by: Jenna Burke, c/o ’17 UAB SPEA Treasurer
So you made it to dental school. Congratulations! You are on the right track to fulfilling your dreams. You may be thinking that nothing can stop you now…except maybe that gross anatomy practical…but soon enough you’ll start looking for a job! For your convenience, here is a need-to-know list of objectives that, if followed, are sure to score you a spot at your preferred professional destination. Enjoy!
Let’s start with your application. Once you’ve made the most impeccable resume known to man, you’ll want to get it on its way to its intended recipients. Apply to as many places as possible that meet your initial criteria—the more interviews you have, the more experience you get to perfect your interview skills, the better your chances of finding your perfect job. Be sure to visit the offices first! You’ll save time by proactively eliminating those that don’t meet your criteria. You’ll also be putting a face to a name once the employer receives your application.
To quote the boy scouts: “Be prepared!” This is your time to do some reconnaissance. Find out everything you can about the employer and his or her practice. This will serve two purposes: the first being that you will be able to start a conversation about the employer during the interview (everyone loves to talk about themselves), and the second being that you’ll know whether or not your skill set properly aligns with their practice. Do they think that all amalgam fillings are toxic and need to come out and you think that amalgam is a perfectly acceptable and cost effective restorative material? Do they expect you to know how to place implants when you barely know what osseointegration is? Is the employer military trained and you come from a laid-back beach town? Many an awkward moment can be avoided by simply doing your research. If you can, find out why you got the interview in the first place. You’ll have the advantage of being able to capitalize on that information during the interview.
Peer deep inside your soul. This may sound silly, but it is necessary to ask yourself why you want the job and why you are qualified for it, and to think about how it will affect your life, both short-term and long-term. If you can properly answer those questions posed by yourself, you’ll be more prepared to answer similar questions posed by the interviewer. Bonus points: you will likely appear more enthusiastic about the position! And lastly, before we move on from this scary introspective stuff, make sure that money is not the main reason why you want to take the position. If it is the only redeeming quality, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
DO A DRESS REHARSAL
Next comes the dress rehearsal. Not only should you practice answering and asking questions, but you should also practice traveling to your interview location. Is the office on the 10th floor? Does the building have some sort of security at the door or the entrance to the parking lot? Does parking fill up before you have to be there? Factor in every detail and plan your departure time accordingly. There’s nothing worse than being late to an interview.
It is time for the interview! Don’t be nervous! Easier said than done, right? Preparation can go a long way, but your mentality on the big day is key. Stay positive and do some breathing exercises! One word: yoga. Be in the right state of mind before you walk in the door. Now. As we all know, first impressions are everything. Get your Don Draper or Olivia Pope on! Nail that handshake. Smile. Greet the interviewer (and the patients/staff you encounter!) enthusiastically. These little details make a huge difference. Oh, and that last name of the interviewer that you are too scared to pronounce? Make sure you ask how to pronounce it first, rather than botching it on game day. Now you see that chair that you know to be the designated interviewee seat? Don’t take it! Wait for your interviewer to ask you to sit. Once there, keep the best posture you can physically compose. No dentist wants to see right off the bat that his insurance will be used to compensate for your terrible ergonomics!
It takes two to tango. Yes, you do need to convince them that you are “the one” but they need to convince you that they are the perfect match as well. While you are painting a beautiful self-portrait for them, filled with your achievements, strengths, and personal anecdotes, you will need to acquire that color pallet that shows what they are made of as well. Showing interest will let them know that you want the job. And lest we forget! Maintain eye contact and be an active listener.
“What was that thing about that one leadership position you had on your resume?” they may ask. Show how prepared you are by handing them your very own copy of your resume that you conveniently brought with you.
For all the note takers out there: it never hurts to ask if you can take notes during the interview. It can help remind you later of the pros and cons of the position. You can also write down bullet points of the qualities you want to convey about yourself, as well as the questions you want to ask the interviewer so you don’t leave anything out. Since they’re always going to ask you if you have any additional questions or anything else you would like to share with them, your notes may save you from a “Doh! I forgot to say _____” situation on your way home.
Now, this is important: be aware of what is on the interviewer’s mind. Some days, an interviewer will just want to vent. It may have nothing to do with you. Use this unfortunate scenario to your advantage! Nod your head and offer your two cents on whatever they’re talking about. In the end, the interviewer may look back and think, “yep, this person is a reasonable human being.”
Did they ask you a tough question? Ask for clarity. You may just not understand what they’re asking. If you actually just don’t know the answer, asking for clarity may lead to the interviewer answering his or her own ridiculous question. Crisis: avoided.
Stay positive! If you are asked about past experiences, like your residency or dental school, always answer in a positive light. No one wants to hear negativity, especially in an interview! If you don’t think the interview is going well, don’t get down. They may be testing you to see how you will react.
You survived the interview! What’s next? Before walking out the door, stress your interest in the position and thank them for their time and consideration. Did it go stupendously and they asked you “when can you start?” You may want to pull Napoleon Dynamite “yesssss,” but stop and think about your answer. If you’re sure you want the position, of course, you can answer the question straight. If you’re not sure, here’s what you can say: “I am looking at a few offices in the area, and I want to give them a proper evaluation. However, our time today has made me very excited about this position.” Do your fingernails look like nubs because you haven’t got a callback yet? Don’t be too discouraged if no immediate commitment is made. There can be a number of factors that can delay a decision. Keep calm and carry on.
Now go out there and get that dream job!