Some employers find that when it is time to hire a dental hygienist, a personal interview is simply insufficient. Some wish to observe the candidate ‘at work’ to view their clinical skills and interactions with clients and staff. Equally, a working interview can be an excellent opportunity for the dental hygienist to demonstrate their expertise, as well as the value that they will bring to the dental practice. It also enables the dental hygienist to view the dynamics of the office, quality of the instruments and equipment, availability of supplies, infection prevention and control procedures, and the quality of the dentistry. So, whether you are a new graduate or an experienced dental hygienist, being immersed in the culture of the office will help you determine whether you want the position.
It is very important to be registered with the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario (CDHO) BEFORE a working interview as you will be holding yourself out “as a person who is qualified to practise in Ontario as a dental hygienist or in a specialty of dental hygiene” and you can only do that as a registrant of the CDHO.
Typically, a working interview entails the applicant being asked to provide hands-on services in a dental practice for a few hours or even up to a day. Currently, in Ontario there is no legislation or case law stating that a working interview is illegal. So, whether the hiring employer classifies the working interview as “training” or a “skills assessment”, the office should not be exempt from paying the dental hygienist for services rendered.
According to the Employment Standards Act, 2000, S.O. 2000, c. 41, an employee is defined as “a person who receives training from a person who is an employer.” So, if services are rendered by the dental hygienist, then the dental office should pay the candidate – and pay at least minimum wage.
However, considering that most dental offices reap significant financial benefit for the services provided by the dental hygienist during a working interview, it is strongly recommended that you negotiate fair remuneration for your services. Fair and appropriate remuneration would be the hourly rate you wish to be hired for, the hourly rate for temping as a dental hygienist, or a similar rate. Compensation should be discussed and agreed upon prior to the working interview. Keep in mind that if you are willing to work for free or to accept a discounted hourly wage for your working interview, then this may set precedence for your hiring wage, and devalue your time, skills, and expertise.
Additionally, being paid should not depend on whether you are actually hired. Remember that dental hygienists are “working” as part of the interview evaluation process and should be fairly compensated for their skill, expertise, time and effort. Paying a candidate also demonstrates that the employer values the dental hygienist and their time. Realize also that the remuneration received for participating in a working interview cannot be interpreted as agreement to employment by either the interviewee or the potential employer.
An exception to paying for a working interview is when the dental hygienist is simply asked to visit the dental practice to “observe the team at work”. Then it is fair for this time to be unpaid. However, the “observation time” should be reasonable, negotiated beforehand and NOT include client care.
Prior to the Working Interview
Before consenting to a working interview, it is prudent to discuss the following, if not previously clarified in a personal or telephone interview:
- The number of dental hygienist candidates that are participating in the “working interview” process. This will help determine if the office is seriously considering the candidate or simply covering a vacation time or seeking free dental hygiene services.
- Is the position newly created or to replace a dental hygienist, and why? If newly created, the hours that the practice can offer may be limited initially, thus ensure that the office can guarantee a reasonable number of hours before committing to work there. If replacing someone, determine if it is a temporary (e.g. maternity leave), or a permanent position.
- When will clients be informed that the dental hygienist is providing services as part of a working interview? For example, at the time of booking an appointment, upon arrival to the office, or in the operatory chair? This information demonstrates open and clear office communication. It will also assist the dental hygienist in obtaining informed consent from the client prior to treatment.
- What happens if a client cancels or fails to show at the last minute for the working interview?
- How long will the working interview last (e.g. 3 hours, a full day, etc.), the number of clients scheduled for the interview, and the length of the appointments? Three to four clients would be considered reasonable for a working interview, and the length of the appointments should be based on the client’s needs.
- Reimbursement for services provided (e.g. amount per hour).
- When to expect payment? (e.g. cheque presented at the end of the day, or mailed within one or two weeks).
- Discuss reimbursement for travel and/or accommodations for participating in a working interview when the office is a considerable distance away from residence.
- When and who will provide the office orientation to become acquainted with the office, the equipment, computer programs, location of supplies, etc.?
- What support will you have during the working interview and who will be available to answer questions?
- Who and how will the candidate be evaluated? (e.g. observing client interaction, checking quality of work, reviewing clinical notes and charting, ability to take diagnostically correct x-rays).
- When and how is the hiring decision communicated?
- Take notes when discussing the working interview arrangements and put the information in writing to avoid misunderstandings. Both the dental hygienist and interviewer should keep a copy of terms and conditions of the working interview. The document should contain at a minimum:
- The expectations of the working interview (hours, number of clients)
- Remuneration for services provided, and/or travel time and accommodations
- When payment will be received
- If you are unsure of your employment rights, you should obtain legal advice or speak with an employment standards officer at the Ontario Ministry of Labour (see additional resources below).
- You should feel no pressure to participate in a working interview and should decline if any component of the proposed interview seems unreasonable or questionable.
- Remember, as per the Employment Standards Act, that an individual must be given “an eating period of at least 30 minutes at intervals that will result in the employee working no more than five consecutive hours without an eating period.”
- Keep in mind that the working interview is an opportunity for a prospective employer to assess your fit with the practice – don’t hesitate to show your initiative and ability to be an effective team member.
- It is good practice to seek consultation or legal advice before signing any agreement or contract for the working interview or the dental hygiene position. Remember that when employers draft a contract, they are doing so to protect their best interests, and not the interests of the employee.
- An alternative to a working interview is a telephone, personal, or an electronic assisted interview via a videoconference (e.g. Facetime or Skype), along with a detailed résumé with references from previous employers and colleagues who can attest to the candidates clinical, teamwork, and communication skills.
During the Working Interview
When providing care to clients during a working interview you must still follow the process of care and CDHO’s Standards of Practice. Dental hygienists who are not authorized to self-initiate the controlled acts of scaling and root planing, must obtain a standing or client specific order prior to providing such service. CDHO offers an example of Standing Order on their website for dental hygienists to use. Practice advisors at CDHO are always available for advice on scope of practice, standing orders, self-initiation, etc.
Take the opportunity to chat with the staff to determine how long they have been employed in the office. Employees who have worked at a practice long-term are usually a positive sign of job satisfaction.
After the Working Interview
If you don’t receive a decision related to the results or outcome of the working interview within the timeframe promised, don’t hesitate to contact the office to follow-up.
If payment is never received for the working interview, then you may decide to have an employment standards officer from the Ontario Ministry of Labour investigate. Employment standards officers may be able to help resolve matters through negotiation with the employer and dental hygienist.
Additionally, the dental hygienist may wish to file a claim with the Ministry of Labour if she or he believes that the employer is not complying with Employment Standards Act. Finally, if the issue cannot be resolved through negotiation or the Ministry of Labour, then the dental hygienist may determine to take court action.
- Being offered a working interview without at least a telephone or personal interview first. The working interview should be the final step in the interview process, and should only occur if the employer is truly interested in hiring the candidate.
- The interviewer is vague on the roles and responsibilities of the position, or is overselling the job.
- The job description is unclear, or the responsibilities outlined in the interview do not match the job description.
- The hiring dentist is surprised that the dental hygienist expects to be paid, or refuses to pay because it is “only an interview”. This attitude may be a good indicator of things to come. It is probably wise to politely refuse a non-paid working interview.
- The interviewer asks the interviewee inappropriate questions such as their age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, creed, height, weight, disabilities, medical history, family history of illnesses, political affiliations, nationality, and marital or family status.
- The employer complains about previous employees or the current staff.
- The staff seem overworked and stressed.
- The staff is fairly new but the dental practice is well-established.
- The same dental hygiene position is advertised on a regular basis.
- The dental hygienist is not being assessed or observed during the working interview. This may indicate that there is no evaluation process and the dental hygienist is only providing a temping service.
- The dental hygienist is asked back several times for a working interview.
- The dental hygienist feels pressured into accepting the position and/or signing a contract immediately.
Ministry of Labour
Employment Standards Information Centre
Can be contacted for assistance in identifying and defining issues under the Employment Standards Act.
- Telephone: 416-326-7160
- Toll Free (Ontario): 1-800-531-5551
- TTY (for hearing impaired): 1-866-567-8893
For information on Filing an Employment Standards Claim click here
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