The Catch-22 of Hiring in 2022

by | Jan 24, 2022 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

A new year, still trying to hire. 

If you are a dentist or dental office manager and have been trying to hire and keep your office fully staffed since May of 2020, you are actually in the majority.  

With that being said, most DirectDental clients have managed to hire new team members and keep their office fully staffed. We have actually managed to figure out a way to beat the Catch-22 of hiring dental professionals plagued dentists for the last 2 years.  

This post will discuss the multiple Catch-22s that dental offices must deal with when hiring dental professionals. It will also tell you how dental practices have overcome them and how you can!  

What is a Catch-22?

The Collins English Dictionary defines a catch-22 as follows: “If you describe a situation as a catch-22, you mean it is an impossible situation because you cannot do one thing until you do another thing, but you cannot do the second thing until you do the first thing.”

A classic Catch-22 is “What came first? The Chicken or the Egg?” Clearly, you need an egg to hatch a chicken, but you need the chicken to lay the egg.  

What does this have to do with hiring Dental Assistants, Hygienists and Front Office Dental Personnel?

When speaking with Dental Practices about their hiring needs, there seems to be a few vicious cycles that are preventing the offices from being properly staffed. Here are a few. 

  • You need to hire a new dental assistant, but applicants are asking for more than what your current assistant is making.
  • Your job post isn’t getting any applicants, no matter where you post it. 
  • Your team is quitting because you are short staffed. 
  • You need to hire a new Dental Hygienist to handle your patient load, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone looking for work.
  • You simply cannot handle any more turnover.

Ok, so those aren’t necessarily Catch-22’s, but it feels like it is because I hear offices struggling with these items on repeat. But at the risk of tooting my own horn, I have helped many dental practices get out of these scenarios and hire. Here is how. 

Need to hire a new dental assistant, but applicants are asking for more than what your current assistant is making.

The answer to this is going to make me very unpopular, but I’m going to say it.  

You need to give your current assistant a raise.  

If you don’t, they will realize what offices are paying other Dental Assistants, and then they will leave you for a new job with higher pay.  

Then you will have 2 vacancies in your practice and no assistant.

Once you have brought your current assistant’s pay up to what it should be for your area, post a job offering that amount. And make that hire. 

I understand that this will take some budgeting on your part, but really in this market, this is the best and fastest way to keep your practice staffed. If I come up with another way, I will let you know. 

Your dental job post isn’t getting any applicants, no matter where you post it. 

One of my favorite quotes is, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  

If you are posting your job everywhere and still not getting any applicants, it is not the fault of the job board. Instead, it is your fault for using a bad job post.  

Make sure you write an incredible job posting, and then you will get some applicants. It is amazing how that works.  

Call us if you don’t have the time or energy to write a job post that leads to applicant conversions. We would be happy to write it for you and get it sponsored across all the major job boards.  

Your team is quitting because you are short staffed.

Please reread my last two points for advice on this.  

In the meantime, there are ways to alleviate some of the struggles your office is having with being short-staffed. 

For the front office: Outsource. Many companies offer services ranging from recare calls, answering services, insurance verification, billing, and more.  

Talk with your front office staff, find out what is causing them the biggest headache, and then outsource it. Then, everyone will be happier for it.  

For Dental Assistants:  Find a temp to help on busy days. Even a sterilization tech can be helpful. Or, if you outsource enough work in the front office, you can teach one of the front desk girls to flip rooms and sterilize.  

But please communicate with them. If they know that you understand their pain and work hard to fix it, they will be happy to work harder. If you ignore it and continue like everything is fine, you will find yourself another assistant short. 

You need to hire a new Dental Hygienist to handle your patient load, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone looking to be hired.

It might feel like finding a Dental Hygienist to hire is like finding a snow leopard. It takes time, patience, and skill, but when you find one, it is so amazing!

Here is how my clients were able to hire a hygienist. 

#1 Be flexible.  

Many of my clients started saying they needed a hygienist for these exact hours and days. After much begging and pleading on my part to not be so rigid with the hours they were able to hire.  

Your hygienist job post should list your office hours and then says, “if you can work 1 or more of these days, please apply.” There is a very small number of hygienists actually looking to work full time, so if you can hire multiple hygienists for various days, you should be able to fill that role quickly.  

(P.S. You can also do this with assistants. Many work 4 day work weeks and are trying to work that 5th day they are available.)

#2 Pay Up.

The shortage of hygienists definitely has driven up their rates. We find that job posts that don’t include pay or the pay is not above the average rate in that area aren’t getting applicants.  

No matter how great the listing is.  

So, find out what the pay is in your area, and then add a dollar or two.  

#3 Use Temp Hygienists

Most offices were able to hire by hiring a temp. It is a great way to take someone for a test drive, and if you find they are a great fit for the office, ask them to take that shift indefinitely.  

You simply cannot handle any more turnover

Turnover really should have its own blog post, and I will try to get that together for you in the next few weeks.

From my conversation with hundreds of Dental Assistants, Hygienists, and front office personnel leaving their practice, here is the main reason.  

#1 Communication 

When we talk with applicants looking to leave their job, the main reason is they don’t feel appreciated or don’t get any reviews and feedback for their work.  

And I think it is so silly to lose someone over that. Instead, you should be talking to your team and explaining any issues or setbacks your practice is having and letting them know that you appreciate all their hard work.  

#2 Pay 

I’m sorry that I have talked so much about pay in this post. But the 2nd biggest reason dental professionals are leaving their jobs is that other offices offer better pay. It’s not personal; it’s business. So make sure your team’s pay is up to snuff and keep them around. 

#3 Short Staffed 

There is that Catch-22; you are losing staff because you are short-staffed. Ugh.  Again communicate let your team know that right now is hard and you are doing everything you can to hire someone. Maybe even pay them a nice bonus for doing the work of 2 people, that could keep them happy until you are able to hire.  

#4 Someone on the team is unpleasant 

Right now, with many dental offices looking to hire, nobody on your team has to put up with a Negative Nancy. So if you find someone trying to leave, ask them why. If they say it is a team member, talk with your other team members and try to find out who is causing the problems. And then address it.  

Whew, this is one loaded post. But I hope it gives you some new insight into your current struggle to hire.  

If you have any other Catch-22s or hiring advice you want to share, put it in the comments!  


Holli Perez 

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