May 21, 2019

10 Expectations from Today’s Associate Dentists

Candidate empathy can provide hiring practices a major advantage when searching for a new associate dentist. The hiring landscape is competitive. Practices throughout the United States are searching for that one, perfect candidate and it’s important for your office to stand out from the crowd as a clearly advantageous decision.

Understanding the needs of an associate will help you be proactive, rather than reactive in your search for a new partner. Below, in no particular order, is a list of needs and expectations that our expert recruiters have gathered to help you better understand and plan for a new associate’s job desires.  

  1. Ability to pay student loan debt. Dentists graduate with an average of more than $250K in student loan debt. Many that our recruiters have spoken with are well over $300K and some come in at a whopping $500K. It’s not a surprise that their number one goal is to eliminate that debt as quickly as possible. Many new associate dentists do this by dedicating 40 percent or more of their income to loan repayments.
  2. Healthy practice culture. Is your turnover low? Are potential coworkers friendly? These things factor in dramatically as to why an associate dentist decides to leave or stay long term with a practice.
  3. Modern technology. New dentists expect computers and digital X-ray. Quite frankly, many would not understand how to function without basic, modern dental technology found in most of today’s dental practices. Nearly 90 percent of practices have now gone digital, which puts candidates in the driver’s seat when it comes to quickly weeding out offices without the basic tech.
  4. Mentorship opportunities. This is particularly desired by early career dentists. They need to be confident that they will be supported by the senior doctor(s). ETS Dental recruiters have found this to be the most undefined characteristic of associateships due chiefly to both parties not reserving time to discuss what they consider to be a mentorship.
  5. Clinical autonomy. Doctors at all career levels want to treat patients how they see fit. They do not want another dentist or manager dictating what they should or should not do.
  6. Money. New associates may say they are not focused on money, but that doesn’t give you the opportunity to underpay them. Most candidates know what salary range is common in the market. They will demand a minimum daily or monthly rate. (Reference point 1)
  7. Benefits. Interestingly, benefits are rarely a “must have” for dentists. With the rise of corporate dentistry, candidates do expect them more often, but rarely have we found a lack of benefits to be a deal killer.
  8. Production over collections. Throughout the past few years, our recruiters have witnessed an uptick in the number of practices paying associate dentists on a percentage of adjusted production or collectible production. Often, it’s more attractive to candidates than collections-based pay.
  9. Work-life balance. While associates are accepting of the fact that Saturdays are increasingly part of the modern dental practice model, they do not have a desire to work six days per week and prefer two consecutive days off each week rather than split days off.
  10. Challenge and growth. Dentists want a clear path to achievement and professional growth. This can mean something different to each doctor, but examples include placing implants, ownership/partnership, or management roles.

How these rank in importance is unique to the dentist that you are interviewing. Our best advice is to focus on communicating mutual expectations from the beginning and continue that periodically throughout the relationship. Priorities and expectations do change as a dentist progresses through their career.


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