Dental Practice 101: What to Look for in a Dental Office Manager

When you are getting ready to hire the person who will run your office, know what to look for in an office manager. Divide the attributes into two categories. The first is management competence. This includes the skills and experience needed to manage procedures, finances, other staff members, and so on. The second is personality. This matches the candidate’s temperament to the atmosphere you have or want to establish for your office. The following provides some tips for creating job requirements for each of these two categories.

Hire the Person Who Is an Excellent Manager

Your office manager needs to have competence in a number of areas, both to conduct operations, and to serve as a mentor and resource for other staff members.

Set requirements and look for job applicants with the following attributes:

Leadership: The office manager needs to listen, think critically—that is, to understand issues and match them to solutions—make decisions, show empathy, inspire, and communicate clearly. Other staff members need to respect the leadership of the office manager.

Computer and Systems Skills: This is a wide-ranging and important attribute. Your office manager needs to master your dental practice management software as well as understand financial principles, procedures for filing insurance claims, and running your marketing campaigns. Some tools and programs are available to help. For example, the American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM) offers training, webinars, and conferences where each member of your staff can improve their skills. Dentrix offers the Mastery Tracks program that provides testing, training, and certificates for each of the positions in your office. Your office manager should be skilled in all the areas.

Organization and Procedures: Office managers must be very organized and meticulous. You depend on this person and the entire staff to handle sensitive patient information as well as billing and insurance data accurately. They are also responsible for managing patient scheduling without hiccups.

Hire the Person Who Will Promote the Personality of Your Office

The first important step here is to establish the personality of your office. Together with your staff, you should define the feeling you want your patients to have when they interact with anyone in your office. Some traits that might help you think about your own personality are comfortable personal interactions, easy to talk to, trustworthiness, enthusiasm for dentistry, passion for providing care, and concern for the patient’s comfort during procedures.1

Look for people who exhibit the personality traits you select. You should be able to sense a candidates’ behavior when you speak with them, but you can also ask probing questions, such as, “How do you greet patients when they enter the office?”

Make sure the candidate you hire also shares your core values. This means you need to have these values established and written. For example, one of your core values might be honesty with patients and with each other. Ask candidates to describe a time when they told a hard truth, even though the alternative would have been easier.2

Put the Job Description in Writing

Commit the office manager attributes you have defined to paper. This is the foundation of the job description. Keep this formal job description in a file, and you will receive two necessary benefits. First, the job description gives you a standard to follow when hiring. Interviews can be stressful and distracting, but you can refer to the job description to ensure you stay on track and cover everything that’s important to you and your office. You can also use the job description when you conduct periodic reviews to be sure your office manager continues to deliver the performance you hired them for.

Interview for Success

When you interview candidates, follow your job description. Write questions for each of the skills. This ensures you cover all the skills, and it keeps your interviews consistent across candidates, which could be important if a question of bias ever arises.

Ask candidates to describe specific experiences where they exhibited the skills you are looking for. For example, ask, “Describe a time when you successfully solved a conflict between employees.” Listen for the candidate to describe a real situation that starts with, “When I worked at XYZ dental office…” If they begin by saying, “I would…,” they probably do not have experience with the situation.

Don’t leave hiring an office manager to chance or your own impulses. Know what to look for in an office manager. Establish the personality and core values of your office. Document the office manager experience, skills, and personality traits that will deliver the management and office atmosphere you want. Then ask probing questions in the interview process that tell you who possesses those skills.

Dentrix is the business tool that office managers and other staff members use to connect your technology into one system and stay on top of your practice’s health. It also helps your team work smarter.


Published: 05/21/2021
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