Snap Up the Perfect Hire Quickly

Of the more than 12,000 dental and medical practices who are members of CEDR or HR Base Camp, the single most frustrating issue reported by practice owners and managers is centered around hiring. There is some good news, sort of. As of the first of July 2021, it appears more qualified applicants are responding to job ads. 

Requests for onboarding checklists and background checks skyrocketed over the past two weeks. The number of employees added to the HR Vault is up by 4%!  While there is still a shortage of hygienists in dental and PA’s in medical, other key positions seem to be drawing multiple qualified applicants. This means that while it’s true some medical professionals are shifting away from the healthcare industry, others outside of the dental and medical fields see these positions as desirable career changes. 

That is good news, but it begs the question: If we are finally getting more than a smattering of candidates, how do managers and owners pick the best of the lot? At the same time, with thousands of jobs unfilled, good applicants are getting snapped up fast. So, hiring slowly could result in losing your best candidate to any number of other jobs being offered in your community.

It might be time to temporarily set “Fire quickly, hire slowly,” aside!

Honestly, there is a ton of guidance out there telling you to take your time when hiring, but, in times like these with the healthcare industry is expected to add more than 2.4 million new jobs and no signs of stopping, it seems that guidance is less than helpful. In this current climate, many managers report that because their hiring needs are so immediate, they tend to be thinking, “We need someone now,” as opposed to, “Let’s take our time and make this hire count.” That’s a shame because if you want to reduce turnover, assemble that dream team, and build a better practice, it’s still important to take a little time to make sure every addition to your team is as valuable as possible. 

No matter the urgency, you will still want to put considerable effort and time into every hire you make. No matter how pressed you feel to fill a position, the fact remains that we as employers still need to attract, identify, and hire great people for our teams! 

In a panel discussion with some of the top practice managers in the country, the consensus seems to be that while managers need to move quickly once they’ve identified a good candidate, they should really focus on getting their stuff together before they run job ads. In other words, while it’s true we need to pick up our pace between the time we first interview and when we make a job offer, we still need to develop our own best methods for hiring great people within the accelerated time frame. In order to do that, you need to make sure that each candidate doesn’t just meet the minimum requirements, but fits in well with your company culture. It’s important that your next hire doesn’t just perform a job, but makes your office a better place to work for you and your team. The best way to do that is to establish, through a couple of simple exercises, what a difference maker will look like for your particular practice before you write your job ad or start interviewing. 

What is a difference maker?

Difference Makers are those employees who bring a new set of skills, new knowledge, or a shift in energy to your team. Rather than simply filling a position, difference makers create an entirely different workplace dynamic, making the team feel more complete. In other words, difference makers don’t just work at your business; they change it for the better. The trouble is, how does a small practice go about sourcing this magical unicorn of an employee? In order to find a difference maker, you have to conduct a purposeful search for a particular person.

How to find a difference maker

The thing about difference makers is that what a difference maker looks like varies for every single business. In order to know who your difference maker is, you must figure out the skills and qualities that will make your workplace run better and articulate them during your sourcing. After all, how will the perfect hire find you if you don’t take some time to let them know that you need them? How will you know if you’re asking the right questions in the interview if you don’t already know what you’re looking for? To find a difference maker for your practice, you must define what that difference maker should be like.  

To locate that perfect hire, identify and articulate:

  1. The tasks the new hire will need to perform. 

The best way to do this is to take an inventory of your practice using the Difference Maker Inventory included in the Difference Maker Toolkit. Using this inventory, you’ll list each of the tasks that need to be completed at your practice. This inventory can most certainly be used when you are trying to fill a vacancy on your team, but it is even easier to implement if you evaluate your team before there is a missing member.  Either way, whether you are short an employee or fully staffed, the best time to use the Difference Maker Inventory is right now. 

Using the inventory, identify who, if anyone, is currently completing each task at your practice. If someone on your staff performs that task, list the skill level of the person who performs that duty. Consider whether work is being done by the right person or if this is a task your new hire will need to be able to do as well.  

Just a quick note– even if you identify a problem within your team, that doesn’t necessarily mean your next hire will be the one to solve it. There is a column called “reassign” because you might have a current employee who is ready to step up, taking on new or increasing responsibilities. In other words, the Difference Maker Inventory isn’t just to assess the needs of your future team members, but to assess your current workers and the distribution of their duties as well. There might be talent already at your disposal that you’re not taking full advantage of.

     2. The qualities the new hire will need to have. 

The best way to do this is to outline the traits your next employee will need to have using the Difference Maker Tool included in CEDR’s Difference Maker Toolkit. If your last employee had positive skills and qualities that you want to make sure your next candidate has, begin by listing those. 

Sometimes, knowing what you don’t want is just as valuable as knowing what you want. That’s because knowing what you don’t want can help you figure out what you need, which is exactly how the Difference Maker Tool works. Begin by identifying a problem or frustration at your practice. 

Here’s an easy one– maybe your office slows to a crawl because computers are always crashing, no one updates their software, and your current staff has a bad attitude about adopting new technology. In that case, your next hire will need to be a forward-thinking, tech-savvy candidate. 

A quick note– this is a perfect example of why a well-written job description is absolutely essential to finding the perfect hire. Most job templates put the standard five years of experience in the medical industry as a boilerplate. In the case of your need for a tech-savvy hire, the “qualified,” “experienced” candidate with years of healthcare experience might not be your best hire. Maybe your perfect candidate is a brand new graduate trying to break into the healthcare industry who had significant IT duties at the job that got them through college. In other words, check every single line of your job description to make sure each word gets you closer to your perfect hire and won’t disqualify the perfect candidate for your unique needs.

Once you have identified the tasks the new hire will need to complete and the qualities that they will need to have, add those items to the job description. As mentioned earlier, don’t forget to scrutinize any job templates for language that might exclude your perfect candidate.  Your practice’s difference maker will not look like the difference maker for Dr. Schneider’s practice down the road, so make sure you have a different job description than Dr. Schneider does. 

The more pointed and specific the job description, the better your chances of snagging the perfect hire. The purpose of all this prep work is to make sure you begin an accurate and specific search. When your difference maker reads your job description, you want them to get excited and say, “Hey! This is the perfect place for me!” If you do that, the most qualified hires will make your practice their first choice, giving you an edge over your competitors. If you write the job description well, the perfect candidate will find you. Still, it’s always important to double-check to make sure that candidate is who they say they are.

Verify that the candidate is truly a difference maker

It’s highly unlikely any candidate will admit to being consistently late in an interview. So, if your difference maker needs to be punctual, you will have to find a way to verify this information. One way to do this is by conducting a behavioral interview during the hiring process. 

A behavioral interview poses questions centered around a candidate’s previous employment experience in order to gauge how that candidate might handle specific situations at your practice. The beauty of the behavioral interview is that it’s very hard to fudge the answers, lessening the chances of the Halo Effect. 

If a candidate is likable and can present themselves well during an interview, they can create a Halo Effect which means they appear more competent and suited for the position than they actually are. That’s why, when it comes to the traits you’re looking for, it’s important to ask for proof in the form of past experience. For example, if it’s crucial that your next hire is punctual, don’t just ask, “Can you commit to being on time?” Instead ask the candidate, “When was the last time you were late for an appointment. Please tell me why and what the impact was on the people who you were made to wait?” Or ask, “How do you make sure you get to work on time each morning?” 

A person who makes little effort to be on time will probably be caught off guard and simply say they set an alarm. A person who always makes a significant effort to be punctual will most likely tell you that they set two automatic alarms, pick out their clothes the night before, get in bed at the same time each night, check the weather, monitor the traffic, and leave twenty minutes early each and every day. 

Of course, you can verify whether or not the candidate actually has those qualities you’re looking for during the interview itself. Did they show up on time? Do they appear to be prepared for your calls and present and ready to engage? You can also verify whether or not the candidate truly has those qualities you’re looking for when you check the employee’s references. When it comes time to contact previous employers, keep the Difference Maker Tool that you filled out handy, and ask the references about that candidate’s specific history.  

If you’re a doctor at a small practice who routinely asks patients how many alcoholic drinks they consume a week, you probably already understand that most people tend to be bad self reporters. So, don’t simply take the candidate’s word that they are the perfect hire. Get some proof.


If all this feels like a bit too much prep work, remember, the more specific you are about what you need ahead of time, the smaller and more focused your pool of candidates will become. The smaller your pool of candidates, the faster the hiring process will go. Doing a little homework before the job search begins in earnest will, in fact, save you time in the long run.

If you want to source the perfect hire, you have two choices: You can put all your effort into the search itself, slogging through a giant pool of candidates, weeding out what you don’t want, or you can do a little homework, and let the perfect hire come straight to you.

Aug 13, 2021

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance based on applicable local, state and/or federal U.S. employment law that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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