In the previous article, we explored the significance of recruiting for talent and that skills and experience are not necessarily a precursor to successfully filling a vacant role. With hindsight, when you think about your best staff there will often be “something about them” and whatever that is, it will include talents that set them apart.

So, where do you begin? Well, this starts well before the interviewing process and traditionally includes reviewing CV’s and applications. The problem with this part of the process of course is whether or not it is possible to truly assess somebody’s talents from a few sheets of A4? Ultimately the short answer is that you probably can’t, not in isolation but you can use CV’s to filter out what you want and don’t’ want. I think that you have to be harsh at this stage (regardless of the number of CV’s that you have received) and simply accept that there are certain minimum criteria that you are looking for. It will help if you have previously identified and listed these criteria as well as thought about what would be exceptional to see on a CV. Beyond that, “talent spotting” from a CV comes down to reading between the lines. Nobody intentionally produces a self deprecating CV and yet clearly some are better than others. I would suggest that identifying recurring behaviours based upon previous roles and responsibilities is a good starting point. In summary;

  1. Be clear about what you are expecting from a CV as well as what would be exceptional.
  2. Don’t be swayed away from your minimum criteria, regardless of how many CV’s you receive.
  3. Talent spotting is not an exact science, it comes with experience and interpreting the past as a predicator of the future.

Ok, so the big day comes, you have filtered through the CV’s and lined up some interviews. Don’t be scared to precede this part of the process with some telephone interviews either. If you are looking for talented communicators, the telephone should not be a distraction.

I would suggest that there are two stages to the face to face interviewing process. The first you will be familiar with as part of your existing interviewing process and it will likely focus on clinical and procedural assessment with one eye on gut feel about the individuals and personalities.

The second stage may not be so familiar, and given that often the difference between good staff and brilliant staff is not their clinical ability, then this is perhaps the most important part of the process, call it a “talent interview” if you will.

To give you an idea of what this can mean, here are a few specifics that I have used in the past. When recruiting business development managers (and for that read the equivalent of patient care coordinator) I identified from the best of my team that a passionate curiosity about other people was an essential talent. Therefore I would put this to the test! Put my watch on the table in front of us and then say “OK, 5 minutes, find as much about this company as you can…..go” – this sounds harsh, but what I was looking for was the relentless ability to ask questions and there was no negotiation on this. The second, when recruiting cold callers, was to sit back to back with the candidate, be the person answering the call at the other end, and see how the candidate set about making an appointment. Again, I was looking for questions as well as a structured approach.

You might be wondering how this is relevant to recruiting for a role in a dental practice, but remember by this stage, it is not clinical skills you are looking for, it is what sets people apart, these are talents you are looking for not skills.

Here are a few thoughts on how to conduct the “talent interview”;

  1. Open questions – this is an obvious one, but there is no point steering the question to the answer that you are looking for. For example, “How much conversation do you think a nurse should have with a patient” is nowhere near as powerful as “Apart from your clinical responsibilities, what else do you do in the surgery when a patient is present?”. The later, leaves the answer wide open. Be certain that you pause after the question and be prepared to probe further with questions like “what exactly do you mean by that?”.
  2. Their answer is their truth – however tempting it may to dig around for the answer you want to hear, remember that you are looking for the real depth behind the answers, the world as they see it.
  3. Listen out for specifics – as we have identified already, past behaviour is a reasonable predicator of future behaviour but only if it is repeated. The “tell me a time when you…..” type questions are all well and good but if I was recruiting a dentist and asked a question like “tell me about an experience you have had where your patient truly thanked you” I want hear the answer “yesterday” not “well, there was this time once……

Having worked with numerous dental practices, the very best staff will without exception have two key talents. Firstly, the ability to learn skills quickly and secondly some kind of personal satisfaction from the role. Therefore, think about the questions that could identify this.

Managing talent, engaging your team and getting the very best performance that you can from the people that you have is an ongoing part of your role a leader. Interviewing and recruiting for talent is therefore a key activity that forms the basis of the future success of your business.