Using a job agency to strengthen your team

When looking to fill a vacancy in your dental team you might consider using a specialised recruitment agency. Getting the right person is an art and a science – deciding what you want from the role, attracting the right candidates and assessing who will fit in best. Agencies do this all the time and using their services can reduce some of the pressures placed on practices during the recruitment process. Agencies may already have suitable candidates registered with them. However, practices should be sure to use reputable agencies with industry experience.

What does a good agency offer

A good agency will send a consultant round to your practice, help you with a job specification and then present you with a good shortlist of candidates. The key elements in recruitment are defining the tasks and responsibilities of the role, identifying the skills and experience that will need and identifying the applicants who combine these things best.  

Where candidates are selected by the agency you should still check their suitability to the post by interviewing any candidate before offering them a job.

Ask for what you want

Draft out the job description and person specification. The job description should confirm the title of the vacancy, its purpose and objectives and the main tasks and responsibilities of the job holder. The person specification identifies the qualifications, experience and skills required for the post. These are vital for evaluating candidates when it comes to shortlisting and interviewing.

Also provide the essentials and desirable information about the job. Essential information about the post may be an overview of the role, the location and hours. In order not to face a large number of applications from unqualified applicants it is essential to mention qualification requirements. Highlight the rate of pay – you may want to make a high enough offer in order to attract experienced candidates who may already be in employment. Desirable information may list the job satisfaction that can be gained from the role, team camaraderie, opportunities for training or career progression and any other benefits such as treatment for staff or gym membership.

Check the way in which the agency might advertise your practice’s job. A good recruitment advert will include:

  • Job advert title, do not just give the job title, every other advert does that, attract attention by stating one important part of the role, for instance ‘Care for dental patients’.
  • The results that you want from the job. Perhaps you intend to market your practice to a new patient cohort.
  • What is in it for the applicant in terms of working environment or job satisfaction.
  • Why the role is important to your business.
  • Basic job information – hours and the job description.
  • Pay and other benefits.
  • The service that you offer to customers, such as NHS care or cosmetic dentistry.
  • The action you want interested applicants to take – should they send in a CV or telephone or email for an application form?

Reaching the best people

A successful recruitment campaign will reach the greatest number of those that you want to attract. In deciding on exactly where to place the advert, it is important for practices to reconsider the vacancy, job description and person specification. A vacancy for a practice director might be best placed in a national newspaper, whereas an advert for associate or dental nurse might be more appropriately placed in a clinical or industry publication, such as the British Dental Journal (we are the renowned leader in dental recruitment and in our online section is easily searchable at www.bdjjobs.co.uk), and an advert for a receptionist may go best in the local newspaper. The recruitment agency will often be able to suggest the best route.

Equalities

When getting a new team member you are, obviously, differentiating amongst the applicants to get the most skilled person. But be careful not to break the laws on discrimination. Agencies should be familiar with these and help you avoid any pitfalls.

You must not make or state requirements of age, gender, race or national origins, sexual orientation, able bodied, marital status or religion in your publicity. Take care not to use inappropriate language or wording that might be considered discriminatory.

A requirement for experienced applicants can sometimes be tricky – it could unintentionally discriminate on grounds of age against younger candidates. Think about the type of experience you require and why the role requires such experience. You may mean particular knowledge or capability in certain skills and activities – such as use of computer databases, dealing with customer complaints or dentistry itself. Experience can be specified for certain technical roles, since it shows familiarity with the tasks that you will require them to do.

Shortlisting and selecting

Identifying the best person is where an agency can really come through for you.

To be able to select the perfect candidate for you, they need narrow down the applicants. The basic aim is to exclude as many unsuitable candidates from the recruitment process as objectively, fairly and quickly as possible. Though, perhaps most importantly, an effective shortlisting process will help ensure that you do not overlook an excellent candidate.

One of the easiest ways is to create a matrix or score card that will provide you with an overall score for each candidate based on your selected criteria. The selected criteria should be based on the job description and the person specification you have developed for the role. Identify the essential and desirable requirements of the role. Essential qualities are those that are required to do the job. Desirable qualities are those which you would like applicants to have but are not essential to the job. Take you time to really think about what is important to you. It may be a simple step, but it is a critical part of the recruitment process. 

In the case of a Dental Nurse, essential criteria are likely to include: registered or working towards registration with the GDC; possessing a dental nurse qualification or working towards one; an understanding of the importance of maintaining clinical standards; previous experience working within a busy customer care related service. Desirable criteria might include: experience of using particular software; or having an excellent telephone manner.

To ensure fairness and consistency, a scoring and weighting system should be used in order to assess applications against each of the key criteria. One way to score applicants for shortlisting and at interview is to mark them on a set scale, perhaps:

1 - fails to meet the person specification in all respects

2 - meets the person specification in some respects

3 - meets the person specification in most or all respects

4 - meets the person specification in all respects and exceeds some

5 - exceeds the person specification in all respects

Terms

Ensure that you understand and agree with the agency’s terms and conditions, particularly those relating to fees. For recruitment to a permanent post the agency will charge a percentage of the annual salary, which will probably still be payable even if the recruit does not stay very long. Also recruitment agencies’ terms and conditions of service invariably state that, if you permanently take on a person whom they have introduced to you as a temporary worker within the past 6 months, you are liable for the full introduction fee. Nevertheless, do not be frightened to negotiate with the agency on their rates. Agencies are often heavily target orientated and they may be keen enough to reduce their fees to get your business.     

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