My partner and I recently hired a new clinical assistant for our office. He posted all the ads, did all the preliminary interviews and narrowed the field to three candidates. All of this done during the busiest time of the year for continuing education, so I was hands off traveling during the process. My task was to complete a phone interviews in the hopes I could get some sense of who the right person was to hire.
One of the things I know from years of working with team members, is that who the person is, their values, circumstances, and temperament are more critical when hiring than clinical skill. Now I am not diminishing the skill they bring to their responsibilities, and I believe it is a personal choice on whether you like to hire highly skilled people who require little technical training or prefer to hire folks and train them yourselves. That is more about your team, temperament and hiring experience.
What I do know is that I have met very few team members who couldn’t be trained, as long as who they are is a fit for the team and we are a fit for them. I worried for two days on what will I would ask on the phone so I could get to know these three people. It struck me the morning of the calls what to ask. No matter how much we know we often can’t see what is right in front of our faces. I’m talking about myself, because the evening prior to the calls I returned from the Wisconsin Dental Association meeting where I taught a program on case acceptance. One of the exercises we did is designed to enhance listening skills. I have used the same question for many years as the foundation for this exercise.
Two of the meeting attendees took a team program that I gave with Mary Osborne and Joan Unterschuetz a few months ago, and remarked to me that as a group they made the commitment to ask this question and do a listening exercise with every other member of the team in the six months after the program. They shared how valuable they found the exercise, but more importantly this question among team members, and it was cool they just got one done by working with each other.
Reflecting on my time in Wisconsin I realized I had worried about what to ask during these phone interviews, and at the same time remarking about the power of the listening exercise and this one question, and answering my dilemma. So that afternoon, I asked the one question that has always helped me get to know someone, get a sense of their values, temperament, circumstances. “What would it be important for me to know about you so we can work well together?” Then I will simply listen, maybe ask some clarifying questions, and see what I learn.
Looking back now that our new assistant has been in the office for a month, it was just the right question to ask. I’d love to hear what you do that works during the hiring process.