The Talent Pool From Which We Hire

25 years ago, it was unthinkable to hire someone in healthcare who had visible tattoos or multiple piercings in places other than the ear. Today, I think that every one of my employees has some form of ink for patients to admire. While I am not a huge fan of patients seeing my employee’s baby’s name in cursive on their hand or that inspirational  prophetic verse in Hebrew on their forearm, if I was to draw up a policy against visible tattoos, I wouldn’t have anyone to hire.  I figure it’s just something that’s changed with the times, and I’m OK with it. Really. I swear.
I can also tell you that in this booming economy, and especially in a booming town like Dallas, my ability to pick and choose the exact qualifications I’d like in my employees has all but disappeared like the patience of my dad driving the family across the country.  If tattoos were my biggest concern, I’d be very happy, but it’s much, much more problematic.
I heard one friend say that it’s not a deep pool of talent, but rather a cesspool of talent from which we hire. I wish I could disagree. And we’ve stopped looking for applicants with orthodontic experience because (aside from those who have recently moved to the state) if you’ve got experience and are not currently working at an ortho office in this economy, something isn’t right.
I’ve tried everything to find the best talent and we’ve gotten tons of responses. I want to be clear that for every ad I place, I get at least 60-80 responses. I have a voicemail dedicated solely to the hiring process and I wish you could hear my front desk  applicants’ messages with exceptionally poor grammar and phone skills that are, shall we say, less than ideal. My favorite response is when they tell me they have an “upbeat and cheerful personality” in a droning, monotone voice. But maybe their personality simply isn’t coming through in the voicemail. Give them a chance in person, you say,  and they’ll be far more impressive.
The interviews are often like, well…….ever been on a bad date and knew it from the moment it started but you had to keep it going for at least a little bit out of respect?  From a 3 stage interview process to group interviews, I’ve tried everything. I’ve given personality tests, hand skill tests, computer skills tests, IQ tests, and even the “walk” test. At the advice of a well known orthodontic consultant, I’ve even administered the 12 minute Wonderlic test which “assesses cognitive ability, motivation and personality” (according to their website). It’s been suggested than anything less than a 16-18 indicates someone with problem-solving capabilities below what is needed in orthodontics. Wonderlic states that a score of 10 indicates basic literacy. We recently whittled down 75 applicants to two “top candidates” who scored an 8 and 11. Oy-vey.
I’ve had people referred to me from friends and patients, I’ve posted on social media, given cards to great employees I’ve seen at restaurants and stores and even gotten referrals from current employees. All I can say is that against all hope, I’ve watched my standards get lower and lower over the last 25 years, and yet, finding employees still becomes harder and harder than finding a non-fried food option at the Texas State Fair.
I get it. In this economy, where anyone who wants a job can find one, qualified applicants are looking elsewhere because of multiple reasons.  I’m not saying that the folks I’m interviewing aren’t nice or responsible, but how about the “whole package”? How many times do I need to hire my best applicant and find that their personal life is such a mess that they cannot make it to work on a regular basis.
If you work in a region where working in an orthodontic office appeals to the best and brightest of the work force, all the power to you. But if you ask among colleagues, it seems so interesting that our million dollar practices find themselves bogged down because of talent and hiring issues. I’ve heard my colleagues repeatedly say: “My practice could grow so much more if I could only find the right team members.”
No doubt that when the economy takes a downturn, many new employees will join the pool from which we hire and perhaps finding that next amazing employee will get easier. In the meantime, I promise to ignore it during my interviews when my top candidates say “you guys’es” and “supposubly” while I examine the photorealistic tattoo of their daughter on their neck.
Oh, and if you’re gonna get a visible tattoo in a language you’re employer can translate, please make sure it’s spelled right and makes sense…and that include English.
Serenity now….
Best wishes,
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