Sandy Baird — How do you Stop an Embezzler? DON’T HIRE ONE!

This month we are pleased to feature a guest post from our good friend Sandy Baird.  Sandy has some excellent practical advice about how to avoid hiring mistakes.  (Check out our own article on hiring mistakes at to see how much we agree with our wise friend Sandy.)

How do you Stop an Embezzler? DON’T HIRE ONE!
Easier said than done, right?
Unfortunately, the reality is if one of your employees is determined to embezzle from you, they will succeed despite what safeguards you put in place. It is only a matter of time before they find a way around all your efforts. That’s the scary truth. The best way to prevent embezzlement is not to hire an embezzler.
Having worked in the dental industry for almost 40 years, I have seen embezzlement in dental offices more times than you could imagine: from less than $20,000 to over $500,000! With such a small number of dentists prosecuting for embezzlement, there are literally thousands of experienced and confident embezzlers out in the workforce dying to work in your practice. In fact, they are probably applying for your job opening right now.
So how do you eliminate them from your potential candidates? First, be thorough in your hiring process. This will not only increase the chances of uncovering red flags early, but experienced embezzlers will think twice about accepting your position when they see how thorough you are. Here are a few tried and tested ways. Of course, there is never a guarantee… ever.

  1. Resumes + Applications: Of course, you will always request a resume and review them, but make every applicant complete a long and thorough Application for Employment form in your office.
    • Why long? You want to impress them with your thoroughness. I always recommend it be at least three pages, and require the applicant to write a couple of paragraphs about their strengths and weaknesses.
    • Why in the office? You want to guarantee it is their work, and not their spouses or their best friend’s. You want to compare it to their resume to look for inconsistencies. Over 50% of resumes contain some type of untruth.

I have had applicants look at the application they must complete, look at me, and then hand the application back to me and leave. I wished them the best with a sigh of relief.

  1. References: Require at least 3 WORK references: not their English teacher, not their minister, but people they have actually worked with in the past. If they give you a co-worker’s name as a reference and not the dentist’s, request permission to talk to the dentist.
  • Ask each reference the same 5 -8 questions with one always being: if this person applied to your office today, would you hire him/her?
  • Always speak with the references! Do not take pre-written references seriously. CALL ALL THREE REFERENCES. This is not optional. Document the answers to each of your questions and save this documentation. I called one reference, and when their front desk went to get the dentist, I overheard other team members laughing and commenting on how my life will soon be ruined.
  • As Prosperident taught me, use publicly published numbers to contact the references, not the numbers on the application or resume. If you don’t, you may discover you were talking to their best friend instead of their former employer.
  1. Candidate Interviews: Conduct no less than three interviews with your final candidates, I actually recommend four.
    • One with the practice coordinator
    • One with the dentist and practice coordinator
    • A team lunch minus the dentist
    • An experiential interview in the office.

You will learn something new in each interview. Others will pick up information you won’t; you will pick up things they won’t.
Ask probing questions about why they left other jobs and other such details. Remember, you are trying to demonstrate how thorough and careful you are when hiring. Sloppy hiring processes are exactly what embezzlers are looking for.

  1. Background Checks: This is not an option. You must do it on every person you hire! Require every applicant to complete an information release form allowing you to conduct a background and credit investigation. That will weed a few out right there. It must be on a separate sheet of paper. I attach it as the last page (page 4) of the Application for Employment. You actually have to do a background check only once you decide to hire someone. You can offer them the job pending the results of a clear background and credit check. If it is not clear, you release them immediately.
  2. Internet Search: The Internet is a wealth of information that is quick, easy, and cheap. Google their full name and address. I have found this helpful in a number of ways, from uncovering arrests, bankruptcies, disputes, and much more. Check out their social media profiles, such as Facebook. People share a lot about themselves these days; this is a big advantage for an employer.
  3. Drug Testing: The frequency of embezzlers with the “4 Big D’s” is high – debt, drugs, divorce, and disgruntlement. A drug test will help you determine at least one of the D’s. State law governs the employer drug testing processes, so do your homework on this one or ask your attorney before implementation. Just knowing a drug test will be conducted will deter potential embezzlers.

The days of shooting from the hip when hiring are over. You take huge risks when you don’t follow a carefully designed Hiring System. You can also be convicted of “negligent hiring” if someone you hire steals from a patient or another employee, and you are found without proof that you went through the proper processes when hiring the culprit. Be thorough and protect yourself.
Sandy Baird, M.B.A.
Sandy Baird, M.B.A, has over 30 years of hands-on dental practice management experience and more than 10 years of coaching. She is the owner of Baird Dental Business Concepts, L.L.C,. a company that focuses on maximizing you and your practice’s potential. She is also a passionate speaker.  Contact her at:;; 877.511.4759