Every dental school is different, and even within the dental school there can be a wide variation of interview questions as it is often dictated by the personalties of the interviewing panel.
Some dental schools interview students over several months, with a small number of interviewing panels and a higher consistency among the types of questions asked to candidates. Other schools may interview across just a few days or weeks, consisting of dozens of different interviewing panels. However, all schools strive to keep some level of consistency between interviews to be able to eliminate bias or unfairness and promote equal opportunities for all candidates.
This article hopes to shed some light on the nature of interview questions at dental schools by exploring the core principles of all such interviews and the baseline questions that are asked.
The interview can be an extremely daunting process and it can be easy to envisage the interviewing panel as the enemy. In reality, most interviewers want to be able to select the best candidates possible, and to be able to do this they need to see the very best of you. This is why you should view the interview panel in a good light, as more often than not, they want for you to do well and have a an opportunity to shine.
The core questions are:
- Why our dental school?
- Why Dentistry?
- Tell me about your work experience.
These are the core questions of interviews at dental school. There are many different ways in which they can be phrased, but essentially boil down to the basics. Should the answers of these important questions come across underprepared or lacking, they will have a significant bearing on the outcome of the interview. There are no right or wrong answers, just good and bad ones.
What these core questions define are:
- Whether you want to study their course, in their city. Often, a candidate can come across very able and impressive in terms of their attitude towards dentistry and higher education, but may appear unmotivated to study dentistry at their dental school. This is a massive turn off for the interviewing panel as they want to seek students that are more likely to accept their offers in order to meet their quotas. Not only this, but an inferior candidate with a higher motivation to study at their dental school will always be given preference over someone who may be outstanding overall but not convince the panel of their interest to study at their institution. This is because the panel knows that if they reject you, they are not necessarily rejecting you from Dentistry all together, but only their dental school. It is easy to see the scale of the problem if this is the case in every interview that you attend – a worthy candidate will miss out.
- Whether you genuinely have a desire to study Dentistry or not. The interview panel wants to make sure you have done your homework on what the career actually entails. Remember, it is not a sin to confess that you have explored other career pathways such as Medicine. In fact, a panel is likely to admire the fact that you have considered other careers and have made a conscientious and thoughtful decision. They want to know that you will be doing Dentistry for all the right reasons. Arguably, nothing is right or wrong, but ‘doing it for the money’ might be a plausible exception!
- Whether you have actively sought out work experience and developed a realistic grasp of what the profession has to offer. Similar to the above point, the only way to convince both the panel and yourself that dentistry is the right profession for you is to get a true insight in to the profession by (at the very least) shadowing a general dental practitioner for two weeks. However it is not simply enough to clock up some hours worth of shadowing beneath your belt. The interview panel wants to see if you actually learnt anything from shadowing a dentist, and by this we do not mean learning names of complex procedures and equipment, but rather the demands of a dental practitioner and their role in the greater society.
There are essentially two types of work experience students. There are those that sit in the corner, staring out of the window and counting down every hour of the day. And then there are those that are truly engaged by what is going on around them, actively ask questions to get involved and give some real thought in to what could be the rest of their life. Thankfully for the interview panel, these two types of students can be very easy to identify.