Your interview is the final impression you give to admissions officers before they make a decision whether or not to accept you into their program. It's an absolutely vital part of the process to invest in preparing for and learning the art of an interview. Here are 5 above and beyond tips to crush any interview.
1. Understand the difference between warmth and competence
Whenever we meet someone, we quickly ask ourselves two questions: “Can I trust this person?” and “Can I respect this person?” This is referred to as “warmth” and “competence” respectively. And psychology has proven that warmth is prioritized over competence because from an evolutionary perspective, it's more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deservers our trust. We do value people who are capable, especially in circumstances where that trait is necessary, but we only notice that AFTER we’ve judged their trustworthiness.. How does this relate to dental school interviews? It relates to any interaction with someone new, and especially interviews, because it symbolizes how important it is to portray ourselves as a friendly, like-able, "warm," person. Studies have shown that when warmth is portrayed before competence, we're much more likely to get admitted or hired following the interview, but when competence is shown before warmth, studies have shown that we come off as manipulative, believe it or not.
With this knowledge, it makes no sense to go into an interview with the mission to portray ourselves as a brilliant, perfect human, because that only hurts us. Instead, it should be understood that you've been invited to an interview because you've already proven that you have met the basic levels of competency that the admissions staff requires, and now they want to know if you are warm, friendly, confident, and personable; all qualities that make for a great dentist.
2. Remember names
A person's name is the sweetest thing to them, and your interviewers know this is true too. When you first meet your interviewer, remember their name and call them by their name whenever necessary. By remembering their name, you not only show them that you care, but you also show that you’re a professional. Professionals don’t forget people’s names, and they always use it.
Dentists and other professionals understand the importance of remembering someone's name and calling them by it so much that I once shadowed a dentist who's assistant would put a sticky note with the patient's name on their bib so that the dentist could come in the room, call the patient by his or her name, and continue to during the entire interaction.
The point is, a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
Don’t you feel special when your boss, professor, or someone you quickly met calls you by your name?
Of course, it makes us feel special because it shows that they cared about who we are and were paying attention to us.
So, remember your interviewers name, use it often, and you’ve paid a subtle and very attractive compliment to them. But forget their name, and you’ve placed yourself at a SHARP DISADVANTAGE.
3. Show, Don't Tell
A big mistake that I see people make is talking too much without giving clear examples to back their statements. For example, a common interview question is, "do you consider yourself a leader." The common, and wrong way, to answer this question is to say "yes," and then either stop there, or to go on and talk about why you think you're a leader.
Instead, an ideal response would include your direct answer to the question, and then a story about a time when you exhibited leadership. And remember, you don't have to have a leadership title to exhibit leadership. A leadership story could simply be a time that you thought of an idea that helped others in some way, and either you or a group took action on that idea. That's leadership.
4. Do Your Homework
A fatal flaw that too many pre-dentals make is not doing enough research on the school they are interviewing at. Don't EVER go into an interview without knowing the school like the back of your hand. I always advise my students to research the school to learn a few key points:
a.) A notable professor or research project
b.) A notable community outreach project
c.) Notable alumni
d.) The school's mission (is it to discover new knowledge, make practice-ready graduates, churn out specialists...?)
e.) The dean's name (believe it or not, this is an interview question at some schools)
That's the bare minimum that you should know about EVERY school you go to apply to, and you should do a lot more research. At pre-denting, I have all the important information you need to know on cheat sheets for each school that I provide.
5. Body Language, Posture, Tone
In 1971, Albert Mehrabian published a book in which he discussed his research on communication. He concluded that credibility is based on a variety of factors other than words. In fact, it was concluded that when someone speaks, we judge their body language as 55% towards their credibility and another 38% to the tone of their voice.
That leaves a mere 7% of a speaker's credibility based on their actual words.
The point is, your body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice matter, and they matter A LOT. A lot more than what you actually say. For this reason, practicing with mock interviews becomes vital. Through mock interviews, you can have your tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions judged. A key strategy I teach to my students is how to turn interview anxiety into excitement. It takes some time to master, but it pays off big time because when we feel anxious, we slouch, make less eye contact, and our throat constricts, making our voice sound less enthusiastic and passionate. And although we are enthusiastic and passionate, our constricted voice that sounds monotone does not portray our true selves.
Make sure to apply these advanced interview tips to your next interview, whether for dental school or for a job. I'd love to know if you notice the difference in the quality of the interview at how it goes. My mission is to help at least 5000 pre-dents get into dental school each application cycle, so if you found this info helpful, please share it with a friend. If you need mock interview practice or anything else, feel free to reach out to me and I'd be happy to help!