Locating and signing a good associate is an important process. There are few other relationships that can have more impact on your life (your professional life for sure). I have seen many smart Dentists stumble in this process and lose a good potential associate. Or worse, not do a complete enough interview and be stuck in a “Bad Marriage”. So, I’ve developed a brief list of suggestions.
General Approach: Ask the associate what their long and short term goals are. Get a picture of what their picture is. Then, share your “pictures.”
In this way, you can see if both your expectations match by focusing on the positive aspects of getting together. This will help you work through anything that may be a problem or barrier.
Only once you’ve “shared pictures” should you then get down to specifics to do with associate compensation percentages, benefits, and other nitty gritty details.
Finding the right associate is a sort of courtship process. You don’t want to bring out the “prenup” too quickly. If legal details are brought up too soon, that can make things a contest. In fact, you do not want to prepare an associate contract until you are pretty much decided that you both want to practice together. Go for the handshake first, the lawyers second.
Sample Questions To Ask An Associate Candidate
- What are your long term/big picture goals?
- How much would you like to make?
- How much would you like to work?
- What kind of dentistry do you like to do?
- What kind of technology is important to you?
- What would be your ideal work week?
- How much vacation time will you want?
- “Tell me about yourself” (family, hobbies…you just want to see if the associate will reveal themselves to you).
- How involved would you like to be in leading the staff?
- Do you have any particular areas of administrative or clinical interests that you’d like to help our practice with?
- Is practice ownership important to you? If so, what sort of timeline do you have in mind?
- Are you working with any particular advisors or accountants?
- What other opportunities are you looking at?
- How does my opportunity rank with your other opportunities?
- What sort of dental experience do you have (if there are other offices that they’ve associated with or worked in). What did you like or not like about those experiences?
- What are the very most important things that you are looking for in a place to practice?
You can sometimes agree to disagree. You don’t have to see everything exactly the same way. One of the benefits of having an associate is to have someone who sees things differently than you do or has different interests.
- What would you like to see happen in the coming year regarding (things like the above, hours worked, visits and so on).
- What sort of compensation did you have in mind?
- Would you be willing to work evenings, Fridays or Saturday hours?
- Are you willing to be “on call” on weekends?
- Are you O.K. with occasionally doing prophies?
- What is your opinion on amalgams vs. composites?
- What conditions, in your opinion, warrant the recommendation of a crown?
- When are implants indicated?
- What are your thoughts regarding ortho?
- How much time do you like to have for a crown prep? Seating?
- Are you into Cad Cam (Cerec)?
In summary, the best associate interview is a dialogue. A conversation. After the interview, make notes as to what the associate said was important. Chances are you’ll need more than one interview to really sort out how compatible you are. It also makes sense to have the candidate spend as much time as possible in the office observing. In fact, their willingness to take time to come and observe is an important sign of their interest and commitment.