Navigate the Hiring Landscape

How dental leaders should approach associate and hygienist hiring.

Hiring associates and clinicians is no longer a one-time event. You can’t simply throw an ad out into the marketplace and hope to get leads. Today hiring involves more of a nurturing, long-term engagement. 

Due to shifting expectations post-pandemic, and changes in the job market, many dental leaders have experienced trouble with hiring associates and hygienists. More and more individuals currently in associate and hygienist positions are leaving or planning to leave the industry, with 9 out of 10 dentists saying it is “very” challenging to recruit dental assistants and dental hygienists, and one-third of dental assistants and dental hygienists saying they plan to retire in five years or less, according to DEO and ADA Health Policy in collaboration with various national dental organizations, on Dental Workforce Shortages: Data to Navigate Today’s Dental Market. Also, there has been 10% less dental practice capacity annually due to vacant dental assistant and dental hygienist positions.

Because of these market challenges, dental organizations must become very strategic in how they move forward in their hiring process. Fortunately, the DEO has identified several proven marketing tools that dental organizations can use to hire and recruit more effectively: 

No. 1: Market 

Dental organizations must research and know your market. What’s your avatar?

To begin the process of marketing for hiring, consider first the audience, or what types of individuals to target in the market. This can be determined by identifying those currently on your team who have been successful and easy to work with. Next, what clinical capabilities are necessary for them to have on day one? 

What personal goals align best with your organization? Do you operate from a model where an associate may only stay 2-3 years? Or do you want someone who desires ownership in the practice and is willing to commit for the long haul?

Finally, what type of approach to patient care is the best fit for your organization? Do you want someone high-tech and efficient, or do you prefer someone who is calm and nurturing?

No. 2: Messaging

How are you conveying the story of who you are and what you want out of a candidate?

Today’s associates and hygienists want to know they will be supported during onboarding, trained, and mentored throughout their time at a company. You will want to align your messaging with that, and also provide examples that back it up. People want to know specifics about how they are going to be onboarded, trained and supported. They want to know what the first 90 days will look like, and even what the first year will look like. Don’t make empty promises.

While the initial message should be simple and concise, be sure to provide a place for candidates to go to get all your information. Employers must also be clear about what their offer is clinically, relationally, and financially (see sidebar) to attract people and help them determine if they believe they are a good fit for the role.

Define Your Offer

What are you offering clinicially?
• Mentorship
• Latest and greatest technology

What are you offering relationally?
• Staff that’s trained and experienced
• Mission and culture they’d be aligned to
• Small-town family life? Urban?

What are you offering financially?
• Bonuses
• Equity models
• Daily minimums
• % of revenue
• Student loan repayment options

No. 3: Medium 

What medium or channel do you want to deliver the hiring message over? This can include: 

  • Digital channels such as websites, paid ads, landing pages and social media pages
  • Job boards such as Indeed, Monster, LinkedIn,,,,, and
  • On-site engagements such as dental schools and hygiene schools
  • Referrals from your team or patients
  • Recruiters (third-party resources who will own the process.)
  • Your own website or job boards, social media, and even hiring a digital marketing firm to help with marketing strategy

No. 4: Measure 

Dental organizations must create a system for how the company will measure the success of its tactics.

A roadmap for the clinician hiring process can be simplified into a series of steps that includes the pre-hiring process – market research, messaging, channel identification, and plans to measure progress in hiring. 

Then comes the recruiting phase and screening phase, where the position is advertised, candidates apply, interview, and are selected to be sent more information about the company. 

Finally, the last step includes the selection of the final candidate, checking references, extending a formal job offer, and the new employee signing a contract.

Craft Your Ad

Simple, streamlined, and easy-to-consume ads are best when engaging with potential job candidates. There should also be a resource within the ad, such as a link or QR code that will take the candidate to the website, job listing, or even a recruiting packet where they can learn more about the company, location, and the offer. 

Timing matters too. If advertising between June and August, for example, recent graduates of dental school who are interested in hygienist positions want to be able to see and get excited about companies that are hiring for the future. This can be done through intentional, directed advertising to these groups.

Once the position is filled

As soon as a candidate is preparing to start on their first morning, decide in advance what their experience is going to be – such as if they are going to see clinical processes, learn aspects of the job, etc., on the first day. If a new person is coming in to start a role, ensure they are set up for success: introduce them to the dentists, hygienists, and the team. 

When an employee is starting out in a role, have a weekly review to go over processes and adjust. As a leader, determine how to improve processes, and listen to feedback to further dial in on the process of candidate hiring. From this learned experience with current employees, determine what can be changed in the hiring process to make it more efficient. 

Additionally, decide what marketing tools will create the most significant opportunities for future candidate hiring and job growth. One tool that can be used is online software designed to be specific for candidate and applicant trackers. In terms of what statistics to track, this should include all the people that you’ve talked to who are interested in the position, anyone who has shown interest in the advertisement, or recording numbers especially when a candidate has applied for the job. Tracking candidate statistics will allow the process to be streamlined and consistent in hiring the best fit for the role.

Hiring strong associates and hygienists is critical to the overall success of a dental practice. When hiring new candidates for an internal role, practices should get to know the avatar that is right for their jobs and company culture. Targeting specific audiences to hire through detailed advertisements will help dental companies smoothly transition candidates into roles that are the right fit for both the individual and the company.