Dental assistants support dentists in the care of patient's teeth. As well as preparing equipment and assisting the dentist during treatment, they will help ensure a clean and hygienic practice and check patients are comfortable and safe.
The technical requirements and experience required for this role are just as important to assess as the soft skills, aptitude and abilities of the candidates who have applied. Not only will this help you find competent dental assistants, it will also help you differentiate between people whose resumes may appear very similar on paper.
A good dental assistant will make life easier for the dentist, ensure patients are happy and keep the practice running smoothly and safely. This requires a great deal of technical knowledge, strong communication skills and the ability to take the initiative.
What should a dental assistant be able to do?
The day-to-day tasks of a dental assistant can be extremely varied and require a host of different skills and abilities.
Perhaps the most important part of the role is being an efficient and helpful resource for the dentist. Dentists may ask the assistant to take on a host of different tasks including logging patient records, sterilising and preparing equipment, ordering supplies, cleaning teeth, preparing casts and much, much more.
Dental assistants will also be required to interact with patients; perhaps giving them advice on oral health, helping them to book further appointments or explaining post-treatment care.
There will also be administrative tasks such as preparing bills, receiving payments, scheduling appointments and recording patient details.
A good dental assistant will have a pivotal role in the smooth running of a practice; making a dentist's job easier and patients feel happy and secure.
It's important to look for character traits such as empathy and patience, as well as more technical skills and experience when preparing your interview questions and assessments for the recruitment process.
Skills to look for in a dental assistant
Dental assistants need to be able to demonstrate a series of core skills, most notably those listed below, to show they're suitable for the role.
Dental knowledge and expertise: most important is the required level of knowledge and expertise in the field. This may vary by practice, but it's important to establish the level of qualification and experience you require from candidates before sharing any job advertisements.
Microsoft Office suite: many of the roles will require competency across Microsoft Office programs including Outlook, Excel, and Word. Candidates should be able to demonstrate, at the very least, basic skills in each program so they feel confident they can cope with the administrative side of the role.
Medical software competency: whether they're a quick learner who can swiftly pick up how to use the medical software the practice utilises on a daily basis, or they're familiar with the software itself, it's important to assess candidates on your specific medical software so you get a better idea of the level of experience they have.
Administrative skills: admin tasks are a large part of the role of a dental assistant. Probing how experienced a candidate is with basic administrative tasks, and examining their ability to error check and show a keen eye for detail is therefore really important.
Problem-solving: being able to use logic and intuition to work through the unpredictable is a really useful skill for any dental assistant. It shows they'll be confident in taking the initiative and will be a useful support system for the dentists in the practice.
Useful abilities for a dental assistant
Abilities can be described as skills that are more inherent, and aren't always things you can learn.
Looking for specific abilities in candidates is one of the best ways you can find the highest calibre of talent, especially if you're looking at a large pool of people with seemingly similar levels of skill, expertise and experience.
We recommend trying to assess the following abilities for this role:
Active listening: the ability to listen to instructions from the dentist, and the needs and wants of a patient are integral to the success of your dental assistant. Assessing active listening skills will give you a better idea of whether they're likely to be suitable for the role.
Near vision: it sounds obvious, but it's really important for dental assistants to have good near vision to be able to carry out the requirements of the role. It might be worth adding a sight test into the recruitment process to check for this.
Comprehension: listening, processing, comprehending and actioning are all important parts of the role. Ensuring your tests or interview questions reflect this will help you hire the best person possible.
Teamwork: whether it's liaising with reception, following instructions from the dentist, or being sensitive to patients' needs, it's critical that the dental assistant you hire is comfortable working as part of a team.
Ability to take instruction: the most significant part of this role is the ability to carry out tasks as instructed by the dentist, so it's really important to probe how comfortable a candidate is at playing a largely supportive role.
Which soft skills tests could I use to hire a dental assistant?
Looking for the right combination of soft skills will help you make better choices when it comes to hiring. For dental assistants, we recommend examining the following soft skills:
Interpersonal skills: whether it's reassuring patients, updating reception or supporting the dentist, dental assistants need to have strong interpersonal skills to meet the social nature of the role.
Teamwork: all dental assistants work within a wider group of people, so being a team player is essential. Candidates should be able to work alongside others, take direction and know when to lead.
Communication: active listening, responding to non-verbal cues and knowing how to speak to different people are just some of the essential communication skills that contribute to a good dental assistant.
Which technical or aptitude tests could I use to hire a dental assistant?
It can be useful to bolster the recruitment process with aptitude tests that seek to better understand the way your candidates think and react to challenging scenarios.
When hiring a dental assistant, you could set the following:
Verbal reasoning: verbal reasoning tests assess comprehension and communication skills by asking people to read through dense passages of text and extract key pieces of information. They're useful assessments for roles which require a great deal of communication and strong language skills.
Logical reasoning: logical thinkers are a great asset in roles where problem-solving, thinking on your feet and acting under pressure is often required. That's why it's a good aptitude test to set as part of the dental assistant recruitment process.
Our recommended test battery for a dental assistant
When it comes to hiring a dental assistant, it's essential to find a good balance between assessing technical and soft skills, as well as capabilities and competencies. We'd recommend the following test battery as a good balance:
Interpersonal skills: communication is key in a dental practice and this test will help ensure your chosen candidate has the necessary skills to work with patients, dentists and everyone else they'll encounter on a daily basis.
Verbal reasoning: the verbal reasoning test will give you a much clearer idea of how competent a candidate is in comprehension and communication — both essential skills for dental assistants.
Teamwork: dental assistants work with administrators and dentists, so being a team player is essential.
Problem-solving: being able to problem solve is a key skill for any dental assistant.
For further information on hiring a dental assistant, visit Picked's dental assistant test guide.