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Working Interviews Gone Wrong

Working Interviews Gone Wrong
Michele LaBasi

Working interviews for dental hygienists are increasing in popularity. However, with the new trend I have been made aware of some very concerning practices.


First, applicants are not being compensated properly. Case in point: Following a formal interview with a dentist, an RDH was scheduled for a working interview in his office. They agreed upon a salary if she were to be hired and she would be compensated for her working interview as well. On the day she worked, she stayed late to see patient for scaling and root planing to free up the doctor to see an emergency patient. Her total working time was 5 hours and she contributed a sizable amount to the day’s production while in his office.

Apparently, there was a difference in definition of compensation for the working interview because he gave her a $25 gift card to restaurant chain. I’ve heard of dentists cutting corners by reusing paper towels or requiring a hygienist to scoop out half the prophy paste from the disposable cup and save the rest for another patient, but this gift card in place of wages was an insult and in most states, illegal.


Cheating a potential employee out of pay reveals this doctor’s character. This RDH said she knew she dodged a bullet and was glad to get away from the doctor who seemed a bit off in the first place. She wants her story to get out so other RDHs aren’t shortchanged. Working interviews require filling out employee forms and a W-4 must be given. The majority of Registered Dental Hygienists are not independent contractors and can not be paid as such. (Check your state’s laws for determination.)


In a more recent event, an upcoming graduate reached out to me and asked if it was ok to go on a working interview before she was licensed. She had a formal interview on a Saturday and was asked to return for a working interview the following Wednesday. When she informed the dentists (yes, plural) she didn’t have her license yet they said she could ‘work’ on one of their friends and they would supervise saying, “If anything would happen, [we] will take full responsibility.” They mentioned she would be covered under their malpractice insurance. She was hesitant yet they scheduled her to work because she was eligible for a license based on passing all of her boards.

She told the dentists she was going to call the state board of dentistry to verify what they were telling her. She reported the dentist’s said: “No, don’t ask about the supervision, just ask if and when you can start to work while things are pending.”


While there is a chance her license may be pending and show up on the board’s website, that still wouldn’t be proof of being officially licensed. I assured her the dental board is doing everything it can to approve all eligible graduates of dental and dental hygiene schools to get them licensed and working. She then told me she still needed to submit her application. The graduation ceremony was in a few days and she would be receiving that last remaining document to include with the paperwork.

In addition, the dentists weren’t going to pay her for the working interview. She told me she had a bad feeling after leaving the formal interview. I broke it down for her:


1. She did not have a license for the practice of dental hygiene. She could not treat patients, only observe.

2. She didn’t even have all documents she needed to submit an application the day they wanted her to work.

3. It was a working interview. That means she would not be considered an employee with any rights.

4. As a non-employee, she wouldn’t be covered under the dentists’ liability insurance.

5. If she was there for a working interview, she should be paid for working!


I’m wondering if these dentists don’t know the state’s dental laws or if they think they are above the law? Regardless, ignorance of the law is no excuse (ignorantia juris non excusat).


Do you have a working interview story?

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