Mar 26, 2010

Landing the Best Associate Position: Go Where You are Needed. Think Like an Owner.

For Early Career Dentists, it’s a wonderful time to be entering the Dental profession. There is a tremendous need for dentists nationwide. The supply of Dentists will shrink until at least year 2020 while the demand for Dental services will continue to rise. If you are an early career Dentist, you can get a job. No problem. But, to land the best Associate position takes far more than just earning your DDS or DMD. Our team identifies, recruits and places hundreds of Dentists with practices across the country each year. Two pieces of advice:

1. Practice where you are needed- The need for Dentists is most critical in communities located an hour or more from a dental school. It’s the simple rule of supply and demand. — The greater the demand for your services, the easier it will be to become successful.

2. Think Like an Owner – Here are some common concerns that often run through a practice owner’s mind when evaluating an Associate Dentist candidate. As recruiters, we hear these concerns daily from our clients. As a candidate, you may never hear them verbalized. Also included are some tips on overcoming these concerns. They should better equip you to ace your next interview and land an Associate position in your dream practice.

Owner Questions:

Q. Would I enjoy working with this Dentist for years or even decades? Is this Dentist eager to do what it takes to be successful, or will he wait for me to spoon-feed him patients, arrange CE, work through problems, etc.?
A. It is critical for the hiring dentist to have confidence in your ability to self-manage. Talk about situations that demonstrate you have initiative and that you can work independently. Draw from previous experience to show how you’ve creatively worked through challenging situations.

Q. Will my patients and staff enjoy being around the Associate? Will patients feel like they’ve been passed off from the Sr. Dentist to the Jr. Dentist?
A. Demonstrate you are committed to life-long learning. No Sr. Dentist believes that any recent dental school grad really has solid clinical skills. It is more important to convince the Sr. Dentist that you are committed to improving your skills every day, every month and every year than it is to convince him that you are a clinical superstar today.

Q. Is the Associate candidate committed to the area? Will I have to look for a new Associate in two years and start the process all over again? Does he really want to be here?
A. In your cover letter or during an interview demonstrate how you will work to connect with the local community. Describe why you want to be in that community. Demonstrate you have done your homework and are familiar with the area. If you have ties to the region that are not readily apparent, make sure you point them out.

Q. Will this Dentist develop a patient following or rely completely on me to bring in new patients?
A. It is important to note that the owner dentist makes more money producing $100k himself than he makes on an Associate producing $200k. The rule of thumb in any service-oriented business is that an employee needs to produce three times more than he/she is paid in order to be a worthwhile investment. Be prepared to discuss specific strategies you will implement to grow referrals and generate more revenue for the practice. Take a Dale Carnegie Course. Join Toast Masters. Describe how you will take every opportunity to get out there and meet people. If you are not from the community, demonstrate that you will become active in community groups, church, or the school system and develop your own following.

Q. Does it appear that the Associate Dentist candidate can work through conflict? Let’s face it, from time to time there will be misunderstandings, conflicts, and mistakes made in working with staff and patients. Can the Associate work through these issues with ease or will he be a constant source of negative energy in the practice?
A. Be prepared with situational examples which demonstrate your ability to work through conflicts and misunderstandings with peers, colleagues or others. Talk about your problem solving skills and draw from your experience to show how you have resolved situations in the past.

Q. Does the Associate Dentist candidate have a good smile?
A. Smile! Believe it or not, we know dozens of Associate candidates who were not offered positions simply because they did not smile during the interview. Patients, staff and colleagues want to work with someone who is positive, upbeat and confident.

You’ve chosen a wonderful profession. You’ve worked too hard to settle for just another associate position. Remember to go where you are needed and think like an owner.

Article written by Mark Kennedy, Owner/Director of ETS Dental. You can reach Mark at (540) 491-9103 or


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