Interviews are a crucial part of getting into dental school. When it comes to the interview day, all the students will have similar academic achievements, so the interview is your time to differentiate from others.
This post will provide you with some pointers on things you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to your interview. I often get contacted by people asking advice on interviews, so I thought I’d put this together with the points I discuss. This is mainly targeted towards panel interviews, but the tips can also be applied to MMIs.
Firstly, have a look at this long list of potential questions for you to practice with.
Preparing and Attending for the Interview
Preparation is key! You can always prepare for an interview – both in terms of answering questions and developing your verbal and non-verbal communication. Ensure you practice some mock interviews with family, friends and teachers. This will help you develop your answers and ability to think on the spot a little. When it comes to the interview, you ideally don’t want to be floundering around thinking of answers.
In short, you are trying to build a rapport with the interview to create a bigger impact – ultimately good communication skills are CRUCIAL to a career in dentistry. The things that you need to focus on:
- Verbal communication – think about what you are saying, how you’re phrasing things etc. You don’t want to sound cocky or over-confident, but you don’t want to sound very shy either! Make sure you talk clearly and slowly so that they can understand everything.
- Body language – body language gives a lot away with regards to your attitude! Maintain a good posture and appear interested.
- Eye contact – maintain eye contact as you answer questions – it shows you are comfortable and confident in the situation.
- Hand movements – keep them under control! A common problem is either very stiff hands on the table or hands flailing around like they are crazy – avoid both! You, again, want to appear calm in the situation.
Smart attire is a must! By wearing something smart you come across as a professional. Stick to the usual suits etc and don’t try anything fancy! It’s important that you get this bit right – you don’t want to fall at the first hurdle when you walk in!
Make sure you attend for the right time! Practice going to the venue a few times if you can, or go with plenty of time in hand! Often there are tours around the university which you probably would want to attend.
To handshake or not?
This is a difficult question and the simple answer is – it depends. You don’t HAVE to shake hands but if you do shake hands then you don’t want to mess it up! Yes, you CAN practice your handshake – not too flimsy but not too firm!
The Typical Questions
As mentioned, please read this post for a list of interview questions. There are some standard questions that you will be asked and it’s important you have answers ready for these. HOWEVER, MAKE SURE YOUR ANSWERS DON’T SOUND REHEARSED!
- Why dentistry? – Everyone will have their own individual reason and I’m sure you will have mentioned it in your personal statement. It’s important you can articulate your reasoning properly and without sounding generic. Also – NEVER SAY THE MONEY!
- Why this university? – Each university has its own selling point and it’s important you identify why you applied there. It could be anything including the course, transport links, the city and the opportunities it provides
- Why not medicine? – Another important question that you should be ready to answer. This is essentially checking your dedication to dentistry and that you’ve done enough to investigate it as a career.
It is also important that you have a very basic knowledge of dentistry. Some of the following topics that may be worth reading about:
- Basic knowledge of dental disease – caries, erosion, sensitivity, gum disease
- Knowledge of the different dental specialities and what they involve – including orthodontics, prosthodontics, periodontics etc
- Knowledge of the two key areas of filling materials – amalgam (silver) and composite (white)
- Hot topics – amalgam debate, water fluoridation, NHS contracts – these are all topics which are of interest in the profession and so you should have some knowledge about them
Make sure you read around the profession and read relevant publications and websites – this highlights your interest in the career as well as helping advance your knowledge.
Develop your Personal Statement
The interview is also the chance for you to help add information to your personal statement and reference it to them. Commonly, interviewers will pick up on things in your personal statement and ask you questions on them. However, good interview technique involves being able to lead the interviews to ask you questions you WANT to be asked. This way you are able to exploit those questions to really stand out as a good candidate.
As with your personal statement, it is CRUCIAL you DO NOT lie at any stage of your interview!
Good luck with your interview – if you have any questions then feel free to get in touch!
References and Recommended Reading
DISCLAIMER – This post consists of pointers that I have picked up. It by no means guarantees you a place in dental school but merely behaves as a resource and guide for you to utilise.