Preparing For a Dental Job Interview:

Interviewing for a job in dental is a little different than most professions.

There are a few more steps that are taken in order to ensure that you are not only qualified, but also a good fit for the practice. Not only will most dental offices require a sit down interview, many prefer you do a working interview in order to assess your skills.

There are a few “good rules of thumb” that are good to know for any interview process, but these are a couple extra that can put you over the top when it comes to a working interview.


This may seem obvious, but to many it’s not. It is not only important to have a resume but there are a few things you can tweak to make the interview process smoother. First of all, you need to update it. It can be confusing to employers when you have large gaps in your resume. The less time figuring out where you worked or what you did means more time for you to show them why you want to work there. Next, only put relevant information that you know you can confidently back up. This will help the interview go smoother and the conversation will be more lively. Just because your resume is short does not mean you are unqualified.

Most likely, your possible employer will only be looking for relevant information anyways. If you have any specific questions or are looking for general help, our office also provides career training resources that have proven successful for many of our clients.


Before you go into an interview, you should know everything about the practice. Who the dentist is, how many people work there, what kind of procedures do they do, are they privately or corporately owned. These are just some of the things you should know. The more knowledge you show about the practice, the more invested you will appear to the interviewer. 

Additionally, do not be intimidated if you do not meet every single requirement that is listed in the job post. A lot of posts are just recycled from other places and most of the time the office will be willing to work with you if you show promise. However, there are limits. Experience and languages spoken are two things that many offices care about. Don’t be surprised if the job post lists Spanish as a requirement and you are questioned about it in the interview. 


There is no reason to be surprised by the questions being asked when you get into the office. The calmer and more prepared you are, the more impressed the interviewer will be. There are common questions that are asked in interviews all over the internet. You can either have a friend ask you them or just speak through the answers yourself. Either way, thinking is not enough- you need to be able to communicate your answers verbally.

Some of the most common questions are:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why did you choose to be a dental hygienist/assistant?
  • How long have you been practicing?
  • How would you deal with a difficult patient?

These are just a handful of examples. Check out some other websites which have long lists of just about every possible question imaginable.


Almost every interview ends the same way, with the interviewer asking if you have any questions for them. This is where you can stand out from the other applicants. By doing research beforehand, you should have a few questions prepared. This shows the person interviewing you that you are interested about the practice and what they do. It is also more engaging. The more the interview is like a back-and-forth conversation, the better. 


This is a great way to show your skills. That being said, it is also a way for you to see if the office is actually a good fit for you. You will be able to see what the general flow is like, how the dentist acts, and what your general responsibilities will be. Don’t feel too pressured! The office knows that you are not familiar with their system. It is simply more of a way to see how well you work with people and making sure your talents on paper translate to the practice. The duration of these interviews varies depending on the office. Some only last a few hours while others will ask you to come back multiple times. It is not a bad thing if your interview only lasts two hours. That may just mean that the practice was super impressed with you!

Regardless of how long it lasts, you should be compensated for your work. Offices are legally required to pay you, but not necessarily at a hygienist/assistant rate- just minimum wage. Not that this should be a deal breaker, but it is something that you may want to keep in mind. If you find yourself getting anxious or nervous about doing a working interview, it may not be a bad idea to see if you could shadow first. This will help you get a better understanding of what they will want you to do as well as help make you feel more comfortable.


What Characteristics are Dental Practices Looking for In People They Hire?

For all the people out there looking for jobs in dental, this question comes up a lot. In fact, this is probably the most important question an employer who’s looking to hire needs to answer. The main reason for this is because one of the most important determinants on what make a dental practice successful or not is the people who work there. Assembling a successful dental clinic is tough. It takes a lot of time, thinking, and problem solving in order to really create a team that works coherently together and efficiently.

You can see which employers put thought into their team. For example, during your job hunt, if you’re applying at a dental office that’s been around for 10+ years but only has 4 chairs and is closed half the week.. are they successful? Is their practice environment fun? Comfortable? Up to date? Does it seem like their front office cares about their patients or do all they see is dollar signs? These are questions both employees and employers need to ask. Potential employees need to ask this question because it’s important in evaluating whether or not this is where they want to establish or grow their career. Who wants to work at a dental clinic that has paint chipping on their walls? Who wants to work a dental practice that has bad reviews? What if they have horrible employee turnaround? There are many questions potential and current employees need to ask themselves in order to really determine whether or not it’s worth their time to be there.

Ever wondered why some dental practices look so successful and others look like their practice is on the borderline of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy? Simple answer – its their choice or lack of who they hired. Good and successful practices have managers/owners who care immensely about who they hire and who they extend offers to. This same hiring philosophy is applied coherently and strictly at all positions from general doctors to front office administrators. While if you want to know why a dental practice is struggling, just look at who they have on their team. You can clearly see the difference between a good practice and bad one really by looking at how their employees treat you and how the practice presents themselves. Although this is a generalization and there are exceptions, the rule really is easily applicable throughout the entire industry.

So the question is – what are the GOOD practices looking for when they hire and what are the BAD practices looking for when they hire?

Good practices can be defined as practices that are focused on sustained financial growth as well as maintaining a brand that gives off a message of credibility and reliability. It could be a dental practice managed by a single owner or by multiple partners, but at the end of the day the practice clearly cares about branding, growth, and most importantly internal employee culture.

These good practices are looking for employees who subscribe to this message. What does this mean? This means they are looking for potential employees who care about how they present themselves, who are responsible, nice, caring yet straightforward and efficient. They’re looking for employees who are trying to grow a career rather than be there for a quick paycheck. They’re looking for employees who care about the growth of the practice rather than the growth of their own bank account. So how do you show and tell the hiring dental practices that you have have these characteristics? Simple, you show. Don’t Tell. How do you show? Well you show by every small thing you do leading up to the interview, during the interview and post interview. This means showing up early, knowing everything about the practice, being prepared for the interview, and sending consistent follow up. This means being aware of your strengths and weaknesses and being able to adapt and change your mindset when it comes to growing your skills in dental. If you are able to convey to your hiring manager that these are the characteristics that you have, you will be easily able to land a job in no time.

Now, what are the bad practices looking for? Simply put, bad practices are looking for one thing and one thing only – what your price is. They want to hire anyone and everyone who has some sort of dental experience at the cheapest price they can. What does that mean? Thea means they’re looking for anyone to fill the open job positions they have at their practice with the lowest hourly salary they can get. To be honest this works because there is always someone who is willing to work for some sort of monetary return. However, what ends up happening is the practice tends to hire those who are not as motivated or responsible because of the monetary compensation attracting the employees to the practice.

The best of the best aren’t looking to get paid minimum wage. They’re trying to get paid as much as they can. This creates a vacuum where the low paying jobs tend to attract the low tier employees. Practices don’t care and end up hiring low tier employees. This affects the patients experiences, the other employee experiences and is ultimately detrimental to the practice itself, which makes it effectively a bad practice. So at the end of the day – it’s all about employee culture. This is a great question to ask – what is the culture like here? Are people here friends? Or does everyone want to leave the moment the clock hits 5pm. Is everyone here from top tier schools/practices? Or are the people here just because they have nowhere else to go? These are questions you as a person who is applying must ask yourself and the practice because that will determine how your career trajectory goes.


Is Dental School the Right Fit For You?

Before you even decide to apply for dental school, you should reflect on whether dentistry is the career for you. If looking into mouths (and not the ones you see in magazines and movies) and working with your hands are not things you’d enjoy or excel at, then to attend dental school and become a dentist may not be the choice for you. The process to become a dentist is a time consuming and expensive process, but also incredibly rewarding from a professional, interpersonal, and financial standpoint. 

Dentistry is an ever-expanding and stable industry that will provide job security until the day dentists choose to retire. While not everyone may need to visit an optometrist or a dermatologist, but most people visit a dentist a couple of times a year. The American Dental Association reports that the average salary for recently graduated dentists is about $130,000 while the average across all general dentists was over $200,000 per annum.

Your work as a dentist helps people regain their confidence, and it’s one of the few industries where your clientele always leaves with a smile on their face. Once you’ve become established in the industry, you can expand your businesses, set your own hours, and give yourself flexibility with your personal life.

Once you are set with your choice, be ready for accompanying work and effort required to get your foot through the door.

1.     Know your goals

Of course, you’re not committing to anything this early on, but it’s helpful to look at some prospective schools for comparison’s sake as it will help you set more concrete goals with your studies.

There are three dental schools in Illinois, the University of Illinois at Chicago (Chicago), Southern Illinois University (Carbondale), and Midwestern University (Downers Grove). Their admission rates and statistics are all close to the national average, with UIC being the most competitive and Midwestern University having slightly lower admissions average numbers.

If you want to go to dental school somewhere other than Illinois, you have 66 programs nationwide to choose from; just make sure to do research on each one you’re interested in. Just as you did while researching undergraduate programs, you should know what benchmarks to hit to qualify for your reach schools, your target schools, and your safety schools.
It doesn’t matter whether you choose a DDS program or a DMD program, as the licensure and qualifications of graduates from either program would be equivalent.

2.     Get good grades and hit the prerequisites

The most obvious objective is to get good grades. Of course, you should do this regardless of your future career choices, but especially for the dental school, since the national average GPA of applicants admitted into dental school is 3.55 (on a 4.0 scale)

Although this is the average, it’s always advantageous to be above average in any competitive scenario.

Dental schools typically accept candidates who have 2 semesters (or 3 quarters) completed of general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, and physics as well as their accompanying lab sessions. Although their official stated requirements tend to be lower (1 semester or 2 quarters), it’s generally safer to go beyond the base prerequisites.

You don’t need to major in the hard sciences, you just need to excel in whatever you study, so long as you fulfil the prerequisites necessary. Most students in dental school have studied sciences, in particular biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, biomedical sciences, and chemistry.

3.     Take the DAT and get a good score

The next thing to do well on is your Dental Admissions Test (DAT). While the average score of students taking the DAT is 17.5 on a 26 point scale, the national average score for admission into dental school is 20.5. As with all other factors, scoring above average on your DAT will open up doors. A student who scores 23 will be considered in the top 2% of test takers and will have their choice of schools. There are many digital and print resources to help you study with this with many available through the ADA itself.

4.     Fill your resume with experience

Get experience (part time at a local clinic or volunteer, this will help with references too). If you’re able to pick up a part time role during the school year or a full time role during the summer, hands-on experience will be invaluable for both experience and admissions purposes. Not only will you get a better feel for a professional dental environment, you’ll also figure out quickly whether this is the career for you. If you happen to know a dentist, a personal connection is the easiest way to get a position. Otherwise, contacting practices local to you/your school is traditionally a great way to get in the door if you demonstrate a willingness to learn. If you find it difficult to gain a position, try volunteering at a local clinic or community health center.

The experience itself is amazingly helpful, and you’ll also be able to prove yourself to individuals who you can later approach for letters of recommendation. Having the professional statement of a dentist in your application is always a plus, and in some prestigious or research-orientated schools is a must.

Extracurriculars help! If you can join a dental related club or organization, your chances will increase for demonstrating a committed interest in dental. Naturally, the availability of these organizations will vary on your locale as well as your college.

5.     Look into scholarships and alternative ways to help pay for school

The days where a summer job could pay your way through college are long gone, and most dental school students would find it impossible to find time between their studies for a job. However, excelling at the criteria for dental schools will also make it easier for you to apply for scholarships and grants.

While a quick Google search will reveal multitudes of dental-related scholarship to apply to, there are also thousands of scholarships available on a local and school level. Many dental students also look into loan forgiveness programs, where you work in an underserved community for a couple of years and as a result have most or all of your loans forgiven. Although it’s not uncommon to graduate with $300k+ in loans, a disciplined dentist can easily pay this off by leveraging multiple tools.

Some would say that these are bland suggestions, and that doing each thing on the list just turn you into the average dental school student, but realistically, that’s the goal. These are the characteristics of the average dental school student because it’s what the average dental school is looking for. There’s nothing terribly convoluted about the steps to become a dentist, but each step comes with a fair amount of work.

The good news is, for every incremental step you get closer to a rewarding career in dentistry, and closer to a professional life with growth and stability.