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Insights: We talk to Jon Dolding about recruiting and interviewing Dental Technicians in his Dental Laboratory, Ceramic Designs, Brighton

Insights: We talk to Jon Dolding about recruiting and interviewing Dental Technicians in his Dental Laboratory, Ceramic Designs, Brighton

What size team do you have at Ceramic Designs?

We've got 12 full time staff in the team, they are split fairly evenly between ceramic and prosthetics.

Both departments use CAD/CAM for all things digital. We've got three scanning and designing stations where we use 3Shape and Zirkon Zhan keeping the mills busy milling titanium, zirconia, PMMA and wax. The Asiga printer also works hard producing a whole variety of products.

Ceramic Designs have been digital since the lab was set-up, but in the last two years we've definitely seen a massive increase of intra-oral scans being sent through to us.

What are the various types of staff members that you employ? (ceramists, prosthetics, ortho, CADCAM, office staff etc.)

Most of my staff are qualified dental technicians specialising in their chosen field of dental technology, I also have a couple of trainees and one administrator.

I'm really fortunate that the lab is in the same building as The Implant Centre, this means that I’m able to utilise some of their office staff for my accounts, Human Resources and pay role.

When you’ve recruited in the past, how difficult have you found it to find good quality candidates?

In the past, recruitment has been an absolute nightmare. I had to sift through so many CV's, screening and verify them as I went. This was so time consuming and often lead nowhere or to disappointment if a suitable candidate had already been snapped up.

Recruiting for Ceramic Designs was tough at the start because it was a new lab with no track record but I’m very happy to see that has all changed as our reputation has grown and with us winning at The Laboratory Awards 2019.

How long does it usually take to fill a role at Ceramic Designs?

I know there's a lot more technicians out there in the marketplace at the moment and I hope that will change soon.

The last time I recruited was 18 months ago. I was introduced to a South African technician working in Johannesburg with the type of digital skills I needed and he was in the process of moving to the UK. After a telephone interview I chose to hold the position for him whilst his visa was approved.

I think for Ceramic Designs recruiting is a lot about the personality, not just their skills, so for me doing telephone or video interviews with the person is so important because you get a feel for their personality.

And what methods have you used to fill roles in the past?

I’ve tried lots of methods in the past. My own staff, word of mouth, company rep’s, Lambeth College, other lab owners and recruiters.

Brighton is a great location and a couple of my senior technicians, two placed by recruiters, moved from their London jobs to Ceramic Designs as a lifestyle choice as well as a fantastic job opportunity. With regards to junior or less senior roles I will speak to colleges, rep’s and lab owners as I have found these methods quite successful.

Typically, how long does it take to embed a new team member into his/her new role?

For every new contract of employment there is a short probationary period for both employer and employee and that means that if either party feels that a mistake has been made in filling the position the employment can cease without notice from either side. In all of the years that the lab has been open, I've only had to let one person go during a probation period.

What makes somebody a good fit for your team (e.g. personality, technical, behavioural, work ethic)?

Ethics and personality are just as important as skills. I feel that what we do at Ceramic Designs is amazing and I want new team members to be amazing too. I'm not saying we're the best lab in the world, but I am saying that they need to adapt their skills to work within our proven protocols giving the lab such consistently high outcomes.

In your experience, what do you think are the most common mistakes that candidates make in an interview?

One of the most common mistakes that candidates make is not listening to questions or instructions and when doing a bench test ploughing on when they are not sure exactly what to do. I’d much rather they stopped, thought about what they were doing and then ask. Asking the right questions shows a desire to learn and a desire to interact with other staff.

I think one of the biggest things is how that natural interaction happens or doesn't happen. And if it doesn't happen, that person isn't going to get the job. I understand that applicants are nervous, but they should have the confidence and social skills to be able to talk with other technicians.

Without giving names, can you recall a memorable interview moment (good, bad or funny etc)?

One memorable bench test was with a technician I interviewed for a position my Southampton lab when he refused to do a carving exercise...I’ve got to say I was a bit surprised. Anyway that was years ago and he still works with me at Ceramic Designs.

Another bench test moment, after a very successful phone interview with an experienced technician, came at the end of a pretty good trial when they just downed tools, turned his back on everyone, got his phone out and started doing whatever on it! Not a word to any of the other technicians, no signs of interest in anybody else or work on the bench. It felt as though he didn’t want to be there. He didn’t get the job.

All staff that are here work so closely as a team. It's a small lab - not small in comparison to many labs – all the technicians have their own well equipped work station, good bench space, individual porcelain furnaces etc. but they still have to work and interact closely with other team members in the lab and also the clinic.

And finally, what’s the best thing about working for Ceramic Designs?

It’s difficult to put a finger on “the best thing” so I’ll say some of the best things about working for Ceramic Designs are that we are constantly learning, always looking to improve our techniques with close collaboration of working in partnership with The Implant Centre and their amazing team of surgeons, Bill Schaeffer and Guy Barwell, who bring such a wealth of experience and knowledge, along with all the restoring surgeons asking us to attend patient consultations so we get to see first- hand when things are fabulous or not. These patient consultations are so important for our learning.

Patient, surgeon and technician satisfaction are unquestionably some of the most important things and that's what we always like to achieve. I know Ceramic Designs will continue to thrive, develop and improve by being accountable, passionate, innovative and exceptional in everything we do. Through passion and creativity we change people’s lives and smiles.

Blog post by Andy Foster