A growing practice needed to hire a few new team members. This practice wanted to make sure they hired someone capable, who could learn quickly, and who would fit in with the office culture.
The practice called up their local Temp Agency, who they counted on to screen applicants for basic skills. The thinking was that if they hired someone on as a “temp,” they could evaluate their potential as a permanent member of the team while observing them on the job.
All in all, that’s a pretty good solution, especially for a busy practice that finds it difficult to schedule the time for advertising, screening, interviewing, hiring, and training into an already overwhelming workday. The Temp Agency advertised, recruited, screened, interviewed, and contracted with the applicants, sending over the most qualified to work on a temporary, hourly basis. The dental practice paid the agency, and the agency paid the employee. Outsourcing, right?
You might be tempted to copy this strategy. There’s nothing wrong with that. After all, Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
Or you might be tempted to go one step further: save yourself some money, eliminate the Temp Agency as middleman, and “audition” potential team members by paying them directly for their time while they try on the job to see if there’s a fit.
So you advertise, screen, interview, and find yourself with two or three candidates who might be perfect. You ask each of them to come in and do the job for a day, after which you will pay them directly for their time. Once you’ve seen them all in action on the job, you’ll make your final offer.
Good idea, right? After all, it’s just temporary. What could possibly go wrong?
Let us count the ways.
- Tax fraud, anyone? Both the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor would look askance at an employer (you) paying someone directly without reporting their income, regarding it as tax fraud.
- Insurance liability? Anyone? So let’s say Candidate #1 slips and falls in the restroom, breaking her leg. She sues. Is she your employee? No. Is she a patient? No. Are you in trouble? Definitely.
- HIPAA violation possibilities? Anyone? Hello? Candidate #2 makes a mistake with patient information and posts a selfie with one of your patients on his Facebook page. The patient is savvy, sees herself tagged on Facebook, and sues. Are you in trouble? Oh heck, yes.
- And because you haven’t “hired” this temporary person, you’re just auditioning them, they don’t have an employment contract. They don’t have a copy of your employee manual (your protective document that outlines your policies, provides for resolving employee issues, and protects you from lawsuits), therefore they can take you to the cleaners for any damage they (potentially) cause.
So what’s a growing dental practice who wants to hire the most qualified team members without making mistakes to do?
Avoid the “working interview.” Like the plague. Here’s the difference between working with a Temporary Agency and conducting your own “informal” working interview:
As an employer, the Temporary Agency who advertised, recruited, screened, interviewed, contracted, and paid the temporary employee in our opening example, performed the following legal obligations:
- Paid the employee minimum wage, at the very least
- Withheld payroll taxes
- Conducted a background check and verified the employee’s eligibility to work in the United States.
- Provided Workers’ Compensation, and notified their insurance carrier to ensure coverage
- Confirmed the employee completed HIPAA training
- Provided a copy of the agency’s employee handbook.
As an employer who informally contracted with job candidates to come in for a day’s pay to try on the job, you didn’t do any of that. Calling what you did a “working interview” won’t give you a leg to stand on if you end up in court. The candidates were on your premises, using your equipment, acting under your control, on your behalf. As far as the IRS and DOL are concerned, she is your employee. You’re in trouble.
So if you can’t legally do a “working interview,” how can you make sure you’re getting a team member with the necessary talent, skills, and abilities?
The answer is simple. Conduct skills testing as part of your interview process. The difference between skills testing and a working interview is the difference between a simulation and a real-life situation. Skills testing, if designed and documented properly, will give you the same insight into your candidate’s personality, skills, and abilities. Here are a few examples:
Dental Assistant: Show the candidate your setup, and ask them to duplicate it in another treatment area.
Bookkeeper/Billing Assistant: Establish a sample patient file, and ask them to code the charges.
Hygienist: Give them a plastic model and ask them to demonstrate a particular technique. Use a sample patient chart to discuss the patient’s problems and treatment needs.
Front Desk/Reception: Set the candidate up in a room and have the staff “call them” from house phones, role-playing patient interactions.
Work with trusted members of your team to develop simulations of real-world experiences new team members are likely to encounter, and create your own skill tests. The best skills tests are measurable, allowing you to score results and aim for high achievement when selecting candidates to fill your team,
As you begin the interview process with new candidates, there are a few guiding principles that will keep you on the right side of employment law. Be sure your skills testing follows them:
- Make candidates aware that the interview may take place in two sessions, the first a traditional interview and the second a skills assessment.
- Let the candidate know how much time will be involved, and make sure they understand that their taking the skills test is voluntary, they will not be paid for it, and it is not a guarantee of a job offer. Have them acknowledge their understanding by signing and dating a letter of agreement about the skills test.
- Make your skills test a simulation. Do not use real patients, real patient information, or have the candidate perform the real duties of a real staff member.
If your practice is growing, and in need of additional staff, that’s a great problem to have. If you need assistance in setting up skills testing, team evaluations, or employee manuals, we’d love to share our expertise with you.
For over 25 years, we at Dental Management Innovations have helped practices just like yours recruit, hire, and train high-performing team members who get onboard and up to speed in record time. Call us today to schedule a complimentary consultation.