Talent Acquisition

How to Run Compliant Background Checks on Dental Candidates

Run compliant dental background checks to make informed hiring decisions. Understand the importance of data privacy and legal requirements.

If you’re a hiring manager focusing on growing a dental practice, you’ll know all about the ups and the downs of the dental candidate screening process. 

  • Finding a great applicant only to get ghosted. 
  • Getting deep into the process only to find out their compensation requirements are out of line with what the position offers. 
  • Actually extending an offer, only for the dreaded “last-minute flake.” 

There’s one more potential blocker to be aware of, too: the challenge of executing an efficient background check process that is quick, respects the candidate’s privacy, and complies with legal requirements. In this article, we’re looking at the scope of background checks on dental candidates and regulations in the dental industry. Let’s dive into it. 

Understanding the Dental Candidate Screening Process

While the exact nature of the candidate screening process depends on the role you’re hiring for, it’s possible to make some generalizations for how the process typically goes. After applying with a resume and potentially a cover letter, selected candidates will move to the interview phase, typically beginning with a phone screen. 

Candidates who pass the phone screen will often move onto a working interview where prospective dentists, hygienists, or assistants directly treat patients. In this case, the prospective hire should expect at least minimum wage compensation for any work performed, and will need to arrange for their own insurance coverage during the day. Somewhere in the process, a personality assessment test may also figure into the equation. Personality assessments, such as DISC, can help teams determine whether their job candidates demonstrate the right traits for a given role, as well as traits that indicate a good fit with company culture.  

After one or more rounds of interviews with your HR team, coworkers, and practice leadership, it’ll be time to do some extra groundwork, depending on your practice’s policies: checking references, conducting a drug test, and conducting a background check. Once all those hurdles are passed, you’ll be able to extend your offer of employment, potentially negotiate on compensation, and finally get to work with your new team member.

How Dental Candidate Background Checks Work

The background check is a crucial component of the search process. It protects your business from financial and reputational risks while giving greater insight into the character of the person you’re hiring. 

Without a background check, you’ll run the risk of hiring a candidate who at best may have misrepresented their history, or at worst, may represent an actual risk to your patients and firm. However, while the background check process is typically outsourced to a third-party vendor, it’s still your responsibility to make sure that the process proceeds quickly, effectively, and legally. There’s nothing worse than losing an ideal candidate because the last steps in the hiring process wind up mishandled or drag on too long.

Before you initiate a background check, it’s critical that you always request consent in dental candidate screenings. While not every single type of background check activity (such as screening a public social media page yourself) necessarily requires consent, many parts of the typical practice’s background check process do require consent as stated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act

Failing to get consent can lead to fees of up to $1,000 plus damages, and, of course, burning a bridge with a potentially ideal employee. As part of the process, you’ll want to be sure to provide your candidates with documentation that your background check will be used to determine their eligibility for employment, as well. A full breakdown of what is needed can be found on the Federal Trade Commission site here

If your candidate fails the background check because one or more items in their history do not pass your standards, you’ll enter adverse action, a defined process where you give preliminary written notice to the candidate, provide them an opportunity to dispute the report’s findings, and eventually give an official adverse action notice. 

If your dental job applicant refuses to consent to a background check in the first place, it will be your choice whether to continue with their candidacy. Always be sure to protect yourself against allegations of discrimination, even if a candidate refuses a background check. For this reason, it’s wise to set a policy of a certain type of background check, and deliver it to all candidates equally and without exception.

Legal Requirements for Background Checks in the Dental Industry

A background check should include the following components

  • Employment history 
  • Educational history 
  • Summary of public records
  • Financial or credit history
  • Public social media activities. 

A few things you can’t ask for: Many states don’t consider arrest records legal as part of a hiring decision, so you may want to be sure that your background check provider doesn’t provide this information. Additionally, it’s imperative that you ask the same questions to all candidates regardless of their background (racial, disability status, gender, or otherwise). 

You are also unable to ask about the candidate’s family medical history, or for their own medical information in most cases except for some circumstances after an employment offer is extended. In general, the more information you’re exposed to, the greater the chance that you may face legal repercussions for basing a hiring decision off protected information, such as age or marital status. 

Ensuring Data Privacy and Security in Dental Hiring

The legal requirements for dental industry background checks aren’t the only boxes you’ll need to check during candidate screening. Your candidates and employees also have a right to privacy during the process and after it. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission specifies that personnel records you “make or keep” must be kept for one year from the later of the date they were created or action regarding the personnel was taken. The FTC also specifies that you’ll need to securely dispose of records after their use, such as by burning paperwork or permanently deleting electronic files. 

Together with the legal requirements for background checks, the rights of your candidates to data privacy in dental hiring mean you can generally operate under the following shorthand: Only collect the information you’re legally allowed to gather, collect as little information as possible to complete your background check, and securely destroy employee and candidate private information after holding it for the required period

The need for legal, ethical practices in dental candidate screenings can seem daunting, and with a range of different laws and penalties for even unwitting violations, the stakes for success are high. 

That’s why it makes sense to outsource the process to trusted providers fully equipped to comply with all relevant federal, state, and local laws. Wizehire’s product suite includes an integration with Checkr, the premier provider of fast, safe background checks for companies across numerous industries. Whether you’re hiring for a new administrative assistant, another hygienist to fill out your staff roster, or a dentist to build out your firm in a new focus area, find out more about our dental recruiting platform here. 


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