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6.16.06 Issue #223

Prepare for the Perfect Hire

Sally McKenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

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As careful as you may believe your hiring practices are, one fabulous applicant today can turn into one disastrous hire tomorrow. It is said that experience is the best teacher, and when it comes to hiring employees, many dentists have plenty of “credits” from the school of hard knocks. So how do you avoid another pummeling? Planning and preparation.

Thrown into a panic when that two weeks notice lands on their desks, doctors often will simply fill the void with the first person they can. They hope she/he is comfortable discussing financial arrangements with patients, or managing a complicated practice schedule, or capable of quickly establishing rapport with others. But they don’t really know. So they cross their fingers, rub their lucky rabbit’s foot, and pray things work out. I have a better idea. Take concrete steps to ensure your next hire is the right fit for your practice.

When you’re ready to fill a position, screen candidates, conduct thorough interviews, carefully check references, and test applicants to determine if they are a good match for you and your team.

First – the reality check. It’s a fact of work life that most people never look better than they do on their resumes. Take a good close look at that resume and do more than just scan the surface.

Know what you are looking for when you review resumes. Use the job description to help you identify specific skills that the applicant must have. Be leery of applicants whose resumes focus on skills, responsibilities, and accomplishments but have no chronological record of employment or detail of the types of jobs they’ve held. Look for longevity in employment. And review cover letters carefully; if the letter is sloppy, it’s likely the applicant is as well. 

Conduct phone interviews to pre-screen applicants and address your most pressing concerns immediately. If there are gaps in employment history, now is the time to learn why. Does the applicant have a list of “must haves” for this job? Listen for tone, attitude, and grammar on the phone, particularly if the position requires handling patient calls.

Check ‘em out. Check references and work histories of those candidates you are still considering. Confirm beginning and ending dates of employment, job title and job duties, supervisory responsibilities, job performance, if the employee would be hired again, the employee’s compliance with office policies, and her/his ability to work and communicate with others. You want qualitative, work-related information on the individual.

Now you are ready for the face-to-face interview. Prepare a checklist that includes standard procedures for each candidate. Conduct interviews using a written set of specific questions for each applicant to compare responses to the same questions. Ask open-ended questions. For example, “Describe how you would handle a patient who arrives late.” Or, “If production drops off what would you do to try to correct the situation?” Ask follow-up questions based on the applicant’s responses.

Take thorough notes during the interview and jot down personal details to keep track of who’s who. Remember, the applicant is likely to be on her/his best behavior in the interview. If she/he doesn’t impress you now it won’t get better after the person is hired.

Now that you have a couple of strong contenders for the position, how do you determine who is the better match? The candidates may appear to have the right skill set, but if one has trouble making decisions or the other is overly controlling that seemingly ideal hire can become a disaster almost overnight. Don’t gamble and don’t guess, instead test the candidates.

McKenzie Management, in cooperation with the Institute for Personality and Aptitude Testing, provides a statistically valid and scientifically based hiring assessment tool for dentists. The computerized assessment measures job applicants against a profile of the “ideal” dental practice employee for each position. The procedure is simple: Applicants answer a list of questions online. Just minutes later, the dentist receives a statistically reliable report enabling them to clearly determine if the candidate under consideration would be a good match for the dental practice position being filled. It’s straightforward and accurate. Now you’re hiring based on real data not gut feelings or good luck.

Use a careful and deliberate hiring strategy and ensure that your team represents your total commitment to excellence.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns?  Email her at

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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Hold Up the Mirror…See Yourself as Others Do.

Dr. Nancy Haller
Executive Coach
McKenzie Management

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You look in the mirror every day…to check if your hair is in place, how your clothes fit, whether your make-up is right. Based on what you see, you might straighten your tie, reapply your lipstick, pass the comb through one more time.  You want to be sure that you see yourself as others will see you. 

When was the last time you stepped back and looked in the ‘leadership mirror’?   Is your image of yourself as a leader consistent with how your employees see you? Do you reflect characteristics of vision, composure, integrity, empathy?  Have you aligned your perceptions with your staff’s views? 

To look in the mirror and ask for honest feedback takes confidence and courage.  You risk seeing something negative about yourself. But the only way you can grow and learn is to challenge yourself to improve. To be successful requires continuous development. It means identifying your strengths – the things you do well and enjoy the most – and facing your limitations, your underdeveloped skills – the things you need to learn and/or do better.  

More than any other single factor, YOU are the key to improving your practice production. Here are some guidelines to becoming a better leader.

Do a self-assessment. Ask 10 people who know you well these five questions: 

  1. What do I do well?
  2. What do I not do well?
  3. What would you like to see me keep doing?
  4. What would you like to see me start doing?
  5. What would you like to see me stop doing?

Next, list your skills into the following seven categories:

  1. Definite Strengths – I do these easily and effectively.  I am at my best.
  2. Strengths Overused – Too much of a good thing is bad.  An example is confident to the point that you look arrogant.
  3. Unacknowledged Strengths – Others see me doing these things well.  I was not aware of these strengths. 
  4. Weaknesses – I don’t do these well.
  5. Blind Spots – You see strengths where others see weaknesses. 
  6. New Requirements – I’ve never done this before and need new information.
  7. Uncertain – I need more feedback.

First and foremost, celebrate your strengths.  By recognizing your talents you foster the confidence and courage needed to persevere in your own development. Determine how and where you can leverage your strengths to develop your areas of weakness. 

Balance your overused strengths. Think of your personality style like a radio dial. If the volume is too soft or too loud, the music isn’t as pleasant as when the audio is adjusted correctly. To be an effective leader you need the right style at the right time so that it is at the right level for your patients and your staff.

Identify your weaknesses. You will be more effective in your efforts if you prioritize and focus. Commit to modifying one or two behaviors. Set observable action steps to move you closer to your intended leadership goal. Share your plan with employees so they can continue to give you timely, honest feedback. Just like the training you would pursue to learn a new dental procedure or the use of a new product, leadership skills can be acquired with information and rehearsal.

Ask for help. Research indicates that employees are more likely to give the benefit of doubt to bosses who admit their shortcomings and strive to do something about it. Involve your staff in your plan. Get a mentor or a coach - someone who will challenge you as well as give you support. McKenzie Management also offers a series of development guidebooks to assist you in improving your effectiveness.

The potential to become a better leader is well within your capability! Contact Dr. Haller at

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Hunting with a Hand Grenade

Scott McDonald

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There are several reasons that going deer hunting with a hand grenade is less than a perfect idea. In general, hand grenades are “messy.” They tend to kill and maim indiscriminately. The “trophy” isn’t much to look at. A single grenade has the effect of warning prey in the area so a second shot isn’t possible. And, of course, the hunter is often as much a victim as his prey.

Assuming that we are hunting for new patients, it is amazing how often dentists resort to the marketing equivalent of hand grenades. They will buy a mailing list with ALL the people who live in a geographic radius around their practice. They will offer two or three very broad discounts to the mailer in hopes of “catching someone’s eye.” A laundry list of services will appear in the advertisement as well. As many as 30,000 mailers are sent out each month to these households with the expectation that “someone will call.”

Invariably, the percentages are pretty good that “someone will call.” Attracted by a deep discount, dental “shoppers” are commonly the first to come in. In fact, by our experience the most common result from such a marketing “grenade” is a stream of patients, none of whom are interested in a long-term dental relationship with the practice.  Lack of cash or credit seems to be the most common element among this marketing “prey.” And while the revenues from such marketing efforts may pay for their costs, the practice gains little over the long-term for its investment.

On the other hand, if the purpose of the practice’s marketing efforts is to add to the underlying value of the practice, the primary goal for marketing is collections rather than new patients. True, production is important but one can always produce free dentistry and collect very little from it. Therefore, the goals of the practice should be to attract patients who will stay with the practice for the long-term, be fairly compensated from the doctor-patient relationship, and enhance internal referrals as much as possible. Oh, yes. And to collect fees.

Hand grenade marketing won’t get it. Target marketing will.

Target marketing will use a “scope” or sighting-mechanism to see what prey might exist within the region. The selection of prey (or an ideal potential patient) is to consider either what kind of “trophies” are most abundant in the region, easiest to attract, and/or most profitable to pursue. Maybe the 16-point buck can’t be found nearby. Perhaps you should consider rabbits. Perhaps wild boars are more common. The marketing equivalent of the “scope” is marketing research.

Target Marketing allows the dentist to focus upon a specific sub-set of the general population that will be his or her “best patient” AND allows the doctor to figure out a cost-effective strategy to attract them. Hand grenade marketing will, at best, have a result. Target marketing, however, will provide a result that is more predictable and desirable because it will be most cost-effective in attracting just the kind of potential patient YOUR practice wants.

Specifically, target marketing allows the “hunter” to adjust for the right weapon and ammunition that is appropriate for the “prey” that is sought. For example, some patients prefer post cards. Others want discount coupons. Still others will want a newsletter. Within this chosen “medium” the dentist will select a message that will appeal to the patient-type they most want. For example, some patients want a dentist who is fast (one-hour appointments), or convenient (located near your home or office), or even accessible (very early and very late appointments). Sometimes the message will be clinical (cosmetic procedures or dental implants) or non-clinical (friendly staff or affordable pricing).

It is worth noting that research has proven again and again that the dentist cannot be all things to all people. Therefore, targeting the right potential patient with the right medium, at the right time, with the right message will actually cost less but deliver superior results. This is the heart of our Marketing Report offered through McKenzie Management.

Scott McDonald is the largest provider of dental marketing research to dental practices.  For more information

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This issue is sponsored
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McKenzie Management's Seminar Schedule
  July 20 Del Mar, CA - Ortho Symposium * Sally McKenzie  
  July 26 San Diego, CA - San Diego Womens Dental Society Nancy Haller  
  Aug. 2-6 Denver, CO - Academy of General Dentistry * Sally McKenzie  
  Sept. 15-17 San Francisco, CA - California Dental Association * Sally McKenzie  
  Sept. 21-22 Santa Barbara, CA - The Art of Endodontics Sally McKenzie  
  Sept. 29-30 Oviedo, Spain - Clinica Sicilia Sally McKenzie  
  Oct. 7-8 Krakow, Poland - UNO Dental Sally McKenzie  
  Nov. 2-3 Santa Barbara - The Art of Endodontics Sally McKenzie  
  Nov. 8 San Diego, CA - San Diego Womens Dental Society Sally McKenzie  
  Nov. 17 Concord, NH - New Hampshire Dental Society Sally McKenzie  
  Dec. 7-8 Santa Barbara, CA - The Art of Endodontics Sally McKenzie  
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