Yes, It’s Still Possible To Find The Right Candidate For Your Dental Practice - Even During A Labor Shortage

Published on
April 15, 2024
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We can trace the roots of this national crisis to the first year of the pandemic. Massive amounts of layoffs triggered a reshuffling of many economic sectors. By the time the economy restarted, demand had surged, but the labor infrastructure was either in flux or non-existent.

This phenomenon affected the dental field as much as any other industry, and recent data indicates employment levels have not quite recovered.

In this economic context, many dental practice owners are left wondering if the lack of options means being less selective with their potential hires. But the best approach to navigating this employment crisis is not to be less selective, but rather re-learning how to be selective. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the causes of the current labor shortage and what your dental practice can do to find the right employee.

The Perfect Storm

There’s no need to bury the lead here; COVID-19 catalyzed the ongoing employment crisis. But catalysts only serve to trigger some other combination of variables that might provide insight as to why so many practices are having trouble hiring.

Survey Says…

The American Dental Association conducted an extensive survey into hundreds of dental practices throughout the country, and the results are enlightening.

Turns out that the diaspora of dental professionals is primarily due to three factors:

  1. Health and safety concerns
  2. Mass retirements
  3. Practical life complications

The survey found that thousands of dentists over 55 years of age took the pandemic as their sign to retire; this was also the case for many hygienists. Younger dental professionals also cited health concerns related to the virus as their main reason for leaving their employer – upon returning to their workforce, many sought higher wage opportunities with different practices.

Finally, the pandemic also caused difficulties for parents and caretakers. The inability to find adequate childcare opportunities kept many dental health professionals from re-entering the workforce.

What Did We Learn?

The labor crisis taught us that thinking about your employee’s quality of life and willingness to remain employed are dependent on their level of risk, convenience, and flexibility. We can take these lessons and apply them to the search for new candidates.

Hiring During a Labor Shortage

Hiring can be a complicated proposition when confronted with a diminished labor supply. Having fewer candidates can drive dental practices to hire people who might be underqualified or not the right fit because their back is against the wall. The best way to combat this problem is by expanding your search and leading with the value you can offer to potential employees. Here’s how you can accomplish this:

1. Cast a Broad Net
If there are fewer candidates in the market, your first move should be to expand your search. Go beyond your typical job postings and start looking at local professional Facebook groups and job boards. Many dental practices are now turning to recruiters to help narrow their search, as these companies have extensive resources and a broad network to lean on.

2. Remember Your Job Posting is an Ad
When there are more candidates than job positions, practices can get away with short job postings because you can expect a flood of applications regardless of how much information you volunteer.

When applicants are scarce, however, it’s essential to treat a job listing much more like an ad for your dental practice. This is because the tables are flipped, and you are now competing with other practices for the best candidates.

Your job listing should include as much relevant and detailed information as possible, including:

  • Overview of the position
  • Role and responsibilities
  • Information about the practice
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Expectations
  • Company values

Being as thorough as possible will help you stand apart from other practices and make you that much more likely to snag the savvy candidates who would value that type of transparency.

3. Understand What Employees Look For

Distinguishing yourself from competitors means understanding your target candidates. Since the job market is tilted in favor of the employees, highlighting company perks and benefits could mean the difference between settling and hiring your dream candidate.

A survey of over 2,000 U.S. workers conducted by the Harvard Business Review showed that benefits play a powerful role in choosing a new job. Among the benefits that candidates give “heavy consideration,” healthcare, flexible working hours, and work-from-home options were some of the top responses.

Not every benefit will make sense for your practice, and some (like work-from-home options) might be impractical for the dental field. Still, understanding what employees value helps make sense of why so many people left their jobs during the pandemic and offers insight into how you can attract excellent candidates.

4. Culture of Added Value

Candidates don’t always make decisions solely based on the bottom line. Demonstrating the added value of working in your practice can make your position attractive to highly qualified candidates.

A fun and supportive work environment that offers continuing education can be extremely attractive for talented and enthusiastic candidates looking to advance their careers. One effective way of doing this is by highlighting your company culture and being transparent about what employees can expect.

Do you incentivize your staff to become certified in different skills? Is your practice using advanced technology that candidates might not have access to in other places?

Those elements of your practice could be the deciding factor for a professional.

5. Enthusiasm Often Out-Performs Work History

The pandemic made work gaps less of a taboo than they once were. Many professionals looking for a new job will have resumes that show a long period of time without working in their given field.

Rather than eliminating candidates for not having an ideal work history, try giving interview opportunities to those who seem most enthusiastic about the position. The truth is that many skills can be learned, but it’s impossible to teach willingness.

That means if someone shows gumption, they will care enough to improve their skills and take pride in their work. Enthusiastic employees will be more committed, involved, and willing to ingrain themselves in your culture while upholding your values.

In many cases, that attitude presents a more substantial return on your long-term investment because a malleable mind can be more receptive than someone who is set in their ways. So, instead of eliminating those resumes that show gaps or lack your “ideal” qualifications, giving excited candidates, a shot might help you uncover some hidden gems.

Good Luck with Your Search!

It’s tough out there for employers, but that does not mean you should be discouraged. Adapting strategically to the new reality of the labor market will help you remain selective and still find the right person for the job. Once you know how to adjust your search and what elements of your practice you should highlight, you’ll soon find that your ideal employee will come knocking.