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My New Dentist Beginner’s Guide: Red flags and must ask questions for any dental interview

If you have ever been interviewed, then you probably got to the end of the interview and were asked, “Now, do you have any questions for me?” And, if you’re anything like I am, you froze up for a few seconds, asked the first thing that came to your mind and hoped it wasn’t a stupid question. This is because you probably went into the interview with the mentality of, “I hope that they like me.”

DrByrnes_horizontalSome people take a passive approach to interviews. They assume that their main objective is to try to impress the person that is asking the questions. That couldn’t be more wrong. When you are looking for a job as a dentist, you aren’t looking for a seal of approval. You are looking for the opportunity that best suits you and your career goals. Go to an interview with the goal of interviewing them as well. You will get better at this with time but here are some of the things that you want to ask and some of the things that you want to look out for.

Pay structure. How are you going to get paid? Note that this is different from, “How much am I going to get paid?” You need to know this. Sometimes it is a flat daily rate, sometimes it is a percentage of production or collections. I would recommend that you ask for a combination of each. A good rule of thumb would be to look for a daily minimum of $XXX or 30 percent of collections, whichever of the two is greater. This way you are guaranteed to get paid even if the office does not have enough patients to keep you busy. This is usually an area where you can try to negotiate the pay rate and structure.

There are two red flags to look out for here. One is called a “draw.” This is where the employer guarantees you a daily minimum amount against future earnings when you would have exceeded the daily minimum amount. If you don’t ever cross the line of producing more for the office than you have been paid, the employer can collect the difference from you if you terminate your employment. . This is designed so that the employer does not lose money on you.

For example, if you were paid $400 a day for 10 days ($4,000) but in that time you only produced $200 a day ($2,000) then at the time you leave that employment, you would have to pay the owner (or the owner might deduct that amount from compensation remaining owed to you) the difference between what you were paid and what you produced ($4000 – $2000= $2000) This is rare but it is something to look out for.

Another red flag would be if the pay structure is too complicated to figure out. In one interview that I went on, I asked the employer explain the pay structure to me at least three times over, and I still did not understand it. It probably would have worked out fine but I’m not going to sign a contract if I don’t know how to keep track if they are paying me properly.

Non-Compete Clause / Restrictive Covenant. This is not necessarily a red flag but it needs to be fully understood. This is where you agree that you will not work within X miles of the office for X number of years/months should you terminate your employment at the office. It is designed to protect the owner dentist from you opening an office across the street from him and seeing the practice’s patients. This clause may be negotiable. You could either try to negotiate a lesser geographic scope or duration. Or you might be able to get the owner dentist to agree that the clause will not apply to you unless and until you’ve worked there for, say, six months. In other words, ask for no restrictive covenant for the first six months. This gives you time to make sure that you like working in the office before being locked out of working in a certain area.

Growth/Education. What opportunities for growth exist? Some dentists might be willing to pay for a portion of your continuing education or take you to some courses with them. Other dentists want to teach you what they know to help you succeed. This could be anything from teaching you clinical procedures to teaching you how to run a dental office. Keep in mind that if they are willing to mentor you, this could be more valuable than having him or her pay for CE courses.

Opportunities for Ownership. This might not be important to some people but it was for me. I knew that I did not want to work as an associate forever. In every interview that I had, I asked the owner dentist if they would ever be open to selling the practice or taking on a partner. If they said no, then I knew that it was not a place that I would want to stay long term. This might be different for you though.

Make sure you go into every interview with a plan. What do you want to know about the job? What do you think that they will want to know about you? Try to shift your perception of being interviewed from a passive process to an active one. Finally, and most importantly, never sign a contract without reading it all of the way through and understanding all of the terms. Having someone more experienced read it for you is a good idea; an even better one is getting a lawyer to look it over for you.


Dr. Drew Byrnes is a New Dentist Now Guest Blogger. He graduated from the University of Florida College of Dentistry in 2013. His practice, Dr. Drew Byrnes Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, can be found at 199 E. Welbourne, Ste 200, Winter Park, FL 32789, 1-407-645-4645. In his free time, he enjoys running, spending time with his wife and volunteering with his church and in his community.

The views expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author and are not intended to reflect the views, positions or policies of the ADA or the New Dentist Committee. This article is not intended to provide either legal or professional advice. Dentists are urged to consult directly with a properly qualified professional or with an attorney admitted to practice in their jurisdiction for appropriate legal or professional advice.

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