The ins and outs of interviewing

Whether it’s your first job or your tenth, interviewing with a prospective employer can be tough. Here are some tips to help guide you through the process.

Know what you’re looking for. Are you looking for full-time work? Associate or partner track? Employee or independent contractor? What hours can you work? Are weekends OK? The only way to know if the job is a potential fit is to ask questions!

Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Look up the business before your first interview. Write your questions in advance and know your answers, too. Be sure to ask about how many patients you will be expected to treat in a day and what type of treatment you’ll be providing. How many do you want to treat?

Other notable dental business questions include: Why are they are hiring an associate? How is the patient schedule managed? How do they attract patients to the practice? Are there opportunities for growth? What is the patient care philosophy?

Dr. Colleen Greene, a member of the ADA New Dentist Committee and pediatric dentist at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, recommends learning about the social culture and practice loyalty among staff members. “If the opportunity presents itself, ask the assistants and front desk staff how long they have been with the office to get a sense of office turnover,” she said. “This can signal a strong message about the stability of the office dynamics.”

The Interview. The ADA Center for Professional Success suggests emphasizing your strengths and past experience. The Center also advises interviewees to be prepared for common questions such as:
• Why are you interested in working here? If you already have a job, the interviewer may also ask you to share why you want to leave.

• Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? This is good because it lets you know what opportunities may be there. For instance, is the practice one day going to sell? Dr. Greene says it’s normal for new dentist to feel very openended about their goals for the next few years. “If you’re unsure what practice setting you will want in 5-10 years, talk about instead how you hope to grow as a mentor, gain wisdom as a clinician and positively influence the community in and outside of the office setting,” she advises.

• Tell me about an accomplishment of which you are proud. If you are just starting out in dentistry, this could be an opportunity to explain how you learned a new procedure.

• Describe a mistake and how you learned from it. Don’t overthink this. A mistake could be something as simple as not scheduling enough time between procedures. A prospective employer is using this to see how you work under stress and to start a conversation with you.

• What are your career goals? Sharing a little about yourself can leave a big impression on an interviewer. Take the time to really think about how the job for which you are interviewing can fit into your plan.

• Do you have any hobbies? Sharing the things you love to do outside of work can help someone see you outside of dentistry, as well as highlighting how you might connect with prospective patients. Dr. Dawn Wehking, a dentist in Lafayette, Colorado, and ADA Success speaker, stressed the importance of cover letters, which can also be a good way of sharing your personality.

Keep in mind. Employers should never ask about your marital status or religious background. On the other hand, if parental leave is important to you, make sure you understand the policy before accepting anything.

After the interview. Send a thank you note. An email is acceptable and should be sent within 24 hours. Be sure to send a separate note to everyone with whom you interviewed at the practice. “Remember that every person you interact with at the office might become a coworker or staff member of yours, so treat every communication like it’s a part of the interview,” Dr. Greene said. “From phone calls to emails, demonstrate promptness, enthusiasm and courtesy. Learn people’s first names and greet them warmly. Even if staff members are not making the hiring decision, they will likely share their opinions with the owner and you want to help them form a positive one about you.”

What NOT to do:

Don’t walk away without understanding your benefits package. Does the job come with health insurance? What about vacation time? The ADA Center for Professional Success has information on getting paid and negotiating salary and says, “Negotiations are common. There may be discomfort in negotiating a better salary for yourself, but the end result is a salary you are happy with and a team that knows you’re committed.”

Dr. Wehking recommends talking salary and benefits after the owner has expressed interest in hiring you.

Don’t lose focus. Want to talk yourself out of your job? Answering a call or text is a surefire way to do it, according to CareerBuilder, a company that helps employers with hiring services. Always turn your phone off or leave it in the car before an interview. Another tip? Dr. Wehking advises all job seekers to take a look at their social media profiles.

The ADA CareerCenter is the official online job board of the ADA and is a great resource for searching dental career opportunities.

Learn more at Careercenter.ADA.org. Many state and local dental societies also have job boards, and local dental meetings are a great place to start networking.

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