Home Home Home
trusted resource. informed professionals. healthier patients.

Hire Talent-Teach Skills Part 2: Resumes and Interviews

Steven Schwartz, DDS Article 2 of 2 in The Hiring Process
Last Updated: n/a

Hire Talent—Teach Skills: Part 1 focused on how to attract qualified applicants for a vacant position in your dental practice. Once a candidate pool is established, you need to start the process that will result in selecting the one person who is most likely to make a positive contribution to the practice. This process consists of two parts: evaluating resumes and recommendations, and then interviewing qualified candidates.


Applicants use resumes to sell themselves. They hope their resumes will stand out and they will be offered a personal interview with you or a member of your staff. It is important to remember that resumes highlight strengths and ignore weaknesses. Most resumes include sections devoted to education, achievements, employment history and value to previous employers. Each section should be evaluated for what is included and what might be missing.

Education—Look for specific dates of attendance, degrees obtained, and acquisition of pertinent job skills. Applicants can state that they attended a college or university for two or four years, but this gives no indication of whether they actually earned a degree.
Achievements—Look for claims that can be easily be misinterpreted. “I implemented and reorganized the billing system” might mean “I moved the computer station used for billing from one desk to another.”

Employment history–—The key here is to watch for employment gaps and repeated job jumping. Bullet points that indicate employment at the ABC Dental Group from 1996 to 1998 and EFG Dental Group from 1998 to the present might indicate a normal progression. However, it could really mean the applicant left the first job in January 1998 and did not start the new job until December, leaving a year-long employment gap.

Value to previous employer—Once again look for claims that can be easily misinterpreted. “Provided key support to the CEO” can be another way of saying “I fetched coffee for the boss.”

Do not jump to conclusions about an applicant because of one or two inconsistencies especially if most of the claims can be substantiated. Note your questions and concerns on the resume and pursue answers and clarification during the interview.

Letters of Recommendation

A letter of recommendation is not as important as it once was because you cannot be sure of the writer’s motivation. Rather than write negative letters, some employers write letters that contain only minimal information. Other employers choose to write glowing letters of recommendation in hopes that a former employee will land a new job. If unemployment benefits are being paid, there is an advantage to the business to help a former employee obtain a new position. Fear of litigation has forced some employers to refuse to write letters of recommendation preferring to only confirm dates of employment and ending salary. It is also possible that a letter of recommendation is not authentic; the candidate could have written it.

Upon reviewing any letter of recommendation, noncommittal or enthusiastic, make a note to follow up with the person who wrote the letter after you have interviewed the candidate. (The candidate may just be making preliminary inquiries and not actively pursuing a new job. There is no need to jeopardize his or her relationship with the current employer). [Note to author/publisher: Reconsider the content of this paragraph. It is unlikely that a potential employer would have a letter of recommendation for someone who was not actively looking for employment.]

The Interview Process

If your effort to create a pool of qualified job applicants was a success, the thought of conducting scores of face-to-face interviews might be overwhelming. Consider conducting the preliminary screening using the telephone. These calls can be used to screen out applicants who do not have the availability or minimum qualifications to fill the job. After each phone call you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Does the candidate possess the necessary technical qualifications (licenses, professional degrees, training)?
  • Is the candidate available to work the necessary hours?
  • the candidate able to explain resume discrepancies and clarify other areas of concern?

Once the candidate responds satisfactorily to the above points a face-to-face interview can be scheduled. An interview provides a number of opportunities for the dentist and the job candidate. Examples of these opportunities include:

  • The employer can explore any unclear or suspicious information on the resume or job application.
  • The dentist can get a better feel for the candidate’s personality, motivation, ability to perform under stress and the likelihood of fitting in with the team.
  • The candidate can learn more about the practice.

For most dentists, conducting a face-to-face interview with a job candidate is slightly less nerve wracking than firing an employee. By incorporating the following suggestions and questions into your interviewing protocol the process can be more palatable. More information about effective interviewing techniques can be found in the books included in the reading list that appears at the end of this article. [Note to author/publisher: Where is the reading list?]

Setting the Proper Tone

As uncomfortable as you might be conducting an interview, remember that it also is stressful for the candidate. Your goal is not to eliminate the candidate but to evaluate how well he or she will meet the demands of the job and fit into the practice. At the same time, you need to sell yourself and your practice. If the candidate fits your needs, you want the candidate to know that your practice is a great place to work.

The interviewee should be made to feel comfortable upon entering the office. A staff member should greet the candidate with a smile and an appropriate greeting. For example, “Thank you for taking the time to interview with us. Please have a seat and complete this application. I will let Dr. __________ know that you are here.”

The job application should ask for basic information such as name, address, contact information and social security number. It should also ask for education, job qualifications and recent job history (no more than seven years). You might want to use a preprinted application available at office supply stores. If you devise your own form, consider having your attorney review it to make sure you are not asking any illegal questions.

Once the application is completed it should be brought to you for review before you meet the candidate. Compare the information on the job application with the information on the resume. After reviewing the information you should go the reception area and welcome the candidate personally. Extending a firm handshake, look the candidate in the eye and say, “Hi. I am Dr. __________. I’m pleased to meet you Mr./Ms. __________. I’m looking forward to getting to know you better.”

The interview should be conducted in a private office or consultation room. It is best if the candidate sits across a desk or table from the interviewer. The main requirements are privacy and no interruptions during the interview.

Conducting the Interview

With the candidate’s application, resume and letters of recommendation in front of you, begin the interview by explaining the outline and goals of the interview. “We are looking to fill the position of __________ and I want to learn what experiences and assets you can bring to our practice.” Let the candidate know that you will be taking notes to help you remember what is said during the interview.

To break the ice, consider starting the interview by reviewing the job application and resume and clarifying any issues that are unclear or need further explanation. Once those matters are squared away to your satisfaction you will want to ask specific questions.

Asking Questions

There are basically two types of questions: close-ended and open-ended. Close-ended questions are those that can be answered with a yes or no. Open-ended questions require an explanation and details. For example, the close-ended question “Do you work well under pressure?” has only two possible answers: yes or no. The open-ended version of the same question is “Tell me how you work under pressure.” Open-ended questions are preferred over close-ended questions because interviewees are required to do more talking, and thus they reveal more information about themselves. A close-ended question can be changed into an open-ended question by adding phrases such as “I am interested in knowing . . . ” or “Share with me . . .”

Ask your question and then be quiet and listen. The interviewee should talk 80 percent of the time; you should talk only 20 percent of the time. While the interviewee is talking you should be listening and observing. Listen for excessive pauses, stuttering and silence. Excessive pauses might indicate too much thinking; stuttering could indicate nervousness; and silence might mean the candidate does not have an answer. Look for excessive fidgeting, lack of eye contact and slouching. Excessive fidgeting might indicate discomfort; lack of eye contact might mean the person is shy or lying; and slouching could be a sign of poor self-image.

There are hundreds of interview questions that can be asked, but in a 30-minute interview you will have time for no more than fifteen or twenty questions. Here are some of my favorites that have been divided into nine categories. These questions are offered as a starting point. You should adapt them to suit your interview style. References for additional questions are provide in the bibliography. [Note to author/publisher: Where is the bibliography?]

Ice Breakers

  • Did you have any trouble finding us?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • What goals, personal and professional, do you have and how do you plan to achieve them?
  • Why do you want to work with us?
  • What strengths or talents will make you a valuable asset to this practice?
  • Describe your version of the perfect job.
  • Where do you see yourself in one year, five years and ten years?

Past Experience

  • Explain the diversity of jobs you have had in the past (for job hoppers).
  • What exactly did you do in your last job?
  • What did you enjoy most about your last or present job?
  • What did you enjoy least about your last or present job? How could you have improved your job?
  • What factors most motivated you to perform well in your last job?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Does your present boss know that you are here?


  • What can you do for us that someone else cannot?
  • How do you cope with job stress and pressure?
  • What personality traits do you have that will help you succeed in this practice?<
  • What languages do you speak?
  • What two accomplishments, personal or professional, have given you the most satisfaction?


  • What do you do when things are slow at work?
  • How can you best be rewarded for a good job?
  • What special things could you do to show your value to the practice?
  • What new skills would you like to learn?


  • What kinds of people do you enjoy working with?
  • What kinds of people do you find difficult to work with?
  • Do you prefer to work with others or alone?
  • How do you get along with your coworkers?
  • Tell me about a time you had to confront a team member.
  • What special things could you do for your coworkers to make your workplace better?


  • Describe the toughest employer you have had.
  • Have you learned more from your mistakes or from your successes?
  • What would you do if everyone from your department except you called in sick?
  • What would you do if your supervisor told you to do something that was wrong?
  • What kinds of things do you worry about?


  • Is honesty always the best policy?
  • On what occasions are you tempted to lie?/li>
  • What would you do if you saw a coworker taking supplies home?
  • What would you do if your boss asked you to do something inappropriate?


  • Review your salary history for me.
  • What salary, excluding benefits, are you making now?
  • How much do you think a job like this should pay?
  • How much money do you want to be making five years from now?
  • Under what circumstances would you be willing to work for less than you make now?
  • Why should we pay you the amount you are asking?
  • What benefits are important to you?

Concluding the Interview

  • Is there anything you would like to ask me?
  • Is there anything you would like to know about the practice?
  • Are you interested in the job?
  • If you are offered the position, when could you start?
  • May I contact your current and previous employers for more information?

Ending the Interview

At the conclusion of the interview, stand up, extend your hand, offer thanks and let the candidate know when you plan to make a decision. Offer a specific timeframe. You might say, “Thank you for your time. I enjoyed talking to you. We have other candidates to interview, but we expect to make our decision by the end of next week. We will contact you on or before next Friday.”

The Decision

After conducting all the interviews, you are ready to make your decision. One way to accomplish this is to create an evaluation form for each candidate. The form is divided into two columns. On the left side, list the qualifications you decided the ideal candidate would possess (experience, skills, personality, ability to fit in, etc.). On the right side grade each candidate on a scale from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) on how well the candidate fulfills the qualifications. Total the scores for each candidate. The candidate with the highest score gets the first offer. If the candidate declines, make offers to other candidates based on their scores until you find your new employee. A sample composite form appears below.

The table gives details on tallent skills
Dentalcare Dentalcare Dentalcare Dentalcare Dentalcare
Candidates Names
Qualifications Ann Bob Cal Dee
Experience 5 3 4 2
Skills 5 3 4 5
Personality 1 5 3 5
Ability to fit in 1 4 3 4
TOTALS 12 15 14 16

After you have made an offer and the candidate has accepted the job, you should contact the other candidates to let them know that you have chosen someone else to fill the position. The tone of the letter should be positive, but it should clearly state that you have hired someone else. You never know when you might need the services of a rejected candidate in the future. A sample letter is shown below.

Dear ________,

Thank you for applying for a position with our practice. We have filled the position with another candidate whose qualifications better meet our needs at this time. However, we will keep your information on file if a position that suits your qualifications becomes available in the future.

Again, thank you for your time and interest.


The conclusion of the hiring process is just the beginning of the employer–employee relationship. Hiring “good people” does not guarantee a growing and successful practice. Good employees have to be trained and motivated to be superior employees providing superior service to patients.



Based on information in Your Profile, it looks like you’ve graduated. As you transition into practice, we want to keep you informed about new CE courses, promotions, and other resources now available to you as a practicing professional.

So please take a moment to Update Your Profile; make sure to look under each category, i.e., Personal Information, School Information and Notification and Updates and click "Edit."

We also recommend that you visit the Graduating Student section for post-graduate tips.