in greatly reducing your chances of making a poor hiring mistake. When combined with good interviewing techniques, personality assessments and employer checks, it can greatly reduce the chances of a hiring mistake and help to insure a good fit!

Some things to make your working Interview Successful!

Set Expectations:

Make sure that applicants know that participating in a working interview does NOT mean that they have been hired nor promised a job. This has happened so plan ahead!

Let them know how long the working interview will last.

I always like at least ½ to full days so that they can have lunch with the staff and allow you to really assess their skills (both interpersonal and clinical) but also let them know it might not last that long.This leaves the door open if it becomes obvious that they are not a fit, letting them leave so as to not waste your or the candidates time.

Be prepared and have a checklist of things that you would like to see the candidate perform.

If there is something that they can’t jump in and do because it requires more training …for example, they haven’t worked with the your Dentrix PMS system but are well versed in Eaglesoft – they can still be asked how they would do certain tasks in certain situations.

For Clinical staff, let them know how you do things, protocols with patients etc. and how you like things set up. Look to see if they ask good and relevant questions. Candidates aren’t mind readers and although we’d like to see if they take initiative in certain situations there does need to be some expectations or guidelines given so they aren’t set up for failure.

Include the Team

While this is the time for you and your staff to see what the candidate can or can’t do… REMEMBER they are also sizing you and your staff up and seeing if this is a good fit for them!

And speaking of your Staff…make sure they know that you are bringing in a candidate and for what position! Let the staff know who they are and when they are scheduled.

If it’s someone that is coming in the next day from an interview the previous night, let everyone know in the morning huddle or call key team members the night before.  Make sure that you introduce the candidate to all of your team members. I can’t tell you how many practices just schedule an applicant to come in and the front desk has no idea who this person is or why they are there! Then to make things worse, the candidate isn’t even introduced to the rest of the staff often resulting in mistrust among your staff and giving your candidate (and quite often this is the candidate you feel is “The One”) the impression that your office is the last place he or she would ever want to be a part of. It should NEVER be a surprise!

Scheduling and Opportunities

Make sure that the applicant has a variety of opportunities to see if this is a fit for them too.  Try and schedule them in on a “typical” day so that they can see what a typical day is like in your office.

You should give them clear direction on what your expectations are and allow time for them to ask questions and meet other coworkers. Even if they have experience, they are not experienced in your office so set them up for success!


Whenever possible let the candidate know that you would like them to stay and have lunch with some of your team members giving them an opportunity to meet them and ask any questions they may have.

The feedback you will get from your staff about the candidate may be more

“telling” than what you may or may not have learned during the clinical portion

of the working interview!

  • How did the candidate interact? What did they talk about?
  • Did they start talking about or asking your staff inappropriate and / or personal information?
  • Did they seem more concerned about “benefits” …or did they share their positive impressions of the office and how they see themselves becoming a helpful member of your team?

Prepare your team ahead of time by telling them about the candidate and suggesting some relevant questions for them to ask designed to help the candidate “open up”. I.e. What skills are their strongest…what are they trying to improve upon? Where do they see themselves in a year or two?  What are they looking for in a practice? What are their expectations? Where have they worked etc.

The “Team Lunch” is one the best tools and can really help you in the entire decision and hiring process! Don’t overlook it!

Interview in person… before doing a Working Interview.

Always try to do an “in person” interview before scheduling a “working interview”. Practices are famous for doing this when they are short handed

primarily in assistant and hygiene positions and generally is not the best way to find out what truly makes the candidate “tick”.

Doing the “in person” interview one on one first, is key to allowing your candidate to meet with you and understand your philosophy, expectations and get the “lay of the land” so to speak. Additionally, this gets things started off on the right foot and lays the groundwork for setting up (or not setting up) future interviews i.e. the working interview.

We have heard accounts from candidates that arrived for their working interview that day. They ended up having to wait until the end of the day to meet with the Doctor and in some instances never met with them at all and left the office without having any discussion or feedback!

The Conclusion of a Working Interview – be Respectful

Make sure that you talk with the candidate at the end of the working interview to let them know how it went. Even if it’s for a few minutes on those that aren’t a right fit be respectful and honest. Too many times candidates are shown out without any idea on how it went, when or if they will be contacted and with no payment for their services!

  • You must PAY candidates for a working interview unless they are doing Work Assessment interview and they are not considered 1099’s.
  • Let all candidates know when you will be making a decision.
  • Call those that weren’t a fit to let them know. It helps them move on and is the respectful and professional way to treat a person.

These just a few steps that will help you and any potential candidate to have a great working interview. Dental is a small community so remember, it’s a “Two-Way” street and candidates will talk about their experience too.  Always be professional and respectful to all potential candidates and leave them with the best possible impression that you can!