Paul Edwards
CEDR HR Solutions
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Working Interviews: A Smarter Way to Hire – or Tax Fraud?
By Paul Edwards, CEO of CEDR HR Solutions

Which sounds like a better deal: Hiring someone you’ve barely met, or hiring someone you’ve observed performing the actual job in question? Don’t let the obvious answer lead you astray…

Hiring well takes lots of time. We all just want to hire the right person the first time around, so we don’t have to start all over and hire and train another person. So, any tricks or techniques that might increase your chance of a better hire are always welcome – and that is likely what created the idea of the “working interview.”

Many dentists have a sudden flash of inspiration that a “working interview” might be a clever way to “try someone before you buy them.” It makes perfect sense, but there are just a few huge, expensive problems with that idea.

First, your interview is considered tax fraudby the IRS and is also a violation of the rules established by the Department of Labor with regards to classifying employees properly. Seriously, you cannot legally (read “magically”) misclassify an employee by giving them a 1099 form and a check. Why? The IRS wants their taxes, and the DOL wants their pound of flesh, too.

Second, and even more likely to impact your life, is the following. If anything goes wrong during the working interview it means your practice is unprotected, and you may end up having to pay for anything that happens straight out of your pocket.

Working interviews work best at endangering employers. Simply put: If a candidate (let’s call her Shirley) is under your control, working in your office, using your equipment on your patients or employees, even if it is only for an hour, as far as the IRS and DOL are concerned, you are her employer. And as an employer, you have immediate legal and tax obligations that pertain to all employees, no matter how short a period of time they work for you. What kind of employee does this apply to? All of them!

Worse, you face a slew of other liability issues because your workers’ comp insurance is for your employees and not your job applicants or independent contractors.If Shirley slips or is in any way hurt on the job, OR files a complaint after not being hired by you, OR handles a patient incorrectly, OR causes a HIPAA violation, OR is exposed to a bloodborne pathogen, you are then massively exposed. You would be at a huge disadvantage from the start, and you would probably need to pay out an expensive settlement or possibly pay for something like Hep C treatment for life.

It gets even worse. Your employee handbook – your most vital tool to set expectations, resolve employee complaints, and prevent lawsuits – won’t apply to an employee who never received it.

Don’t get caught in the temp agency trap, either. What if you hire Shirley through a temp agency, instead, and then conduct your working interview? Beware the temp agency that tells you to pay the employee directly by check. If done properly, the temp agency itself will actually employ the candidate, and that means all of these issues are no longer your problem. That’s because the temp agency is following the rules – but guess what. If the temp agency is paying as a 1099 independent contractor instead, it’s highly likely that a complaint would land on your doorstep, because you are the one they performed the work for.

Working interviews are no workaround for proper hiring. Once someone starts working for you, even if only for an hour, you should do ALL of the following to stay legal and compliant:

Pay them no less than minimum wage
Withhold payroll taxes
Get a background check and verify their eligibility to work in the U.S.
Notify your workers’ compensation carrier to ensure the employee is covered
Ensure the employee has completed HIPAA training
Provide a copy of your Employee Handbook – protections in it apply only to those who receive a copy
Make sure that licenses are all up to date

Hire slow, fire fast: the best of both worlds. Now that you know a working interview is dangerous (and in most scenarios illegal), how can you ensure your practice hires the best people? Here are a few guidelines to follow:

Use behavioral interviews. Don’t ask simple yes/no questions, or questions that may elicit a rehearsed answer. Ask for examples of relevant work or life situations your candidate struggled with and how they handled them, and you’ll get truer responses.

Use a skills test. Ask the applicant to describe how they would perform critical tasks. A well-thought-out skills test can help you learn almost as much as a working interview, without the risk. Call CEDR at 866-414-6056 for some HR pro tips on how to set up a skills test in your practice.

Always do a background check. Make it clear that any offer of employment is contingent on passing.

In addition to completing the steps above for your prospective new hire, you can still try them out by having a “getting acquainted period” carefully outlined in your employee handbook. If you don’t have one of these, or if you don’t have an up-to-date employee handbook in place, contact us at CEDR – we can help! Using strategic hiring practices like these will help you lessen liability while building a stronger, more productive, better-suited team.

Paul Edwards is the CEO and Co-Founder of CEDR HR Solutions (, which provides individually customized employee handbooks and HR solutions to dental offices of all sizes across the United States. He has over 20 years of experience as a manager and owner, and specializes in helping dental offices solve employee issues. Paul speaks at employment education seminars, conferences, and CE courses across the country.

He can be reached at

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Sally McKenzie, CEO
McKenzie Management
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How to Boost Patient Retention and Your Bottom Line
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

Being a successful dentist isn’t just about providing top-notch clinical care. You have to find ways to connect with patients, so they stay loyal to your practice. Patients have a lot of options these days, and if they have a negative experience at your office, they won’t hesitate to call the practice down the street to schedule their next appointment.

To run a profitable dental practice, you have to develop a base of loyal patients who accept treatment and refer. This is something many dentists struggle with – but not to worry, I can help. Here are tips to help you boost patient retention numbers, practice productivity and your bottom line.

Focus on customer service. It’s important to make patients feel comfortable from the moment they walk through the door, and that starts with exceptional customer service. Team members should greet every patient with a friendly smile and do their best to put them at ease. That might mean offering a cup of coffee while they wait in the comfortable reception area, helping to fill out paperwork or assuring them they’re in good hands. Patients will feel more relaxed and more connected to the practice, making them more likely to come back.

Give recall the attention it deserves. This is probably the most neglected practice system, yet it’s also one of the most important. Reactivating past due patients is a great way to bring more money into a practice and foster loyalty. So how can you revamp recall in your practice? Consider hiring a Patient Coordinator and tasking this team member with reaching out and scheduling a certain number of past due patients a day. The coordinator should educate patients during these calls and remind them why it’s so important to schedule and keep regular dental appointments. You’ll see familiar faces back in the chair, which will lead to a healthier bottom line.

Don’t keep patients waiting. Your patients are busy people and they don’t want to spend their afternoon in your reception area, no matter how comfortable it is. If long wait times are the norm in your practice, it’s probably costing you patients. I suggest you sit down with your Scheduling Coordinator to figure out why you’re always running behind, then take the necessary steps to fix it.

Build a rapport with your patients. Getting patients in and out of the chair as quickly as possible isn’t going to do much to build loyalty. Instead, take the time to get to know your patients and show them you care. Ask about their jobs and their families. Talk about their oral health goals and how your practice can help them meet those goals. Encourage your team members to do the same. Patients will feel a deeper connection to your practice, making it easier for you to earn their trust and ultimately their loyalty.

Provide education. Educated patients are more likely to come back to your practice and accept treatment. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to explain to patients what’s going on in their mouths. Show them images and videos. Talk about the importance of maintaining their oral health and the possible consequences of not going forward with recommended treatment. Answer their questions and address any concerns they have. By the time the appointment is over, patients will feel more connected to you and your practice, and that leads to loyalty.  

Consider hiring a Treatment Coordinator. As much as you might like case presentations, you likely don’t have enough time to go over every aspect of treatment with patients. You probably spend 5-10 minutes talking over your recommendations chairside before you have to run to the next patient. A Treatment Coordinator, on the other hand, can spend as much time as necessary going over treatment with patients in a comfortable, relaxed environment. Patients can ask any questions they have and will leave the practice knowing exactly what to expect.

It’s also important to train your Treatment Coordinator to follow-up two days after the initial presentation to address any additional questions and remind patients why they should go forward with treatment. This shows patients you care and keeps the presentation top of mind – making them more likely to entrust your practice with their dental care.

Don’t ignore patient complaints. If patients take the time to tell you about something that’s bothering them, don’t just shrug your shoulders and assume they’re having a bad day. This will only serve to annoy patients even more, and prompt them to start looking for a new dental home. Thank patients for sharing their concern and let them know you’ll address the issue. Not only will patients appreciate you taking them seriously (which fosters loyalty), you’ll have the opportunity to make improvements to your practice by fixing problems you didn’t even realize existed.

Developing a base of loyal patients is key to your practice’s success. Following these tips will help you boost patient retention while also growing practice production numbers and your bottom line.

Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, a nationwide dental management, practice development and educational consulting firm providing knowledge, guidance and personalized solutions that have propelled thousands of general and specialty practices to realize their potential. Learn more practice management tools from Sally’s “on-demand” webinars, 24/7, complimentary for Dentists and the Team. Start here.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at or call 1.877.777.6151.

Interested in having McKenzie Management Seminars speak to your dental society or study club? Click here

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