How to prepare for a dental working interview

New dentists who have sent out their resumes and cover letters to practices in search of employment should be prepared for the possibility of a working interview.

Working interviews in dentistry are common because they allow candidates to practice in the clinical setting and provide the opportunity to observe how the practice owner conducts the office. It’s also the best way for practice owners to observe new dentists’ techniques and see how they interact with patients and staff.

“From the perspective of the practice owner, it gives them more of a sense of the associate’s treatment abilities, case presentation techniques and treatment philosophies to make sure they are on the same page,” said Katie Fornelli, practice analyst with the CDA Practice Support Center. “On the flip side, although the new dentist is being interviewed, this is also your opportunity to  interview the owner dentist and the staff. Do your due diligence and make sure this is the right practice for you.”

According to the Practice Support Center’s Guide for the New Dentist, which is available at cda.org/newdentist, before the working interview, new dentists should do the following:

  • Contact a professional liability carrier and request a binder for a working interview. Do not go to any interview without coverage. (See the end of this article for more information.)
  • Clarify with the practice owner whether you’ll perform treatment on patients or spend the day observing.
  • Expect to be compensated. Clarify if payment will be given at the end of the business day or mailed to you within 48 hours.
  • Ensure all mutually agreed upon arrangements are in writing and determined before the day of the working interview. Keep a copy for your own records.
  • Ask the practice owner or office manager about the attire. If treating patients, be sure to ask if personal protective equipment will be provided. It’s better to ask these questions before the working interview than to come unprepared.

“New dentists should fully expect to treat patients during their working interview,” Fornelli said. “What and who you treat will depend on the type of practice and the services they offer, so you really need to get a grasp on the scope of services offered at the practice prior to the working interview.”

Al Ochoa, DDS, graduated from the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry in 2006 and it took him six months and several working interviews to find the right match. He said he always made sure he went to the working interviews prepared.

“For every interview I went to I always had a photocopy of my certificates ready to hand to every employer. This included a cover sheet to my malpractice insurance, my CPR card, my dental license card and sometimes I included my social security card,” Ochoa said.

Ochoa said working interviews helped him establish principles for what he did and did not like in certain practices, which in turn, helped him find the right match.

“I found it crucial that you share the same philosophy on treatment and on patients with the owner dentist and staff, otherwise a lot of problems could arise in the office in the future,” Ochoa said. “A lot of the issues that I faced were offices that were opposed to using certain materials, such as amalgam or PFM crowns; some offices pushed certain products and treatments that I sometimes felt were unnecessary.”

Fornelli said new dentists should spend time during the working interview asking questions of the practice owner and staff to see how transparent they are with information. Examples include how they collect and record patient information, how they collect money, how they handle scheduling and cancellations, patient flow, etc.

“Make sure they are transparent and pay attention to the doctor and staff dynamics,” Fornelli said. “Is there mutual respect? Does the staff comply with the requests of the owner dentist? Is there tension between the front and back office staff? These are little things that you can watch for that will indicate the health of the business overall.”

The Guide For New Dentist lays out a few other things dentists should watch for during the interview:

  • Are staff acting within the scope of their licenses?
  • Are infection control standards being followed?
  • Does the team meet for a morning huddle to discuss the day’s schedule?

Following the conclusion of the interview, dentists should send the practice owner, or whoever conducted the interview, a thank you note. Checking for spelling and grammatical errors when sending written correspondence is important, Fornelli said. The letter can include a simple thank you to the interviewer for the opportunity and a few aspects the dentist appreciated about the interview, the associateship opportunity and/or the practice.

“Sometimes you may even go home and think of something else you have a question about; don’t be afraid to follow up with some questions, or if you feel a follow-up interview is necessary, don’t be afraid to take that step,” Fornelli said.

Ochoa said it is important for a new dentist to keep an open mind and be flexible when going through the working interview process.

“Every office and every dentist has a different way of doing dentistry. The way you were trained in school to do dentistry is one of many ways to get a great result in dentistry,” Ochoa said. “If you walk into a bad environment or an office that isn't the right fit for you, don’t feel trapped to stay there. Finish your day there and keep looking until you find the right fit. Great opportunities and great offices are out there, you just have to keep looking.”

For more information about job hunting, visit cda.org/newdentist to view the Guide for the New Dentist.

Liability Insurance for a Working Interview

New dentists who plan to go through a working interview should have a Professional Liability policy in place for that day of employment. Most owner dentists will ask for proof of coverage upfront because they can be held liable through vicarious liability for anything that happens during the working interview, according to Samson Landeros, sales agent for TDIC.

TDIC offers new graduates Professional Liability coverage for $50 for their first 12 months. For a working interview, TDIC is often able to offer a Binder (which is a temporary proof of insurance) typically within 24 hours of a request, but Landeros said it is best for dentists to apply as soon as they can.

“The earliest you can set up a policy is the day you get your license number. Set up the coverage sooner rather than later because sometimes dentists think their working interview is a month away and then they get a call asking if they can be there tomorrow,” Landeros said.

For more information about getting liability coverage through TDIC, visit thedentists.com.