Updated: Nov 11
Dental school interview season is upon us! You may be wondering what this entails, and I am here to help guide you!
My name is Mary Papandreas, and I am a D2 at Penn Dental Medicine.
Prior to coming to dental school, I worked in consulting for 2.5 years where it was my job to communicate ideas and convince other professionals why my company was the best for the job on a daily basis… all skills that I translated directly into successful interviews for dental school.
Listed below are a few “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for interviewing. Please know this is not an exhaustive list, but rather a few points to get you started in the right direction and to be adapted as you see fit.
Dental School Interview "Do's"
Let your personality shine. Admissions committees will be interviewing hundreds of applicants, many of which will have similar academic and professional accomplishments. It is refreshing for them to speak with someone who is being authentic and true to themselves, versus those who present themselves as what they think the admissions committee is looking for. Show them why YOU would be a great addition to their class and let them see how your personality would blend with the group they are creating.
Tell your story and be consistent in your messaging
Think about your application like you are telling the story of your journey to school. You want to make everything feel cohesive, ensuring that each piece of your application points back to why you would make a great future dentist.
For example, I spoke about how my time in consulting honed my communication skills and how that would translate to speaking effectively and empathetically with patients. Skills like there are often called “transferrable skills,” meaning skills you learned elsewhere that can be translated to a seemingly unrelated job. Look at your application and personal statement ahead of time and make sure you can link all of your previous experience to how it prepared you for dental school.
Research the school ahead of time
Have talking points about what interests you specifically about their program and how your skillset fits into their program/offerings. Every school has a mission statement and various initiatives that they are focused on accomplishing with their education. By asking targeted questions and specifically linking your experiences to their program’s goals, you are showing interviewers that you are sincerely interested in their school and have put thought into how you would fit into their culture.
Quick Tips for Virtual Interviews
Wear neutral professional clothing – I love a bold pattern, but they can be distracting virtually. Try to opt for solid colors that look nice on your camera.
Keep your background clean/organized
Use headphones for best audio – I even prefer to dial in from my phone in case my internet connection cuts off.
Test your internet connection ahead of time.
Put your phone/laptop/Apple Watch into do not disturb mode
Tell your roommates, family, or whoever you live with the time of your interview, so they do not come into your room. Alternatively, you can reserve a room on your school’s campus to complete the interview.
Look at the camera on your computer, not your face in the video; this makes it feel like you are talking to the interviewer.
Tips for In-Person Interviews
Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the interview if possible. This allows you time to hit traffic, have issues parking/getting dropped off, go to the restroom, drink water, and calm your nerves before entering the interview. If the interview is local, you can even go a few days beforehand to scope out where to walk in and how long it will take you to get there.
Be aware of your body language
Make eye contact and maintain welcoming body language during the interview. Smile and use hand gestures. I like to think of the interviewer as a friend and speak using my normal tone and inflections to sound as natural as possible.
Dental School Interview "Don'ts"
Don’t give answers you think they want to hear
Answer all questions honestly and in a way that supports the story and brand you are building for yourself. The reality is most applicants have similar paths to dental school and are equally accomplished. What will set you apart from the rest is giving answers that are true to your character and story.
Don’t be late
I cannot emphasize this enough – first impressions matter. Timeliness is a trait you will need to have as a future dentist anyways, so start practicing this now!
Don’t undersell yourself
This is your one chance to explain how amazing of an applicant you are. Now is not the time to be humble. Confidently tell your story and explain why you are a good fit for the program you are interviewing for. Interviewers often only know what you tell them, so make sure to include all key details about your accomplishments.
Don’t swivel around in your chair – sit firmly planted and focused on the interviewer.
Don’t play with your hair or jewelry – if you have a habit of doing this, practice answering questions with a friend and have them correct you if you begin doing this.
Don’t read answers off of a pre-written page – it will come off as robotic and inauthentic. This even goes for over-rehearsing answers with friends. While you definitely want to be confident in your talking points, it is important to deliver your responses in a natural and conversational way.
This may be controversial, and you can play it by ear based on the conversation, but you are not obligated to tell the interviewer if you are applying to, have been interviewed by, or have been accepted by other schools. If asked a question like, “How many other interviews are you doing?”, and you do not want to give a direct response, you can answer with, “I applied to several programs since dental school is so competitive. This program is my priority and I am so happy to be speaking with you today.”
Above all else, be yourself and have fun with the interview process! Receiving an interview means that the school is interested in you, so take that confidence and show them why they should take the next step and accept you into their program.
Good luck and feel free to reach out to me on Instagram if you have any questions!