Why Hiring Remains a Challenge for Most Dentists and Orthodontists

Why Hiring Remains a Challenge for Most Dentists and Orthodontists

I continue to hear from my orthodontics clients a common thread of frustration and angst as we search for qualified candidates on their behalf. Every position from office manager to treatment coordinator, dental assistant and front desk continues to be a struggle. Each owner often asks if the problem is isolated to them or their state. It’s not. The problem is prevalent throughout the United States.

Adding to the problem and requiring me to justify the length of time it’s taking to fill these positions is the cost of advertising. Some positions fill really quickly, and the costs of the job posting are low. On the contrary, we have had open positions running into the 3rd and 4th month with advertising running into the four-figure mark. I always make sure each of our clients is aware that there is no benefit to me when a job remains open, and the costs are increasing. We never markup or profit from a job posting on any website.

Our posting for a Front Desk Coordinator position was advertised for 47 days, with 1574 clicks, 368 applicants and cost $850 to post.

A significant part of the problem from my perspective as a recruiter for orthodontists is the number of applicants versus qualified candidates versus those who actually turn up for their interviews. On average 40% of those that we invite to interview either ‘no show’ or are totally unprepared for the interview itself.

Anyone we send to an owner for consideration is a reflection on our ability to adequately screen for the best. We disqualify or cut short the interview for many of those who do actually show up. Interviewing when driving, shopping or looking like they’ve just woken up will not get you a recommendation. Running late by 10 minutes or more with no apology, unshaven, wearing an ill-fitting t-shirt or any appearance that could never be suitable for any of our clients is a waste of everyone’s time. Adding to our frustration is the number of applicants who struggle for the first 5 minutes of the interview time that we’ve scheduled as they attempt to connect with us on zoom with many of them freely admitting that they have never used this method of communication before. My baby-boomer brain struggles with the majority of those that don’t know how to use zoom are millennials.

Availability plays a huge role in finding great candidates. I have spoken before regarding the number of unemployed within the healthcare industry compared to all other job classifications. Specifically, as we search for that elusive dental assistant the unemployment rate nationwide sits at 2.3% compared to an overall rate of 6.1%. This isn’t new. Reading through the data and projections, unemployment is likely to drop below the 6% mark as early as April and I suspect the numbers for dental assistants will follow suit. Good help really is hard to find, and in many jurisdictions the number of resumes is outweighed by the number of positions open.

Median pay for a dental assistant was $19.27 in 2019 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

One of the factors that I think we have to reexamine is the pay rate for each of the positions that we’re looking to hire. That’s easy for me to say of course because I’m not paying their wages. Raising the pay for a new team member will undoubtedly have a ripple effect on the rest of your office. But is it time to do a complete wage and salary review for everyone that you employ? I think that I can make the argument that it is time.

Half of U.S. workers haven’t received a pay boost in some form over the past 12 months, according to Bankrate.

The frustration of not being able to fill positions is linked to another conversation that I have with clients across the country. It’s clear that in nearly every field, there is a lack of structure when it comes to annual evaluations and pay reviews. Owners and managers freely admit that they could not remember the last time they had administered an evaluation to any of their team and had no recall of the last time their employees had received an increase. Several don’t have any form or a formal review process in place. Is this a Eureka moment? Probably not, but it likely plays into retention of your good employees, overall staff morale and your ability to hire quickly, or at the very least, quicker.

I recommend that every owner take some simple steps, sooner rather than later, with or without my help. Establish a productive, balanced and regular review process for every team member. Pay what they are worth – not a penny more, not a penny less. Pay for the value you receive and avoid thinking only of length of service. Consider capping certain positions and how you can still motivate your team. Stop thinking that you’re paying a fair wage – find out, and when you’re ready to hire – be prepared to pay the going rate.

Sean Barnard is a Certified Professional and member of the Society of Human Resources Management. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and are not to be considered legal advice.

Sean Barnard, SHRM-CP
Sean Barnard is a public speaker, corporate trainer, consultant and certified human resources professional.