Luckily for new dentists, there are many options when it comes to joining a practice. There are small, two- or three-operatory chair practices. There are multi-location dental partnership groups, corporate dental practices; practices in cities and rural communities, and everything in between. How do new dentists know which one will be a good fit?
Observe and Evaluate
Remember to evaluate the practice as thoroughly as you are being evaluated. To do this, pay attention to the following four areas before and during the interview process.
Before you even set foot in the practice, do research on your own. Assessing the practice’s reputation first could help you decide which practices you want to interview with. Start with an internet search; make sure the practice has an updated website. Read the online reviews. Look for a social media presence. In addition to Google and social media reviews, Yelp is an excellent resource for reviews.
State of the Practice
Once you’re on-site for the interview, pay attention to how it looks, starting with the parking lot and building exterior. Is there adequate signage? Is there curb appeal? Look at it from the perspective of potential patients. Once inside, is the waiting room modern and updated, or is the furniture and décor old, worn, and outdated? You’ll probably also get the chance to view the operatories; pay attention to the technology the practice uses and the operatory setup, especially if you’re left-handed.
From the time you talk with the staff on the phone to schedule your interview, to the office message on a day off, the staff should be friendly, approachable, and helpful. Once on-site, look for how they interact with one another and the dentist, and their communication with patients. Are they knowledgeable? Comfortable discussing payment? Does it appear they have an effective routine that helps the practice run smoother? These cues will give you insight into practice management, efficiency, and productivity.
Finally, find out about the practice’s schedule. Most practices will have a mix of early mornings, late evenings, and Saturdays to accommodate their patients. More importantly, what is your schedule? You also want to discover if the practice will fill your schedule or if you’re responsible for finding your own patients – this is important to know ahead of time.
You can tell a lot about the practice and the senior dentist from the interview, if you use the opportunity wisely. In addition to observing the practice and staff closely, here are some questions to ask the dentist:
- Are there opportunities for growth, and if so, what does the growth path look like?
- What is the collection rate?
- What is the new patient flow like?
- How many active patients does the practice have (active meaning within the past six months)?
- What is the dentist’s philosophy on care and treatment plans?
- How is compensation calculated?
- What kind of technology does the practice use?
Finally, when you join an existing dental practice as an associate, you should know if there’s an opportunity to buy in to practice with either “sweat equity” or cash. The timing of this can be as few as a couple years down the road or it could be five or ten years. Make sure to have any agreement reviewed by a qualified dental consultant before signing.
Where to Look
Now, where to find these practices to put this advice to use? Start with your dental school. They very likely have a job placement or career office, and at the very least there are alumni you can connect with. Your state or local dental organization, regional dental study club, dental practice brokers, and supply sales reps are also good leads. Did you intern or job shadow during dental school? And, you can always make a list of practices in your area and proactively reach out to the dentists. Of course, there are always online job boards, but the best opportunities arise from someone in your network.
Joining a dental practice as an associate is an exciting first step in your career! Using the right approach, you can ensure you start off with the right practice. If you have any questions before or during your associateship, contact Dental CPAs anytime.