When you think of the key positions in a dental office, you may think of the dentist and the hygienist first. Let’s take some time to consider the role of the receptionist!
The receptionist can make or break your dental office. Think about it: who is the first person a potential patient talks to? Who is the last person your patients see as they walk out the door? Your receptionist is creating the first impression and often the last impression people have of your office, your team, and your professionalism.
That’s why it’s vital to hire the best possible person for the job - just like you would do when hiring a hygienist or dental marketing role for your office.
“Find somebody who’s really nice and really happy,” recommends Fred Joyal, author of “Becoming Remarkable: Creating a Dental Practice that Everyone Talks About.”
You need somebody who is very compassionate, who knows how to really listen to the patient, and who is non-judgmental.”
“Hiring and developing team members can be a difficult and stressful process,” said Sheri Kay, a dental practice coach who has helped hundreds of dentists create high-performing teams. She has nearly 40 years of experience in dentistry and was voted one of the Top 25 Women in Dentistry by Dental Practice Management in 2011.
Sheri outlines some simple steps dentists and office managers can take to hire an excellent dental receptionist. These steps can be applied to hiring for other dental positions, too.
The more time you take to do it right, the more you’re ensuring your long-term success.”
Clarify Your Needs
It can be easy to panic if your receptionist has just resigned and you need to fill the position quickly. However, it is worth the time to clarify the receptionist’s job description and think about the skills and personality type needed to successfully hire a replacement. You don’t need an unskilled worker who can pick up the phone. You need a warm, friendly professional who can put people at ease and help them get the dental care and service that they deserve.
Craft a Creative Ad
Write an ad that outlines the role and the responsibilities of the position – and the preferred personality type. It’s important to include specific instructions such as to attach a cover letter and a resume when applying. That will help you weed out whether the applicant can follow simple instructions. It will also help you understand whether the applicant is computer-savvy.
Sheri Kay recommends sorting resumes into three piles or online folders. The “definitely no” pile is for the people who don’t have the right skills or temperament. Their resumes often include spelling errors and other problems. The “definitely interested” pile is for the people who seem to have the right criteria. And the “maybe” pile is for the rest.
Conduct a Phone Interview
Your receptionist will be on the phone all day, so it’s vital that she has excellent phone skills. Is the candidate articulate? Does she come across as warm and friendly? Ask the candidate what it was about the ad that attracted her to it. This will help you know if the candidate is interested in the position for the right reasons, or if she was just applying for any job she saw.
Pay Attention during the In-Person Interview
It’s important to look the candidate in the eye and form an initial impression. After all, this is what your patients will be doing every day. Is the candidate professional and composed? Is she engaged in the discussion?
Do you end the first interview feeling like this is somebody you would want to work alongside for the next 10 years?
Conduct a Second In-Person Interview
“Hiring the right person is a process, not an event,” said Sheri. It’s important to take the time to talk to the person a few times. Sheri recommends asking open-ended questions such as, “What are some of the things that are important to you on a team?” and “Tell me what you think makes a good work environment.” You may want to also ask some questions about patient interaction, such as how they would handle a patient who was upset.
Listen carefully to the answers to confirm the person will be a nice fit for your team.
Sheri recommends having the candidate observe you and your team to understand your work flow and how the team members work together. She suggests giving candidates a legal pad(or an iPad) to capture tasks and behaviors that are similar to their previous work environment and things that are different.
“I want to know if they’re paying attention and what they’re paying attention to,” said Sheri.
Involve Team Members
Sometimes candidates will say something to a peer that they won’t say to the hiring manager. Invite your key team leaders to meet the candidate and listen for strengths and any red flags. Also, the team members can give their impressions of the candidate’s skills, friendliness, energy, and chemistry. The decision of who to hire will affect them just as much as it affects you.
Make a Good Offer
Often, the receptionist position is seen an entry-level and isn’t paid very well. But a great receptionist is going to facilitate more callers to schedule appointments, which generates more revenue for your practice. If the receptionist is the reason that just four patients with big cases choose your dental office each year, then the position has more than paid for itself.
“I always tell doctors to overpay so you attract good people and keep them,” said Fred Joyal.
“You want them to be able to live on what you pay them, so they’re not out looking for another job.”
Your dental receptionist sets the stage for the experience your patients will have in your office. Take the time to hire a great receptionist and you, your team, and your patients will all benefit.
Amol Nirgudkar, Co-Founder and CEO of Patient Prism, LLC
Amol helps dentists grow their practices and reach their goals. He is in an unusual position to offer practical insights. As a certified public accountant, business consultant, author, entrepreneur, and former owner of several dental practices, he has 20 years of experience working with dental practices, both large and small.
Amol has also written several articles and e-books and published a paperback book called Profitable Niches in General Dentistry (2014).
In his spare time, Amol also runs a quantitative hedge fund and travels the country with his 13-year-old piano prodigy daughter to piano competitions.
Patient Prism is a call-tracking and call-coaching platform designed exclusively for dental practices to improve call conversion and increase dental office revenue. Through a combination of artificial intelligence and experienced call coaches, we have analyzed more than 4 million phone calls, identified best practices, and made an immediate difference in dental practice revenues.