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How to Conduct a Compliant Interview in Dentistry

"Take a seat," "Tell me about yourself," and "When can you start?" — you've probably uttered these phrases time and time again when interviewing dental candidates like hygienists and dentists. The interview process determines whether the applicant on the other side of the table is a "good fit" for your dental practice. But compliance is just as important as candidate suitability. Divulging too much information or asking candidates inappropriate questions could lead to fines from the government or lawsuits. Here are the pros and cons of conducting compliant dental interviews in 2020. (Yes, you still need to stay compliant for interviews on Zoom!)

How to Stay Compliant When Interviewing Dental Candidates

The majority of compliance issues arise because of allegations of discrimination or breaches of federal or state anti-discrimination legislation. You also need to stay compliant when processing personally identifiable data in the dental space. (HIPAA governs health information privacy.) The same rules apply for all candidates, from prospective dentists to office managers. 

Give Everyone a Fair Shot

The average length of an interview in the United States is 40 minutes, but one-third of recruiters say they know whether they will hire a candidate within the first 90 seconds. So how do you stay compliant? 

Here's an example: A physician's assistant with 30 years of experience attends an interview and ticks all the boxes, so you cancel interviews with subsequent candidates. This is a bad idea. You should give everyone a fair chance and make hiring decisions toward the end of the interview process. Otherwise, someone might accuse you of discrimination. Lawsuits happen all the time because recruiters make mistakes like this. 

Interview length should be the same for all candidates. Ask the same exact questions. The key here is consistency. A structured interview process, where you ask similar pre-determined questions to everyone, makes it fair for everyone. You can still tailor questions based on a candidate's experience and skills. 

Don't Ask Inappropriate Questions 

There's nothing in anti-discrimination legislation that stops you from asking questions about a candidate's background, but you should exercise caution for compliance purposes. Asking questions about factors such as age, race/national origin, and pregnancy violates anti-discrimination laws. Avoid asking candidates applying for dental roles (dental assistants, office managers, nurses, surgeons, etc.) questions like these:

  • How old are you?
  • Are you a U.S. citizen?
  • Do you have or plan to have children or are you pregnant?

There are ways to rephrase these questions without potentially offending candidates:

  • How long have you been working in dentistry?
  • Are you authorized to work in the U.S.? (Though you might want to ask this later on in the recruitment process. You should check if all new hires can legally work in the U.S.) 
  • Are you able to work the schedule assigned for this position? Are you available to work overtime on occasion? 

There are other questions to avoid:

  • When inquiring about someone's alcohol or drug use, you should only ask if the candidate is currently using illegal drugs. 
  • Don't ask a candidate about previous arrests. You can only ask about previous convictions.  
  • Do you have any disabilities, handicaps, or mental conditions? 

"Your interview questions should be designed to determine a candidate's capability to perform the essential functions you have defined for the job," says Monster. "Just be sure to couch your inquiries in job-relevant language, and don't make assumptions about a candidate's ability or disability."

Recommended reading: Is your office still closed because of COVID-19? What happens now? Read this!

Don't Process Sensitive Information

Some candidates talk more than others, and there might be one or two who divulge too much information during an interview. In a scenario where a candidate like a dentist’s assistant volunteers sensitive information (about their age, national origin, race, or other demographics), don't keep a record of this information, add it to your computer system, or pursue the topic any further. 

The same goes for the information you reveal in an interview. Divulging sensitive information about your company poses several problems. If in doubt, don't say anything at all. 

Talking about interview notes, don't keep recruitment information (including resumes) for longer than required. After hiring someone, store candidate data for the term of employment. After rejecting someone, keep information for 3 years. Any longer and you risk violating any data processing laws in your state. For extra safe-keeping, upload information to a cloud-based document storage solution

The Pros of Staying Compliant

Staying compliant during interviews reduces conflict and avoids government penalties and private lawsuits. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles most discrimination allegations in healthcare, with civil penalties ranging from $50,000 for small companies to $300,000 for organizations with 500 employees or more. 

The Cons of Compliant Interviews

There are no real "cons" for conducting compliant interviews. Staying on the right side of the law prevents future problems and ensures candidates feel comfortable when answering personal questions. However, organizing compliant interviews can be costly and time-consuming, especially when there's so much to think about. This is why you should invest in reliable HR guidance services so you can adhere to the law during the interview process. (Click here to learn more.)

Compliant interview questions might restrict you from fully understanding a candidate's background, but there are other methods for determining job suitability. These include applicant screening and criminal background checks. (You should apply these checks to all candidates in dentistry). Remember, interviews are just one stage of the hiring process. 

Final Word

Interviewing candidates like doctors and office managers is arguably the most important step in the recruitment life cycle. This is where you meet candidates face-to-face (or, post-COVID, over Zoom) and determine job suitability. However, you'll want to stay compliant — or face expensive penalties and lawsuits. 

If you are a current HR for Health client and have additional questions, please reach out to our team by calling 877-779-4747. Please keep in mind that due to an influx in questions related to the COVID-19 outbreak, our response time may be slower than usual, but we will get back to you as soon as we can! 

If you are not a current HR for Health client and have additional questions, please schedule an HR consultation with us by booking time here or calling us at 877-779-4747, option 1. 

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