Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When To Start Looking For Your Next Associate

You are a dentist and an owner of a successful business. You know the value of planning and you feel that you are ready to take your practice to the next step by adding an associate. What you may not know is that it could take much longer than you realize to find the right associate who shares your vision, clinical philosophy and is willing to put in the hard work to make your dreams a reality.

Factors that affect the quality and depth of the talent pool

There are many blogs and articles that cover the demographics of the dental field. To summarize, there are much fewer new dentists entering the field than there are baby boomers who are retiring. At the same time, patient demand is increasing as a result of population increase and the increased care required by aging boomers. In short, supply is not adequate for demand.

In the past, the talent pool met demand. Now, the unemployment rate for dentists is practically nil. Practices seeking to add help quickly have no choice but to accept an associate from a meager pool, indeed. Will you be satisfied turning over your patients and your practice’s future to just anyone?

Finding the right talent

We have been recruiting associates, partners, buyers and staff for dental practices for many years. We can confidently say that the best associate for your office is likely working with another practice. Our most successful placements were actively employed out of the area when we first came into contact with them. Is their spouse from your area? Do they share your clinical philosophy? What would cause them to leave their current job for a better match? We ask these questions and are able to make the best connections from a nationwide pool of contacts in our network. A successful practice owner simply does not have the time or the means to identify, contact and screen all the dentists who could be a match.

How long does the interview process take?

To answer this question, we analyzed data from our last 250 placements spanning a period close to two and a half years. We found that the average time between the first phone interview and a signed contract was 1 month and 26 days. During this time, practice owners and associate candidates typically have 5-7 phone interviews, two in-person meetings, complete reference checks and negotiate contract terms.

Now that you have an agreement, when can the associate start?

Keep in mind that the dentist who shares your practice philosophy, has the necessary experience and whose personality does not drive you and your staff crazy is likely already employed. He or she will have to give notice. Would you want an associate who would abandon a previous employer? There may also be other factors such as relocation, completing cases, and/or finishing a residency or a military obligation. The average time between an agreement and the actual start date is 2 months and 20 days.


It will take an average of 4 months and 16 days from the first conversation to the start date. That does not account for the difficulty in sourcing candidates. Many factors will affect your ability to source candidates:

  • Practice location: A small city or rural environment could require more sourcing time than a similar practice in a dental school city.

  • Practice type: Do you see Medicaid? Do you have a niche practice? This will limit the number of interested or qualified candidates.

  • Specialty: Do you own a specialty practice?

  • Clinical Philosophy: Are you a Pankey doctor? Do you provide sleep dentistry services? Extra training will limit your options.

As you plan for your next associate, be sure to allow yourself enough time to consider all of your options. Remember, hiring the wrong dentist can cost you thousands.

Written by Morgan Pace, Sr Account Executive/ Recruiter at ETS Dental. You can reach Morgan at (540)491-9102 or Find out more at