Recruiting: Initial Telephone Screening

Guidelines for Practice Success | Managing the Dental Team

After the responses to your ad for a new employee have been reviewed and the best possible candidates – at least on paper – have been identified, the person who will train and direct the activities of the new hire should schedule and conduct a five-minute screening interview. In most practices, screening calls are conducted by office managers, practice administrators, or team leaders. While dentists in established practices may not conduct all of these activities personally, they should be involved in the process. Dentists in new or start-up practices may need to make these calls themselves if they don’t have enough support staff. In those situations, it’s important for the dentist to screen potential employees since it allows you an opportunity to learn about prospective employees right at the beginning. This is important since it gives you the opportunity to connect with those individuals who will work closely with you as you build the business.

It’s up to you to determine how many candidates to phone screen. Depending on the caliber of applications received, you might be contacting anywhere from just a few people to a dozen. Some practices phone screen each applicant whose resume passes the initial review process. It’s a good idea to have an application process that filters candidates by asking them to answer two or three questions by email. The questions should be related to the position. Candidates who fail to respond or provide very basic answers are likely to filter themselves out of the pool of applicants.

Two rules of thumb for the telephone screening process are to know what questions you want to ask in advance and to ask the same questions of every applicant. Doing these two things makes it easier to ensure that your hiring process is fair and non-biased.

As you develop the list of questions to ask, remember to keep it short since the call is intended to help you gather some very basic information. Also decide the reason behind each question. Some questions are appropriate for the phone screening and others are best asked during an actual interview.

A sample Telephone Screening Questionnaire is available as a resource. You may also want to consider these suggestions for topics to cover during the phone screening and an explanation of the type of answer you should expect:

  • What the applicant wants.
  • Ask them what they’re looking for in a position. You may also want to ask about their financial expectations so you can gauge whether the salary they’re looking for is in line with what you planned to offer.
  • The applicant’s skill set.
  • Ask specific questions about their training and experience. Not only will this give you an idea of the person’s abilities, it will also give you an idea of their communications skills.
  • Their ability to integrate into the practice.
  • Confirm whether they’re seeking part-time or full-time employment and what type of practice environment they prefer. Find out what they did and didn’t like about the cultures of previous employers. Does what they want match the needs of the open position and the culture of your practice?
  • Their personal aspirations.
  • Find out what about your ad appealed to them and why they were inspired to respond. This will offer some insights regarding what matters to and motivates each person. Avoid asking questions like “What do you expect to be doing in five years?” since the answers rarely offer meaningful information.

Candidates who successfully complete the initial telephone screening phase should be told that they will be invited to the practice for an in-person interview. If possible, arrange the appointment before finishing the call. Let them know the time and place, any specifics about parking, whom they will meet, what they should bring, and how long they can expect the interview to take.

Candidates who will not be invited for in-person interviews should be politely thanked for their time and advised that someone from the practice will be in touch if you need any additional information. Do your best to end the call on a positive note by wishing them well in their search for new opportunities.


Telephone Screening Questionnaire [PDF]

Resources for Managing the Dental Team