Getting through dental school is a big accomplishment and once you’ve graduated, you are probably eager to begin your career. That generally means interviewing for a number of positions, which can be stressful.
Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to prepare for interviews that will make it easier to complete the process and find a dental practice that’s a good fit for your future.
Let’s begin with laying the proper groundwork:
Before Your Submit Your Application
You’ll want to consider a number of factors before you begin applying and interviewing for positions, including:
- Where do you want to live and work?
- Remember, licensure varies from state to state!
- What career path do you want to follow?
- What practices are in the area you want to work and best fit your career needs?
These may seem like obvious things to consider, but in the rush of wanting to begin your career, they may be overlooked. This can lead to career shifts in the long run, so be sure to take the time to think through where you see yourself in the short-term and long-term.
Once you’ve thought through those career-direction questions, and you are in the application process, you can prepare some additional items for your interviews. Here are some important tips to consider before you have your first interview:
1. Create an “Elevator Pitch”
Almost every job interview starts with the classic “Tell me about yourself” prompt. Though oftentimes, in the heat of the moment, this question can be one of the hardest to quickly and concisely answer.
Knowing that most interviews start with a similar question, you can prepare a short statement with go-to aspects you would like to convey to the interviewer. You’ll want to take into account everything you thought before you submitted your application and some of the highlights of any relevant experiences and schooling thus far.
This is your opportunity to showcase your personality as well. For example, after recapping any leadership roles you may have had in your graduate career and relevant externship experiences, you can add in a quip regarding your favorite hobby. This gives the interviewer insight into who you are as a person and not just as a professional.
2. Prepare a List of General Questions
You’ll want to create a list of questions you anticipate to be asked outside of the initial “Tell me about yourself” icebreakers and plan how you want to answer them. Practicing these common questions can relieve some of your stress during the interview and allow you to focus on answering tough questions that may come later.
You’ll also want to bring questions along to ask your interviewer about the practice. Remember, they aren't just interviewing you for the position they have open — you're also interviewing them to see if the practice is a good fit. The more prepared you are, the more you can learn about them.
For example, you may want to ask the interviewer about the practice’s vision and goals for the future. If your vision for your career doesn't align with that of the practice, you may not be the right fit for one another. Another question you can ask is where the practice hopes to be in 10 years. While there's certainly no guarantee that a practice will remain successful, you want to work with a practice that's intent on growing so you have the chance to grow with them.
3. Prepare a List of Specific Questions
Think about the position for which you are applying which is more than likely for that of an associate dentist. Now, looking back at what you have learned about the dental industry, summate a few specific questions that you could be asked during the interview that directly apply to the role of associate dentist. While these may or may not be brought up during the interview, having an answer for specific processes or procedures will bolster your confidence.
Conversely, small details about a practice can have a big impact on how that practice will treat a new employee. Generate a few specific questions to ask to help you understand the environment of the practice and what you might expect if you were to join their team.
For example, if you're interviewing with a practice that has been run by three generations of the same family, you may ask about that family orientation, and how it impacts the day-to-day operations, core values, and more.
You may also want to ask about the existence of mentorship opportunities. Being mentored can be a highly valuable way to learn more after dental school. Engaging in programs like this shows that the practice is committed to the growth of their employees and providing knowledge to younger professionals.
4. Ask About Your Own Day-to-Day
During your interview, you’ll want to discuss what a typical day could look like for you if you were to join the practice. There are a number of questions to ask about this topic, including:
- What would a typical day look like in this role? Pay close attention to the response you’re given to this question. In particular, be aware if they provide you with vague statements, as that could be a sign of disorganization within the practice.
- How would I be assigned patients in this role? There should be a plan for how patients will be assigned to you — especially if there's currently only one other dentist in the practice. Will you be responsible for finding them all on your own? Are they evenly split between the dentists in the practice?
- How are performance reviews handled? Since your assessment at one dental practice could affect your ability to get hired at another one later on, you want to make sure there is a sensible process. You have a right to know what they're looking for and how they gauge whether you're meeting their expectations.
By asking these questions, you can avoid unfavorable situations at work, especially when you're just out of dental school and searching for your first position in the field.
What to Know About Life After Dental School
After dental school, you’ll likely have a number of questions as you begin your career. One of them may even be: where do I start?
Download our post-dental school survival guide to find out about starting your career, decisions you can expect to make, additional skills you may want to learn, and more!