Recruiting: Working Interviews vs. Skills Assessments

Managing The Dental Team

The primary difference between working interviews and skills assessments is that one is paid and the other isn’t.

Job candidates invited back for a skills assessment are not compensated for their time because they’re not engaged in activities that generate revenue or would otherwise be considered productive. Their primary purpose for being at the practice is to demonstrate their skills. There is some skills assessment testing software you can choose to use if you want to take a more formal approach.

While this may seem to relate mainly to business staff, candidates for clinical positions can be invited to return to the practice for a skills assessment: a prospective hygienist can clean a portion of your mouth; a dental assistant can set up a room to mirror the working room next door; and an administrative person can do mock administrative work that is demonstrated to the regular team. Candidates for either type of position can participate in a few “role playing” scenarios so you get a sense of how they might handle certain challenging situations that may arise.

A good rule of thumb is to allow two to three hours for a skills assessment or working interview. Typically the remaining two-to-three candidates are invited to participate in this process which allows each person time to experience the culture of the practice. This opportunity benefits everyone since it lets candidates determine whether your practice’s environment is one they’d enjoy working in and it allows staff to conduct an informal assessment of a potential coworker and see if they’d be a good “fit” for the office.

Some dentists find working interviews beneficial because they offer the opportunity to assess the candidate’s technical and interpersonal skills. Make sure anyone performing a working interview knows the practices policies and policies regarding the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

Candidates who return to the practice for working interviews and do productive work must be paid as if they were on your staff and the appropriate taxes must be deducted. You will need to have an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate or a Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income anytime a candidate is paid for a working interview. Opinions differ on which IRS form to use. The 1099 is typically used with individuals who are independent contractors and will earn less than $600. While that might be the case in a working interview, the employer may be at risk if something should happen to the candidate or the patient he/she works on to demonstrate skills. Using a W-4 resolves the liability concern but also requires the employer to pay taxes and could make the candidate eligible to file a claim to receive unemployment benefits if they are not hired for the position.

The IRS has employees whose primary function is to investigate and identify employers who are not paying the appropriate taxes. In fact, the agency loses money when employees receive a Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, instead of a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement.

Be prepared to make your final hiring decision very soon after the skills assessment or working interview since the candidate has invested a significant amount of personal time (possibly unpaid) and deserves prompt notification of your decision.