What to Look For in a Dental Office Manager

A dental office manager plays a central role in the smooth functioning of the dental practice. If you want your clinic to succeed, ensure that the position is filled by someone who is passionate about patient care and has the hard skills to make sure that every aspect of clinic business is addressed.  

But what does that actually look like, and how can you tell just from an interview and a resume that someone has the character and experience to run your clinic?

Hiring becomes even more challenging when the person you are hiring is going to be responsible for just about every aspect of the day-to-day functioning of your business.

In my experience, the clinics that have been able to find the best people for the job are the ones that have looked beyond basic criteria like credentials and years in the industry to take a more holistic approach.

If you are looking to hire a new office manager in 2019, here are a few things to consider before you start the search.

Make Sure They Have the Hard Skills

In addition to dental office managers requiring a sufficient grasp of industry norms and standards, they also need to be familiar with the software and service technology used in modern dental practices. 

A good manager should be able to perform the following roles:

  • General office administration
  • Financial reporting functions for accounting purposes – perform basic bookkeeping duties as necessary
  • Organize and help lead (along with the dentist) regular staff meetings
  • Coordinate marketing efforts
  • Budget for office expenses and assist with supply orders
  • Oversee staff scheduling and payroll
  • Cover for Front Desk duties and Dental Assisting (if certified)

This means that when it comes to considering candidates, you should look for the following qualifications:

  • High School diploma and relevant certificates or associate degrees (there are a variety of certificate and degree programs designed to provide dental administrators with a background in medical terminology and dental health safety)
  • At least two or three years working in dental administration
  • Solid and demonstrated understanding of billing and insurance procedures, and a high degree of familiarity with the dental accounting and practice management software

These qualifications should be viewed as the basic requirements needed to be considered for the position – there are additional skills that you should look for if possible.

Experience with management in other industries adds diversity and new ideas. Candidates with backgrounds in healthcare marketing, dental technology and software or dental hygiene can also provide new and valuable perspective to the practice. Remember, dental office managers oversee many operational areas – the more diversified their experience, the better equipped they will be to provide direction to staff members and the practice overall.

Don’t Forget Chemistry and Character

When hiring people for management positions in the healthcare sector, my experience has been that most of the candidates applying have similar qualifications and skills.

That means that you are likely to have a range of candidates who all have the knowledge and skills, but may have very different degrees of competency in other areas. These can be the differentiators in order to identify the preferred candidate.

One of the biggest hiring mistakes clinics can make is by selecting the person who has the most experience, or seems most dazzling in the interview. While these things are important, be aware that you are presumably hiring a person that will be working with the practice long term. Therefore, making sure that the manager you hire has the kinds of character traits you desire – being extroverted, communicative, friendly, confident, and patient-focused – is just as important as making sure they have the hard skills to do the job.

Finding a manager with whom you get along is really important and a candidate who is more personable and friendly but less experienced will probably be a better hire in the long run than someone who doesn’t gel with your team or who has a very different approach to management than the one your team is comfortable with.   

Soft Skills Matter

In recent years – in dentistry as well as other fields – employers and recruiters focus their talent identification strategies around soft skills (inherent personality traits that can’t really be taught). With enough time to train, a new hire can learn how to use various components of practice management software such as automated appointment reminders but you can’t teach someone how to have a higher Emotional Quotient (EQ) or how to be more adaptable.

These days, most candidates for dental management shouldn’t be considered unless they possess strong soft skills such as leadership, communication, collaboration, and even culture-fit. A candidate with these attributes is likely to be better at other areas – there’s a natural synergy.

For example, a leader who demonstrates curiosity will listen and pay more attention to feedback so they can better understand where improvements are needed. And, a leader with a higher EQ is more likely to build on feedback to become more self-aware and learn from mistakes.

Bringing on a new member of the management team is not an easy process, but given how impactful the decision is going to be in the long run, it’s important to make sure you do your due diligence when recruiting.

In summary, consider more than just the hard skills: as any experienced leader knows, character is just as important as qualifications when it comes to building a healthy workplace culture and a thriving business.

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