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A Long Term Approach to Mastering the Interview

Updated: Jan 21, 2021




Becoming a great interviewee is a journey. For most students (as it was for myself), it is a daunting experience since it is the last obstacle before securing the highly coveted acceptance.


I proudly present to you the "informational interview" technique, one I adopted from reading a book written by Matthew Brutsche called Dental School Interview Guide and have personally tried with great success.

 

Step 1: Make a list of dental professionals in your area. Include the contact info and address.


*For example, if you go to school in Davis, I would google: "dentists in Davis, CA."



Step 2: Prepare a resume and, if possible, your personal statement.



Step 3: Muster up the courage and reach out!


There are two ways to do this:


The first way is to do a "cold call," which is where you call the office and ask to schedule a short appointment with the dentist. You will most likely be speaking to the receptionist.


An example of what to say might be: "Hi, my name is Wilson and I'm a pre-dental student studying at UC Davis. I'm exploring the field of dentistry and would love to ask Dr. X for his professional perspective. May I make a short 15-20 minute in-person appointment with Dr. X, at his convenience?"


The receptionist will probably need to check with the doctor. Then, the receptionist will either help you make an appointment, or he/she will politely decline on behalf of the doctor. The doctor may also offer a phone appointment instead.


The second way, my preferred technique, is to do a "walk-in." You would dress nicely, bring your resume, and just walk into a dental office. You would go up to the receptionist, smile politely, and look him/her in the eyes. 



Then, simply say something like: "Hi, my name is Wilson and I'm a pre-dental student studying at UC Davis. I'm trying to learn more about the field of dentistry and would love to ask Dr. X for his professional perspective. May I make a short 15-20 minute in-person appointment with Dr. X, at his convenience?"


If the receptionist cannot give you an immediate answer, offer your resume to the receptionist and leave your contact information. They will certainly appreciate your sincerity and confidence. If you don't hear from them, do a follow-up call a week later. Be polite and understanding even if the office declines to give you the time of the day. Don't take it personally. After all, most offices are busy for-profit businesses.




Step 4: Arrange a definite time for an "informational interview."


When your request to "interview" the dentist is approved, simply arrange a specific time that works for both you and the dentist. Ask something along the lines of: "Is Dr. X available on June 1st at 3:30PM? May we speak here in the office?"




Step 5: Prepare a list of quality questions.


The idea is to prepare a written/typed list of open-ended questions. Moreover, you want to formulate questions that may be used in your own dental school interview. Don't forget to bring this list to your informative interview. Below are sample questions I came up with for you to draw from:


  • When and why did you decide that dentistry is right for you?

  • What do you enjoy the most about being a dentist? 

  • What do you enjoy least about dentistry?

  • What are you most proud of in your dental career?

  • Is dentistry what you thought it would be when you were a student?

  • What is your philosophy on patient care?

  • How did you develop your excellent bedside manners?

  • What is your philosophy on being an owner and a boss?

  • How do you keep your staff happy?

  • What are the most important things I should focus on while in dental school?

  • How does one best handle dental school debt?

  • Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to a recent dental school graduate? 

  • If you were a new dentist again, what would you do differently?

  • What do you think is the future of dentistry? Or, how has the dental industry changed since you started?

  • Would you recommend dentistry as a career to others knowing what you know now?

  • Would you recommend corporate dentistry over solo practice?

  • Would you recommend any specialties over general dentistry?



Step 6: Become the interviewer.


I want you to dress business casual to this interview. Walk in to the office and check in with the receptionist. Smile. When the dentist brings you to their private office, shake his/her hands and thank them for taking the time to speak with you. 



By becoming the interviewer, not only will

you learn new information pertaining to the dental field, but you will also gain a better perspective on what makes a good interviewee. Notice the other person's non-verbal signals. Are they confident? Do they look you in the eyes? Do they speak slowly and clearly? Are their responses genuine? Are they conversational?






Feel free to take notes, especially when you hear a good way to phrase an answer. Although you are treating this like a formal interview, don't be surprised when the dentist asks you questions. This is actually a good thing, because it shows he/she is curious about you too!




Step 7: Optional: Ask to observe


If you are interested in a shadowing opportunity, simply ask for it at the end of the informational interview. What I like to say is something like: "Thanks for much for sharing your perspective with me, Dr. X. Your philosophy of practice is so interesting to me! Would you be open to allowing me observe you work?"


Chances are, you have built rapport with this dentist by following the above steps. The odds are in your favor. If the doctor agrees, simply arrange a weekly time slot that works for both you and the dentist.



Step 8: Send a thanks!


It is customary to send a thank you note to the person you interview. This is good practice, especially when it comes time for your own dental school interview. Don't underestimate the importance of this step.


My recommendation is to speak with 8-15 dentists to fully reap the benefits. The more perspectives you hear, the better prepared you will be for your dental school interview.


Many who read this will not make the effort to put this approach into practice, but those who do will be thankful they did this when it comes time for their dental school interview. Think how much more convincing you will be to the admission committee when you share your plethora of different perspectives gained from speaking to more than a dozen dental professionals about this career path.

 

My recommendation is to speak with 8-15 dentists to fully reap the benefits. The more perspectives you hear, the better prepared you will be for your dental school interview.


Many who read this will not make the effort to put this approach into practice, but those who do will be thankful they did this when it comes time for their dental school interview. Think how much more convincing you will be to the admission committee when you share your plethora of different perspectives gained from speaking to more than a dozen dental professionals about this career path.

Special thanks to Dr. Keith Grote.



 

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