Flexibility, personalization and actionable data: How Heartland Dental attracts top talent for consideration by hiring managers

The labor shortage rippling through the economy is affecting all positions in the dental industry. Today’s competition for top talent is forcing dental support organizations to adopt creative approaches for the recruitment and retention of top talent. To get insight into a leading DSO’s practices for attracting talent in this challenging labor market, Becker’s Dental + DSO Review recently spoke with Josie Martinez, senior director of talent acquisition at Heartland Dental. Heartland Dental has 20,000 employees and supports over 1,550 dental offices across 38 states. Ms. Martinez has been at Heartland Dental for more than five years and has about 20 years of experience focused specifically on talent recruitment and retention. 

Today’s labor market: An imbalance of supply and demand

While Heartland Dental has sustained growth and is experiencing increased demand for dental support services, the organization has also seen a decline in the number of organic applicants across all positions. Ms. Martinez defined organic applicants as an individual who comes to the company’s website, completes an application and applies for a position. Heartland Dental provides non-clinical administrative support to over 1550 dental offices across the United States. This support includes, but is not limited, to assistance with recruiting dentists for the professional corporations and offices that it supports. 

In particular, Heartland Dental as well as the professional corporations and offices they support are seeing a decline in applications among experienced providers, including both dentists and hygienists. “There’s a decline of organic applicants, especially as it relates to experienced providers, coupled with an increase in demand as the number of dental offices we support grows,” Ms. Martinez said. That’s a real math problem.” 

However, despite increasing competition for fewer organic applicants, Ms. Martinez still sees an abundance of talent in the market. “It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s less available talent,” she said. “It means you have to actively search and compete for talent.”

The importance of a data-driven approach  

In addition to seeking candidates based on potential, Heartland Dental is also incorporating actionable data as a key part of its recruiting process. This includes data about the labor dynamics of a particular market, such as the number of open positions and the number of candidates in a regional market. This data helps hiring managers better understand the supply and demand for a specific position within their specific market. 

Data is also used as part of Heartland Dental’s applicant tracking system. This system is used by the organization’s campus team and sourcing team to identify leads and carefully track the status of each candidate. Analysis of this data helps inform decisions about how best to allocate the organization’s time, resources and money in the recruiting process. 

Heartland Dental also uses and plans to expand the use of various tools to collect data as candidates go through the recruiting process. This tracking data holds the potential to better understand how candidates are feeling during the recruiting process and will help Heartland Dental identify any possible gaps or shortcomings in the recruiting process and respond quickly to address these gaps. 

By emphasizing actionable data and by making data a key part of the recruiting process, Heartland Dental’s data is evolving from an ad hoc recruiting approach to a more systematic approach that enables hiring managers to be more efficient and consistent.

Focus on the candidate experience and flexibility 

To attract outstanding talent, Heartland Dental strives to be viewed as a top employer. How a candidate is treated during the interview process sends a strong signal about what it’s like to work at Heartland Dental or one of its supported offices . As Ms. Martinez explained, a candidate’s perception of Heartland Dental starts by providing “an absolutely fantastic interview experience.” 

Facilitating a positive candidate experience requires hiring professionals to be efficient, engaging, responsive, authentic and candid. “It comes back to how you treat candidates through the process,” Ms. Martinez said. “They want to feel like their time is valued and that they are treated fairly and are appreciated throughout the entire process.” 

Also important in today’s recruiting environment is “meeting people where they are,” Ms. Martinez said. This involves a more personalized approach to recruiting that involves building a trusted relationship through repeated, personalized communication. “I start building a conversation with them and I start building a relationship to understand what’s important [to each candidate]. What are you looking for? And really starting to understand what their personal treasure is,” Ms. Martinez said. “I am likely to have a much better chance of placing someone in an opportunity because they trust me. That trust exists because I took the time to get to know them and find out what’s important to them, not just tell them all the things that I think are great about our organization. That approach doesn’t work.”

Heartland Dental enhances retention through data-driven personalization

To enhance retention, Heartland Dental is leveraging many of the same practices for existing employees that it uses to recruit new talent. In particular, Heartland Dental and the supported dental offices focus on flexibility, personal development and growth. 

Ms. Martinez emphasized that in addition to a comprehensive compensation model designed to help each dentist achieve their personal and professional goals and long-term financial security, Heartland Dental is also intensely focused on helping each individual “be your highest and best self, no matter who you are, no matter what role you take in the organization. The foundation of everything we do is to help you be your highest and best self, every single day.” 

Heartland Dental provides mentorship along with investing in learning pathways for continuing education opportunities. “I want to help staff see what their future could look like, because of the long-term commitment and investment that we have made in them,” Ms. Martinez said. For Heartland Dental employees and the employees at the supported offices, this investment includes flexible career pathways based on each person’s unique situation and interests. This flexibility and personalization makes Heartland Dental a place where individuals want to join, develop, progress and stay long term.

Also, as with Heartland Dental’s recruiting process, the organization collects and uses data to help track and manage talent retention. “We have a system that allows us to capture every piece of data within the organization,” Ms. Martinez said. Heartland Dental plans to further increase its use of data to better understand how employees are feeling and to identify and fix problems quickly as they arise.


In today’s dynamic, highly competitive labor market, relying on traditional practices to recruit and retain top talent will not work. Instead, Heartland Dental is thinking outside the box to acquire top talent for itself and the supported offices. This involves using a data-intensive approach that provides insights about the labor market and tracks each candidate’s progress in the recruiting process. The organization also emphasizes flexibility and building personal relationships with employees. 

After a candidate joins Heartland Dental or one of the supported offices, the organization focuses on helping each individual become their best self. This involves mentorship, significant investments in training and development, flexibility and personalized pathways developed specifically for each person. 

To become top employers and attract top talent, organizations must simultaneously leverage technology and build relationships by providing staff flexibility, personalization and opportunities for growth — this is Heartland Dental’s approach. 

This article was sponsored by Heartland Dental.

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