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Dental recruitment agencies, from those in the know

Written by: David Payne, Chief Careers Editor, Springer Nature
Published on: 1 Mar 2018

If you’re a practice owner with vacancies to fill or a dentist seeking new opportunities, let a recruitment agency do the heavy lifting for you. We get the lowdown from candidates, clients and agency owners.

Darran Walenta, Senior Recruiter at Zest Medical:

“Practices are finding it hard to recruit directly. That’s why we exist. It’s obviously easier for us to recruit a dentist because that’s our job. You’ve always go to look at what the trends are and what the market wants. What do candidates require? It’s both market led and candidate-led.

“Candidates are after a certain type of practice in terms of quality. We are very lucky to have a solid independent client base that grows daily and is investing in technology. We interview clients in exactly the same way we would a candidate. It really is that simple.

“It’s pointless putting people forward for six interviews. It’s better to streamline the client base to fit what candidates are looking for.

“Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire have suffered historically in terms of recruiting dentists but their towns and cities are surrounded by beautiful countryside. The same goes for cities like Coventry and Stoke.

“Some cities with strong professional networks have fewer problems. In Newcastle or Birmingham - cities where there are dental schools - you hand in your notice and someone will take over your job straightaway.

“Hampshire also struggles, particularly cities such as Portsmouth and Southampton. A new private practice just outside Portsmouth got in touch recently and I wondered why they needed to use an agency. After speaking to the practice owner for half an hour four candidates came to mind. Within half an hour an interview was set up and arranged for the following week.

“When we speak to candidates about corporates we tell them they are not all the same. We ask them to tell us what their issues are with them, and we will tell them the reality."

Kelly Saxby, Managing Director of Green Apple Dental Recruitment:

“Using a recruitment agency has definite advantages. I used one recently and although using one incurs a fee, the best candidate came through quickly, so it saved me time, which has a monetary value to me. Ultimately it’s the best way to get the job done. Dentists tell us we make the process much simpler for them.

“It’s very much a candidate’s market just now so practices have to consider candidates’ requirements more. They might have to offer a higher UDA rate or more flexible working hours.

“Practices are looking for dentists who already have performer numbers but it’s harder to get one now than it was five years ago, so they have to be more flexible and consider candidates with only a conditional performer number.

“Some dentists are offering ‘golden hellos’ which candidates have to pay back if they leave before an agreed time has elapsed. This is a great way to attract good candidates but many dentists don’t want to be locked in, perhaps because of uncertainty over Brexit. They might just want a higher UDA.

“We only specialise in dentists, whereas other agencies focus on all the roles in the practice, which gives us an advantage because out consultants are only dealing with one type of person.

“We have an extensive database and can contact people who aren’t actively looking but who have asked us to get in touch if we think something suitable comes up.

“We work ethically and so won’t contact candidates we have already placed. Neither do we send candidates’ details to places with checking with them first. ‘Robbing Peter to pay Paul’ is not a way to make our customers happy.

“We’re an advice service too. Clients need to know make sure they are offering competitive contracts and UDA values, flexibility in terms of days and hours. Candidates want to work in completely computerised environments rather than somewhere that feels like stepping back into the 1950s.

“I would also urge practices to consider locum dentists, a fantastic way to bridge the gap and address ‘empty chair’ time. Yes, practices want stability and permanent posts. But you might have found an amazing dentist with a three month notice period. If you’re struggling, hire a locum.

“They will cost more money but will help you in the long run to provide ongoing care to keep your UDA contract up to date. And a locum might fall in love with your practice.”

Phillip Barker, Director of Medi-holdings:

“If you’re a private employer you should not struggle to recruit, but you do need to offer dentists an attractive package. Dentists looking for locum positions fresh out of university are used to using really good equipment so an NHS practice looking to attract young associates needs to demonstrate that its equipment is up to scratch, whereas a corporate might have an equipment list running to 1300 items that can be ordered in for the dentists to use.

“We rely on the desire of EU candidates to move around. When they first arrive in the UK many take a rural position first to gain some experience, but most want to eventually migrate to a city and of course London is very attractive because it’s so cosmopolitan.

“One of the biggest challenges is getting younger dentists interested in NHS dentistry again, many would rather do private work, because they can spend more time with patients. Pay scales and UDA rates contribute to the issues surrounding NHS provision and we’ve seen some rural practice closures and mergers in the past 18 months, meaning that some patients have no NHS dentist nearby.

“Another big change we’re seeing is the ratio of male to female dentists. By 2020 all predictions say it will be 50/50 and as a result there is likely to be more people in the workforce wanting to work part-time.

“Our size is a major advantage and we have 50,000 candidates on our database, which clients can search to find the perfect match for their position. We also have the backing of a big corporation (Mediholdings became a Henry Schein company in April 2017, and is now part of a global organisation employing 22,000 staff across 34 countries). We’re now working with our parent company’s software solutions provider to enable us to offer a practice everything they need from a single supplier.”

Dr Amit Koshal, owner of Remarkable Smiles:

“I own four mixed dental practices at the moment, two of them in Derby, which I’ve had for 14 years.

“I’ve tried a few agencies but what I like about Beatrice at Green Apple is that she takes time to find out what you want. They vet candidates to see if they are the right fit for you and do the paperwork,which is quite nice. They get the indemnity documentation and GDC registration details.

“It’s not all been plain sailing. Someone joined and then pulled out after a few months. But they filled the void, and I also like that they touch base with the candidate to see how they are getting on."

Fizan Tahir, Practice Owner:

“Ours is a mini corporate with seven practices in and around London offering both NHS and private dentistry.

“Our first port of call is always BDJ Jobs but some of the locations that we have (such as West Sussex, perhaps because of the distance from London) are a bit of a struggle. That’s where we tend to rely on agencies because they get candidates that we can’t get hold of.

“We have tried a number of agencies over the years and initially we did think ‘do we want to go down this route?’ but our thought processes have changed. We’ve had various experiences with different agencies.

“It’s about building a good relationship. You want to be kept up to date so you don’t have to chase. It’s nice when you have an agency that goes that extra mile. Once they get to know you they know what you are looking for and don’t send you every Tom, Dick, and Harry.

“That knowledge is built up over time, and some don’t do that. That’s why I appreciate the personal type of relationship that they forge. Sometimes I’ll say ‘I need a dentist. This is the day….these are the hours.’

“They take up the responsibility and you feel quite confident that you will find somebody. It’s one less thing for me to worry about. I am always surprised when they say they have maybe three or four candidates.

“It’s the same for candidates, who have also built up that trust with an agency. If I were just to phone the candidate directly they sometimes wouldn’t fully engage with me. Having the agency as the middle man makes things happen.”

Jonathan Skidmore:

“I graduated from Leeds in 2013 and did my vocational training at a fantastic practice in Manchester and then worked as an associate in Huddersfield. I dropped a day there to work in a referral practice Wigan. I’m in my third year of a Masters’ Degree in Endodontics. I’ve just moved to a training centre in Formby. It’s my dissertation year.

“The first time I thought about using an agency was during my VT year. I sat with my principal who was my trainer then, who was very complimentary and wanted me to stay, but there was no space at the practice. I sent my CV to two recruitment agencies. It was very simple. I got interviews through both but it was Beatrice at Green Apple who got me both of my jobs

“I wanted as much advice as possible – about my CV, for example – and access to a greater pool of jobs. I also needed interview tips and questions. It’s always nice to have someone at the end of a phone and I’ve rung any hour of the day, especially at first.

“Also, as I novice I needed to know roughly how many UDAs I could do, and Green Apple never pushed me into doing too many. They tailored everything to my needs.

“At the other agency I rarely spoke to the same person and so couldn’t build up much of a rapport. Beatrice knows what I want and so won’t send me unsuitable stuff.

“You get a basic idea of what a standard rate is and what a good rate is. The jobs I’ve got have been at the top scale of things. Every job you see advertised says ‘great private potential’ but you have to take that with a pinch of salt. What does that actually mean?” 


Recruitment agencies:
10 top tips for jobseeking dental professionals
If you’re thinking of moving jobs, using a recruitment agency can save you time effort, and money:

1. Agencies get lots of vacancies, so they offer specialist knowledge of an entire market

2. They can help you decide if your next move should be to a small independent practice, say, or a corporate

3. If talking money makes you cringe, they can help you negotiate the best salary package

4. They’ll give you feedback about your CV and interview technique if you sometimes struggle to sell yourself

5. If you’re planning to relocate, they will know which employers might contribute towards the costs of moving

6. If you want to move locally, they will discreetly sound out potential employers

7. They can tell you if they feel you could be more ambitious and seek more senior positions

8. They can get you out of your geographical comfort zone by encouraging you to consider other areas

9. If you’re planning to try before you buy, perhaps by seeking a locum position in a new area first, some will offer to help you find temporary accommodation

10. If you’re looking to move overseas, they can advise on visas and regulatory requirements