“Congratulations! Your application has positively impressed
our admissions committee, and we would like to invite you to an interview at
After months of working hard on your applications and DATs,
you’ve finally gotten a precious invitation to interview at a dental school.
Now you have a few weeks to arrange your travel and housing, not to mention a
short trip to a store to select your interview attire.
But just as you have spent a lot of time preparing for the
DAT by understanding the test format and timing, you need to also take some
time to know how your interview day schedule is set up. For this article, I’ll
help you become a little familiar with some terms that will be helpful for your
Will the interviewers
review your file before your interview?
Many schools will encourage their evaluators to conduct
“open file” interviews. This means that the evaluator (usually a faculty
member) will have a chance to look over your ADEA AADSAS and supplemental
application materials the day before meeting with you. This way, the
interviewer can gain insight into what you bring to the table in your
conversations and explore elements of your application in greater depth. Some
schools will exclude any transcript or DAT scores when distributing your file
so that an interviewer will avoid fixating on low grades during the interview.
Other schools will conduct “closed file” interviews. In this
format, the evaluators interview each candidate without looking at all at the
applicant’s file. Because the evaluator is blinded to your application, the
conversation is expected to be more organic and exploratory.
Sometimes an interviewer will have access to your file but
will prefer to review it after interviewing you. This way, the interviewer gets
to know you as a person before reviewing your entire application on paper.
Technically such interviews are considered “open file” even though the
conversation is conducted “closed file.”
Interviewers at most dental schools are faculty who are
taking their time to participate in the admissions process. Some schools have
select students or alumni who may be involved either formally with interview
evaluations or informally to field general questions about their school.
Admissions, student affairs and financial aid staff also occasionally interview
The structure of an
Because each admissions office determines how many
candidates are scheduled for a specific interview day, the structure of the
interview may depend on how many interviewers are scheduled to meet with the
candidates. Traditionally, interviews are conducted with one evaluator
questioning one candidate for as brief as 15 minutes to as long as an hour.
Sometimes interviews are conducted with a panel of two or three evaluators for
each candidate for 30 minutes up to an hour. Panel interviews may also mix
“open” and “closed” file formats as one panel interviewer may have access to
your file while the other is blinded to your file.
More recently, interview formats have been created to allow
evaluators to assess more group dynamics in an interview. As a result, group
interviews, in which an evaluator asks questions to three or more candidates,
are becoming more common. Sometimes there is a second evaluator who can help
facilitate discussion. These group interviews can last between 20 and 60
The style of an
Interview evaluators also often have the task of asking
candidates similar or identical questions in order to allow the evaluator to
fairly judge each candidate’s responses. Common questions that are expected
include, “Tell me about yourself,” “Identify your greatest weakness,” and “Why
are you interested in dentistry?” Some evaluators have a pre-determined set of
questions that are required to ask every candidate while others employ a more
conversational style where questions are asked spontaneously.
Can you bring
Many interviewing candidates like to bring notebooks and
portfolios with them featuring papers they have published, photographs of
creative work or an updated resume. You may need to check each school that
invites you about its preferences in relation to bringing supplemental
materials to the interview.
Another format that has been gaining popularity is the
“multiple mini-interview” (MMI). In this case, candidates rotate between
stations every 7-10 minutes where they are confronted with a new question. Some
of the questions may be associated with hypothetical situations while others
may be task-oriented. Every candidate is given the same question or scenario,
and each evaluator judges each candidate on the specific question that is
asked. The evaluator may also interact with the candidate through follow-up
How do you find out?
The best way to find out what format a dental school uses
for their interview days is to ask the admissions offices directly. Many
admissions directors will be happy to give you a summary of their interview day
and provide insight to the schedule or general format.
If you have access to a career services office at your
undergraduate institution, you may want to schedule a session with a career
advisor for a mock interview. Many offices have a subscription to Perfect Interview,
a webcam-based program that can help you evaluate your own interviewing skills.
Best wishes to you in your interview preparation!