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8.15.08 Issue #336 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague


Angie Stone RDH, BS
Consultant
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Hiring A Dental Hygienist?
Stop, Look And Listen

Do you know why your hygienist chose to be a hygienist? Did he/she choose hygiene because of financial rewards or because he/she has a passion for helping people keep their teeth? Maybe it was because his/her father was a dentist. This is a crucial question to ask when interviewing a potential hygienist for your practice. Why? Because you are looking for an applicant with not only superior clinical skills but also someone who can connect with patients, work as a team member and promote the practice. Looking for these qualities requires that you pay attention, not only to the verbal answers but also to the facial expressions and body language.

Take for example the hygienist who hesitates to answer questions and avoids eye contact while responding during the employment interview. This person more than likely is not smiling and is not offering more than one-word answers to your questions. But hygienists are hard to come by in your area and the hygiene department revenues are declining due to the open position, so you hire her. She seems a bit shy in the beginning, but you feel she will come around if you give her some time. The days go by and then the weeks and then the months. Patients are commenting that they don’t feel as if they are getting the same quality of service as they have in the past. The hygienist appears stressed out and unhappy. You don’t know what to do.

The trouble is this situation is all too common in dental practices. Even more troublesome is that this undesirable circumstance could have been avoided. The signs of trouble were there during the interview but were overlooked. The absence of eye contact, extroverted exchange and incomplete answers to questions were all red flags. These are all signs of low self confidence, possible “burn out” or poor communication skills; a successful hygienist needs to have an adequate amount of self-confidence and excellent communication abilities.

Another important observation to make is how enthusiastic the applicant appears to be. Is the tone of her voice energized or is it monotone ? If a hygienist is burnt out on the practice of dental hygiene she is not going to be an effective clinician. Your practice will suffer the consequences in lost production due to the unmotivated hygienist and decreased patient retention.

Other than verbal and visual cues, you should also administer a temperament type assessment to each applicant. Research shows that people with certain tendencies make more effective dental hygienists. One of the tendencies that appears to be a strong predictor of success is that of extroversion versus introversion. Extroverted hygienists are usually more effective than introverted hygienists due to the fact that extroverts are invigorated by having contact with people. Introverts are often exhausted after eight hours of having to be social. This will make them appear burnt out and uninterested in their work. Selecting the applicant with the temperament type suited for a dental hygienist may result in a long-term successful employee.

For a better interview ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer from the applicant. Ask him/her to discuss a case that he/she had great success with, or ask about a product that he/she recently discovered and how it could benefit your practice. Present a scenario involving a fictional patient and ask how the applicant would handle it. Inquire about continuing education courses and what topics seem the most interesting. The answers to these questions will give you insight as to what kind of an employee/hygienist he/she would be and if he/she would be a good fit for your practice.

Interviewing for clinical hygiene positions should be more than, “How much money do you want?” and “When can you start?” Is it any wonder that hiring the wrong person ends up costing the practice several thousands of dollars and lost patients? Isn’t it time to step up and improve your interviewing practices so the correct employee is hired the first time around?

Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department?
Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com.

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