What You Should Know Before Your First Interview

Last Updated on June 27, 2022 by Laura Turner

This article is reprinted with permission from the American Student Dental Association. It originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of ASDA News.
Interviewing is a stressful experience. Knowing some typical interview formats and the expectations of your interviewer can help put your mind at ease while pursuing acceptance into dental school.
Interview formats:
The first is the traditional one-on-one. This interview format lasts 30 minutes to an hour and usually includes some probing questions. The advantage to this format is that it gives you more time to articulate how your goals and experiences have shaped your decision to become a dentist.
The second and most common interview format is the committee interview. The committee is usually comprised of four to five interviewers that take turns asking questions. Committee interviews are typically shorter (15-20 minutes) and less probing than the one-on-one. Committee interviews require managing several different interviewers while communicating ideas in a much shorter amount of time.
The third type of interview is the Multiple Mini Interview, or MMI. The MMI seeks to attain a more objective measure of your aptitude in ethical decision-making and tests your ability to think on your feet. A series of five to 10 ethical scenarios are commonly encountered during these mini interviews. (For example, “Would you treat a patient with AIDS?”) Candidates typically get about two minutes to read the question before answering the scenario. Each interview is strictly timed and is typically five to 10 minutes long.
The fourth type of interview is a group interview where several applicants are interviewed together and questions are asked of the group. People volunteer to answer questions or take turns answering questions drawn from a hat. One challenge is that it is harder to bring out your own strengths without dominating the interview session.
What to expect:
Most interviews will involve your interaction with other candidates. Don’t be surprised to see 10 to 12 other applicants being interviewed that day. These people are future classmates and colleagues, so be supportive of each other (not competitive). Your interview may even require you perform a group activity together. You may be asked to write a short essay about your perception of the role of a dentist. Common questions include “What does it mean to be a professional?” or, “If accepted, what could you contribute to this school?”
Some interviewers will know little to nothing about you before the interview, known as a “closed file” interview. Be prepared for the first question to be “tell me about yourself.” The goal here is to find out what motivated you to become a dentist while giving them some perspective on your background and interests. Limit this response to no more than four minutes, and focus on things the interviewer might not know from your resume or personal statement.
Other interviewers will have read all of your information ahead of time, known as an “open file” interview, and will ask you very specific questions from your personal statement, secondary application and academic transcript. At the conclusion of the interview you will be asked if you have any questions. This is your chance to ask insightful questions that show your sincere interest in the school’s dental program.
Things to do before the interview:
Thoroughly research the school before your interview. Know what is important to the school, what makes this school stand out and why you think you are a good candidate. Meet with your pre-health advisor for a mock interview. There is no substitute for practice. Finally, remember to be genuine because it is not only what you say, but also how you say it. Leave your interviewers with a lasting impression and convince them of your potential to become an outstanding dentist.
For more interview tips and other resources to help you get into dental school, visit ASDAnet.org/predental. Predentals are also invited to join the American Student Dental Association.