Top tips for using a recruitment agency

Luke Arnold. Paul Malcolm Barker. Paul Holborn
Luke Arnold, Malcolm Barker and Paul Holborn

Getting a new job is an exciting but daunting time for anyone, but for dentists, now is a particularly good time to be on the hunt for a new role.

The market is hungry for new recruits, offering increasingly higher salaries and job packages to attract new blood, helped along by recruitment agencies that may just be the secret to securing these golden opportunities.

According to the latest (fifth edition) report by healthcare business market analysts LaingBuisson, the dental market is wide open for dentists looking for a new job.

LaingBuisson’s Dentistry UK Market Report1 published on 29 January 2019, says there was 22% fall in new dentist registrations in the UK over the past two years despite growing patient demand, meaning those dentists who are currently working, are much sought after.

The report shows there is a steady ‘High Street’ dentistry market valued at £7.1 billion but warns that there are serious recruitment difficulties in some parts of the country where NHS demand is high and insufficient dentist hours have led to shortfalls in contracted NHS work and patients seen. The inability to vary dentists’ earnings for purely NHS work has contributed to troubles attracting new staff.

Report author Philip Blackburn, says: ‘Modest UK growth is projected for several years, though Brexit holds a wild card on the economy and EU labour supply. Also, difficulties in the recruitment and retention of dentists and other dental professionals poses a risk for dentistry market growth in general.

‘Many dental employers face significant recruitment and retention challenges for NHS work in certain areas, which are compounded by Brexit concerns.’

Who better to help in times like these than recruitment agencies? These bodies know the market inside out and how to help dentists and practices fill posts.

Malcolm Barker, Managing Director of MBR Group, the dental and optical recruitment specialists, explains: ‘The dental recruitment market is forever challenging and has been over the last few years. We speak to dental practices on a daily basis and many practices are struggling with their recruitment. It’s non-region specific (although some regions do struggle more than others) and tends to be the UK recruitment market as a whole.

‘This hasn’t always been the case. Back in 2011, we had a situation where there were more dentists than vacancies and, for a short period, this pushed salaries down. Now salaries are on the up due to sheer demand.’

In particular demand are associate dentists, as he adds: ‘We have seen a change in the market. A lot of dentists have chosen to work as a locum rather than take an Associate position which seems to be adding to the issue of finding permanent dentists.’

The firm currently has around 800 vacancies across the UK compared to just fewer than 400 when the business started in 2015.

‘We have more requests from dental practices than ever before to provide recruitment support,’ explains Barker. ‘Practices are finding it more and more difficult to recruit directly themselves. Its taking longer periods of time for practices to recruit and they’ve not always been successful.

‘We utilise our expertise in the market and have more resources when recruiting for dental professionals. This helps attract dentists quicker and gives us a wider internet presence.’

One impact of this on the market is that salaries are rising to attract recruits, as he continues: ‘The problem that practices are facing are when dentists attend an interview, is that they have several options available to them and salary is always a factor that is taken into account. Higher salaries have been in place over the last 12 months and this has now become the norm.’

Luke Arnold, Director of Recruitment Services at Dental Elite agrees that the dental market is at its ‘most challenging’, saying: ‘The amount of permanent roles available are at an all-time high and the same with locums.

‘It is still difficult. You can tell it’s getting harder as practices that would never of used an agency to recruit are now being forced into instructing multiple agencies to stand a chance of recruiting what they need.’

The changing market is working to the advantage of the individual dentist currently, as he explains: ‘I have been recruiting in the dental sector since 2011. I have noticed that in the last 24 months the amount of companies struggling to recruit without an agency has increased massively.

‘I put this down to an ageing workforce of dentists, not enough UK dental schools to meet demand and also the reduction of EU entrants entering the market.

‘This has put the power with the candidate. This means that they are being offered record high UDA rates, private remunerations, golden hellos, and clinical support. Not all practices can be as competitive as they need to be, and will suffer.’

Dentists and practices considering a new job could do very well by using a recruitment agency, he argues, saying: ‘What have you got to lose? Agencies are a no placement no fee service. By using an agency alongside your own normal direct recruitment, you will be able to select from the true market of available candidates instead of just settling for what you have.

‘We provide recruitment on a locum and permanent basis nationwide. Indeed statistics say that one in four people are looking out for new roles. A good agency allows you to contact the other three out of four who are not looking.’

The current state of the market is too tilted one way, according to Paul Holborn, Director at dental recruitment firm Blue Sky People Ltd, who says: ‘We’ve got a very significant skills shortage. We are finding that there are areas that traditionally would not be difficult to recruit for, such as Surrey or Kent, where we are seeing clients that are starting to struggle to attract dentists to their jobs where in a more buoyant market, that wouldn’t be the case.’

For predominantly NHS positions, practices can struggle to attract recruits, as he says: ‘If you’ve got a fixed value NHS contract, paying ‘x’ amount per UDA for several thousand UDAs, you’ve got a finite contract that you’re working to. You can’t just offer more money.

‘It means that job seekers are being more selective about the practices they are looking at, working surroundings, the quality of the support staff, all leading to a more career-focused market where people start looking at not just the finances, but also their career development opportunities, and enhancing clinical skills.

‘The fitter survive in this market and the better practices will still recruit and retain while the practices that haven’t keep up to date with the latest equipment, technology, working practice materials etc, will suffer.’

Holburn says there is a lot that a recruitment agency can offer a dentist looking for a new job or a practice looking for new recruits.

‘We like to look at how we can enhance and develop the careers of people. We like to have a good understanding of the client and what it is about their practice that makes their opportunity unique, and what are the key selling points.’

The benefits of using a recruitment agency are many, he argues, saying: ‘We access opportunities that are not necessarily being publicly advertised.

‘Those practices that are not advertising some roles come to a recruiter like ourselves because they want us to take that opportunity to appropriately skilled people rather than outwardly advertise and then have to sift through clinicians. We get asked to do the legwork for them.’

Top tips for using a recruitment agency:

  1. Have a clear idea of why you are actively looking to move on and what is it you are seeking to achieve with salary, location, position
  2. Be aware if there are any restrictions within your current contract that could affect you accepting a position
  3. Look at what a job could do for your clinical skills set in the longer term
  4. Remember that a candidate may be looking for a career pathway so write your job description to reflect this
  5. Always iron out any grey areas before accepting a new role
  6. Chose an agency that suits you
  7. Most dentists will find they don’t need to utilise more than one or two agencies that will be effective, have a good client base and work in the dentist’s best interest
  8. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and speak to a recruitment agency – the advice on offer is free
  9. Ensure you have an up to date CV, showing skills and experience, no longer than two pages long
  10. Don’t assume all the jobs available are being actively advertised


LaingBuisson. Dentistry UK Market Report (29 January 2019). https://www.laingbuisson.com/shop/dentistry/. (accessed on 8 February 2019).

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