Associates: Is Your Practice Ready For One?

As with all the healthcare professionals we have worked with since 1989, denturists have frequently asked me whether they should get an associate. They have dreamed of having someone else come in to share the workload and the hours, to increase the profits, and to be able to take a holiday without closing the practice.

 Are you ready for an associate?

You do not want to hire an associate until you have reached the point where you have maximized your clinical chairside time. In order to get to this point, you first have to be properly staffed, which would mean a receptionist and at least one lab person already in place and fully utilized.

To employ an associate is much more expensive than a lab person, so phase one would be to get one or more good people in the lab and fully functional. That would give you a good start on the first two parts of your dream — no more evenings and weekends, and an increase in take-home pay.

 Associate hiring steps

Define the requirements of the position that you want to fill, including personality traits as well as technical skills. This should be as detailed as possible as it will provide you with the ideal against which you can measure all applicants. Ask yourself, how do you see the associate fitting into your long term goals, e.g. do you want your associate to take a satellite practice and grow it for you, or you want the associate to help expand your existing location and patient flow, or do you want them to become an eventual partner, etc.

Advertise the position at the College and/or in the Denturism Canada magazine, and talk to your suppliers — they often have info via the grapevine. Do not think that if your practice is in a remote area that you are not going to be able to find anyone to move there — you moved there, so others will too if the opportunity is good. Ask for resumes of candidates that contact you.

 The interview process

There are five major steps to take when hiring an associate. All give you some insight into the type of person that you are hiring. You want to know as much as possible about the individual before you hire them as hiring is an expensive and time consuming process.


While a resume is not the key to hiring an individual, the layout and presentation of it can reveal accuracy and neatness . Either the person spent the time themselves to organize and put their resume together or paid someone who knew how to do it properly. In either case, the individual knows that it is important to have a good presentation. The resume should be reviewed and gaps in employment history looked for. These gaps are areas that you want to know about.

2. Interviews

The actual interview with the candidate should provide you with the greatest amount of information. This is your opportunity to watch the individual perform under fire and see how they handle themselves, i.e. can they think on their feet. Do they have the technical knowledge that the position needs. Remember to get the candidate to talk while you listen and observe.

One of the primary points of interest must be whether the person is results oriented. You want someone who gets an idea, carries out the actions and produces a result or product. You do not want a clock watcher who merely “puts in time for a fixed salary”. Ask the applicants to tell you of some of their accomplishments that they are particularly proud of, i.e. clubs they have contributed in, work products they have produced, etc.

Next, you want to ensure that they have the technical qualifications that are needed for the position. Ask them questions which demand a thorough understanding of the technical aspects of the position. Ask what they would do in certain situations which require a good technical understanding. This does not mean that they can actually DO the job but it does indicate that they, at least, have the knowledge.

Don’t waste your time with a candidate who doesn’t meet the above criteria. Your time is valuable and you don’t owe the person a lengthy interview. As soon as you see that they are not what you want, politely end the interview.

3. References

References must be asked for and called, especially those who can verify the production of the candidate. Ask specifically for weaknesses or you may not be told about them. Ask if the person would hire them again.

4. Trial Workday(s)

Whenever possible, have the candidate or candidates which you have selected come in and work in the practice for a day. This will provide you with an opportunity to verify for yourself how well they perform. You must remember that your practice and how things are done in it are NEW to them so they may not perform as well as you want during this short test.

5. Contract

When you have selected the appropriate candidate, BE SURE TO PUT THEM ON A CONTRACT. The contract will put in writing the explicit terms and agreements between the two of you, thus minimizing potential points of disagreement in the future.

Interview Questions


1. Outline the practice hours and then ask if that will the pose any problem. Be sure to explain that some additional hours may be required.

2. Outline the remuneration being offered, then ask if this is acceptable. Find out what their expectations are. About 30% of their collections is usually considered a fair exchange. A well-run denture practice often has an overhead of about 60% of collections; this includes lab and supplies.

3. Determine if they have transportation or are going to be able to get to work without difficulty.

4. Outline the position and its duties, then have them describe their past work history with reference to what they will be doing in the practice.

Personal Questions

5. What are your strengths?

6. What are your weaknesses?

7. Do you require direction? (Get them to provide examples of how this is so from their past work experience.)

8. What bothers you most about other people? Assuming that you have to work with such a person, how would you go about it?

9. What are your short-term goals in life? What are your long-term goals?

10. Do you think that people should be helped? Get them to provide examples of how they have helped others and can accept help themselves.

Work Experience

11. What did you like most/least about your last job?

12. What did you like most/least about your boss?

13. What were your most major accomplishments, or things you did in your jobs you were most proud of?

14. Of all the jobs you have had, which did you like the most/least? Why?

15. What is the most important thing that a manager should do?

16. Do you feel overpaid or underpaid in your last position?

17. Set out some situations which they will have to deal with in the practice and get them to show you how they would deal with them.

Pursue that dream!

Quite a number of our denturist clients have associates and it has made a big difference in their lifestyles. It is definitely worth the effort!
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