Don’t Ghost: How to Build a Strong Professional Reputation

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“It seemed like a great interview, but I never heard from him again.”

“She said she would let me know her next steps, but it’s been three weeks.”

I hear comments like this from owner dentists all too often! As an ADA Advisor, I suggest potential matches between practice owners (who are selling or hiring) and incoming dentists (who are buying or job hunting). Then I coach them through the process.

Some of the younger dentists I work with defend their lack of response, saying they didn’t want to “lead on” a potential employer or seller. Or there was something they didn’t like about the practice — the dated décor, the commute, the owner themselves — and they don’t want to say so, for fear of being rude.

The reality is that silence is often interpreted as rudeness.

I coach every dentist I work with to use open, honest communication. If you’re declining to continue talks, that honesty can be as simple as, “Sorry, it’s not a good fit” or “I enjoyed meeting you, but I’m going to continue my search.” (Then you can give more detailed feedback to your ADA Advisor, who can use your input to suggest better matches in the future.)

Being open and transparent demonstrates professionalism — a great quality to fine-tune at the beginning of any career.

Let’s look at the costs of poor communication and some ways to build your reputation.

Dentistry is a village — don’t destroy your reputation before you even establish yourself!

Word gets around in the dental community, particularly through the state and local components. Even if the dentist you interviewed with last week wasn’t a great fit, they may know the next person you apply with. Think about the impression you want to leave.

Say you interview for an associateship in Dr. Jones' large practice. He seems nice enough but as you talk, you realize that the practice’s three doctors spend their days multi-tasking between several operatories. You would much rather focus your attention on one patient at a time and really get to know them. The next day, Dr. Jones leaves you a voicemail and says he really enjoyed meeting you and would like to discuss the position more.

What do you do? You know it’s not a good fit. If you took the job, the multi-tasking expectation would likely lead to burnout. Besides, you have a few more interviews scheduled that sound promising.

Think about that dental village and tell Dr. Jones you appreciated the conversation and his time, but it’s not the right practice for you. Wish him the best and move on. He’ll likely do the same.

This establishes you as a professional rather than leaving Dr. Jones wondering about your intentions. And if you interview with Dr. Jones's golfing buddy three months later, Dr. Jones can say, “Oh, I interviewed her — she seemed great and the staff really liked her, but it just wasn’t a good fit." If you ghosted Dr. Jones, he might instead say, “I spent two hours showing her around the office and introducing her to everyone but I never heard from her again. How rude.”

Set expectations about your next steps

Most dental practice transitions begin with an initial screening call. This is typically a 15-minute conversation to make sure both sides share goals, timelines, and expectations. It’s also when you can begin to assess whether you could work together, whether side-by-side as dentists or navigating a sale.

Before you hang up, give your counterpart an idea of when you will be in touch next, whether it’s a few days to deliberate or a couple of weeks.

This goes for both parties: an owner hiring an associate can indicate that they are interviewing additional candidates and will be in touch within two weeks, while the would-be associate might say they have a few more interviews over the next month.

Don’t leave them hanging

Silence is the enemy. After that initial call, be sure to follow up within a day or two with any questions — or just to say thanks! Email works best here, but if you have their cell phone number, a text can suffice.

Likewise, if things change, be sure to let the other doctor know. Perhaps your spouse gets a job offer elsewhere or you realize you want to be closer to an ill family member. Tell the owner that your circumstances have changed and you’re not going to pursue a position with them.

What if it’s not the right practice for me?

Just like any other job hunt, sometimes things simply do not turn out the way you hoped — and that’s okay. Ultimately our goal is to identify a long-term candidate so we encourage ADAPT customers to carefully examine all prospects.

If you realize that someone you interview with is not the right fit, we think it is best practice to notify them as soon as you’re ready to move on. Email works best in my opinion, but a text or phone call would suffice as well.

You don’t have to get specific about why you don’t want to pursue a transition with someone. Here are some sample scripts:

If you have only had an initial screening call:

Thank you for telling me more about your practice. I have decided to pursue other options, but I wish you the best in your search!

I enjoyed speaking with you about your practice. However, I have determined it is not the right fit for my goals. I wish you the best in your search.

If you have had an extended series of conversations and/or site visit:

I appreciate you taking the time to show me your practice. It’s a great office with a great staff! However, I have determined it’s not the right fit for my goals. 

And if you made that connection through ADA Practice Transitions, be sure to disconnect from them on the platform. Doing so frees you both up to be matched with a better fit.

The bottom line: you have invested so much in yourself — time, energy, money — to become a dentist. Now that you’re looking for your next step, treat your career and colleagues with the professionalism they deserve.