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Interview Skills for Dentistry -Academic and Job interviews.

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” -Dale Carnegie.

Photo courtesy - @indykadeer

  • Through the years I have worked as an associate dentist I have had to attend many interviews, especially during my masters as I was doing Locum jobs, so I could juggle the studies and family commitments.

  • My communication skills have had organic growth over the years, fine-tuned with patient contact and communication. I must add the biggest teacher has been difficult patients and patient complaints !!

  • I am in general an extrovert and a talkative person so interviews never alarmed me. But I have understood that, the better prepared you are the more confident you will be and it does come across very different to the person interviewing you.

  • I had not given this skill much thought until I got a call for an interview for MClinDent, prosthodontics from KCL. This was my second attempt at applications for this course and it was literally at my fingertips and I could not afford a slip-up. And my heart was set on Kings, so I did not want to lose this golden opportunity and I was determined to impress the interview panel.

  • This was the first time in my career up until 2014 that I had prepared for an interview, and have come to value it immensely.

  • At this point, I want to specially mention Dr Parakkal Raffeeq, consultant paediatrician at the Royal stoke university hospital, who has been a huge help and inspiration. He is the one who groomed me to change my attitude to interviews. To be prepared for the most common questions and to have some structure to your answers in your head has paid off well time and again. His experience of being in the medical and dental school interviews for years was immense wealth to learn from. I am indeed indebted to him for being selected for MClinDent and the couple of really good jobs I have got so far and many more to come!! Thanks a lot Dr Raffeeq … I have never got a chance to say it till now - but I really do cherish all that you have taught me. And now it’s my turn to spread the joy and wisdom.

  • Like how we come across many varied personalities in patients in the course of a working day most needing a different skill set and a different attitude to deal with efficiently, interviews need such skills. Each interviewer is different and one size does not fit all, but thankfully very rarely have I come across an unfriendly/ difficult person for an interview which is consoling. Think of it as your first date - they are asking questions to see if you and the institution/clinic are a good match - and so if you are really interested it’s for you to know enough about them to get your answers right !!!

  • It is like meeting the person you have a right swipe on Tinder, they like you so far and want you to meet you .... it's up to you to not ruin that !!! (not that I have ever used tinder !!)

  • Preparing for your interview is something you should give adequate importance and thought to and if you really want a job /course you should stand above the rest. You need to be prepared for the common questions and practising it is crucial in dentistry interviews.

  • Plan what you’re going to wear to the interview, don't look like you are going for a party (women with the make -up), but look smart and appealing.

  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to the venue on the day of your interview

  • Read correspondence to make sure you have got everything ready to take on the day.

  • I shall break it down to the 2 types of interviews that we may be faced with

A. Academic Interview

  • Most institutions are confusing once you are inside so give yourself plenty of time after you reach the destination to find your interview room.

  • Be through with your personal statement, brainstorm a list of possible questions you might get asked about it.

  • Spend time thinking about how you could most effectively answer these questions. It should not be rehearsed, just genuine, positive good-humoured replies.

  • Have a strong understanding of the dental school you’re applying to.

  • Research their teaching methods and have an answer for why their teaching style is suited to your way of learning

  • Have a good knowledge of the faculty, areas of interest of all the main consultants, research coming out of the department - esp the latest, papers published- impress them with your understanding of the department.

  • Try to be relaxed throughout the interview with a friendly expression. A smile shows confidence!

  • Maintain good eye contact

  • If you're not sure what's being asked, then ask for the question to be repeated.

  • Avoid just giving one-word answers. Expand and support your answer with examples.

  • Speak clearly and make sure that you're talking loud enough.

  • Avoid speaking too quickly, let them hear what you're saying.

  • Stay calm! they just want to make sure they don't pick the wrong person for the course/ job by seeing how you react and answer different questions/in difficult situations!

  • Them taking notes while you give your answers is common, try not to let this put you off.

  • In the end when given a chance to ask some questions. Use this to your advantage; show that you're interested in asking questions. Have these pre-prepared so you're ready to ask away!

  • A book that helped me was 'The medical Interview ', which I also used for preparation for the prosthodontic registrar interviews, it's mostly for hospital interviews but it concentrates on the important skills you need to have and how to develop them.

  • I have come across a dental version of this book when I was searching - Dental Interview, but have not used it myself.

  • And for preparation for VTE/PLVE - 'The dental foundation Interview guide' - one of the co-authors is my junior at King's- Shivana Anand, small world indeed!

  • Some common yet difficult questions to answer without being cliche are

  1. ​Tell me a little about you (decide what you will say).

  2. Why should we pick you?

  3. What are your long and short term goals?

  4. Tell me about a mistake you've made and how you dealt with it.

  5. Can you think of a situation where good communication has been vital in your career?

  6. What are the negative aspects of dentistry?

  7. Why is research important to dentistry and what is your opinion about research from this institute?

  8. What articles have you read recently about dentistry / in the topic related to the department you are applying for.

  9. How do you think the rise in ' digital/IT ' will influence the practice of dentistry?

  10. Describe a time when you had to lead a team.

  11. Have you ever had to deal with a leadership failure?

  12. What other dental schools are you applying to?

  13. How have you overcome a personal conflict?

  14. What are three things you want to change about yourself?

  15. How should I remember you as an applicant?

  16. How do you plan to finance your studies? ( you really want to do this course - you should have a clear answer)

The biggest thing about this process is that you should be remembered when you leave as a good candidate, making a good impression, of a passionate person, with a flair for life, loves dentistry, but a whole real, honest, genuine and a hard-working, easy to work with, a good communicator and positive person - WITH A GREAT ATTITUDE AND SMILE!!


B. Job Interview

  • All above-mentioned points apply to job interviews as well.

  • Most people like hard-working, timekeeping, easy to work with people, who have some skill that could be an asset - like IT skills to help with website/ creative writing skills/managerial skills - something you can stand apart from the rest.


  • Be careful that it does not be having very political views / anti govt/ personal views / racist/sexist/anti-religious views.

  • If you can take a PORTFOLIO OF WORK of the different cases you have done, be it even under-graduate level fillings/crowns and dentures, it shows your commitment and passion and would be viewed very positively by an interview panel.


Practice these questions - trying to avoid cliche if you can​

  1. ​What do you know about this practice?

  2. What would you change about your academic experience? (Own up to poor grades - good dentistry is not about marks!)

  3. How would you describe yourself as an employee?

  4. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  5. Do you consider yourself creative?

  6. What do you like most about dentistry? Least?

  7. What is your philosophy on how oral health relates to overall body health?

  8. Do you think you’ll still be interested in dentistry in ten years? Why?​

  9. Why are you looking for a new job? (if you’re leaving one)

  10. How would you describe your knowledge of current technology and procedures?

  11. Your 5 most important dentistry toys?

  12. A new instrument/equipment/ material you have been wowed by recently in dentistry

  13. Which a recent good book/ movie you have watched?

  14. Dentistry personality you follow on social media and why?

  15. Any other profession you think you would be good at?


  • There are 3 types of interview


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