Dental Staffing

Is Your Dental Office Still Holding Working Interviews? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider

Presented by:  American Association of Dental Office Management

We’ve been warning against working interviews in dental offices for years. Still, we continue to be surprised by how prevalent this illegal hiring practice seems to be in dentistry. No matter how much guidance we provide on the subject, misinformation about the “benefits” of working interviews… continues to circulate throughout the dental community like a bad rumor.

If your office is still misclassifying and using the term “working interview” without completing all of the necessary new-hire paperwork beforehand, your “interview” is putting your dental office in legal jeopardy - and there is absolutely no reason to do so!

Since our country is trying to adjust to the lingering presence of the novel coronavirus  which presents its own unique legal pitfalls - this is not the time to expose your practice to a situation that might not be covered by your workers’ comp or professional insurances, that could lead to a legal issue at the federal and state level and, worst of all, could easily create yet one more crisis for you to manage right now.

What follows is an excerpt from our newly refreshed Hiring Guide, How to Hire Difference Makers, on why working interviews don’t work, and what your practice can do to test your applicants the safe and legal way, instead.

The Working Interview Trap

Many dental and medical professionals use working interviews to assess the skills of applicants before bringing them onboard. Where this seems to make sense at a glance, allowing an applicant to perform work for your practice or to interface with real patients is not only risky, but often illegal.

There are ways to conduct working interviews legally, but only if you:

1. Bring the applicant on as an actual employee
2. “Try them out” by bringing them in from a legitimate temporary employment agency who retains them as their employee and pays them from their payroll
3. Use “skills tests” instead of the traditional “working interview” format (more on this shortly)

Keep in mind that every person who comes to work for you is your employee. You can call them anything you want, and you may even believe that you can pay them as an independent contractor . Paying your applicants in cash, not paying them for their “working interview,” and/or calling them a “contractor” all put you at extreme risk as a business and could even threaten your personal finances if you are the business owner.

Imagine that you forgo the process of hiring a person and adding them to your employee ecosystem, including your workman’s comp insurance. Now imagine that employee gets exposed to Hep C ($60k to treat) during your trial, or suffers a terrible slip and fall and becomes disabled. Unfortunately, by trying to short circuit the interview process and jumping to a working interview, those costs will fall directly on your business.

We often hear, “But I need to work with them to see how skilled they are!” Okay! We have you covered. That’s called “skills testing” and done properly, it does not violate or put you at substantial risk.

Rather than putting our members through the process of “hiring” an applicant for a single day of work or putting their dental office at risk of a wage and hour violation, we suggest that they ask applicants to perform one or more “skills tests” instead. Skills testing is not work unless you have them perform actual work!

Skills Tests

A “skills test” is just what it sounds like: it’s a test that an applicant can perform to demonstrate their abilities without performing actual work for your practice. For instance, rather than having a dental or medical assistant work by your side for a full day, ask them to set up an empty operatory, or to walk you through standard sterilization procedures.

Skills tests are the safe way to test out your applicants without putting your practice at risk by exposing your patients to an unvetted candidate, committing a wage and hour violation, allowing an untrained person to commit a HIPAA violation, or any number of things that can go wrong when you bring an unproven candidate in to work with your team, your patients, and their protected health information.

For more on Behavioral Interviews, Working Interviews, and Skills Tests (including example behavioral interview questions and skills tests you can use at your practice), download our complete guide on the subject, titled “Making Working Interviews Work.

For more information, refer to the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution and download: The CEDR Hiring Guide: How to Hire Difference Makers here! Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution.




“Better safe than sorry.”
- Samuel Lover