Health Professions Advisor Views

Interview Preparation Tips 101

Posted by Lolita Wood-Hill, M.S. on July 26, 2017

Your application is officially submitted to all the dental schools of your choice. Hooray! Now it’s time to prepare for your first interview. Soon you will have an opportunity to speak directly with someone about your qualifications, personal goals and interests, and “fit” for this particular school. Hopefully you’ve done your homework and this school meets all of your needs as well.

  • Is it located in an area that you find comfortable?
  • Does the school have the particular programs that you wish to access?
  • Does the student population align well with you culturally—that is, post-undergraduate students, older and graduate students, married couples, working force students, diverse community, etc.?

Assuming you’ve reviewed and assessed these details, let’s discuss preparation for this momentous day!

First, please inform your health professions advisor about your interview once it’s scheduled. He or she will have important and perhaps unique insights regarding the school, the interview day, and the success of previous students from your school, and overall, he or she will most likely be happy and excited with you. Give your advisor an opportunity to support and cheer you on.

Mock interviews are essential—they let you prepare for the kinds of questions you might be asked. Start with your college’s career services office. They have loads of experience prepping students for interviews and can give you tips and pointers about habits you may display when nervous, what your eye contact and hand shake signifies and whether or not you could use some help answering questions with confidence and efficiency. While they may not know specific questions you will be asked, they will know how most interview sessions are conducted. They may also be able to tape your practice sessions, which is a bonus that will allow you to review yourself and make appropriate changes if needed. 

But, what if you are no longer in school and are currently working? Try your human resources department. If they have the ability to do so, they might agree to give you some time for mock interviews with available and qualified staff. If neither of these suggestions is an option, ask a close friend who already has experience in the workplace to help, or practice answering questions in front of your own full-length mirror. You could also reach out to alumni who are currently attending dental school for their input. Again, your health professions advisor will be a wonderful resource.

Now that we are in the stage for typical interview questions, there are plenty of other things that should be considered. It is important to make a good first impression on EVERYONE you will meet that day. The best way to do this is to be dressed appropriately. A suit is essential!

For men—navy blue, black, dark grey or light grey are acceptable colors; however, steer clear of shiny materials or garments that are too big or small. I have seen students come to an interview with suits that should be worn on a stage or at a partytrust me, not the look you want! You do not need to spend a large amount of money, either. Rather, you want to be sure you are comfortable and can project confidence. Shoes should be freshly polished and heels should not be run down. Shirts should be suitable for a tie; no turtlenecks or collarless shirts if you can help it. Recommended shirt colors are white or a pastel. Any jewelry should be understated as wella watch and your school ring will do. “Mr. T” gold chains should remain at home that day. 

For the ladies—you have many more options, but much of what I have stated above applies to you as well. You can wear a business-style dress, a suit with skirt or pants or a dress/coat ensemble. Pay attention to your hemline. Anything that rides above your knee when you sit is going to be uncomfortable for you and possibly the interviewer. A too-tight skirt is also to be avoided and your shoes should be professional and comfortable. Stilettos may not be appropriate nor are sequined shoes or UGGs, as comfortable as they are. Most likely you will be on your feet walking all day as the school sends you on tours and to various offices. Being uncomfortable will make you unhappy, and that unhappy face may be interpreted incorrectly by an admissions officer.

It is recommended for both genders to stay away from heavy perfumes and colognes (maybe not wear any at all). Imagine a room of 20 people all with different and conflicting scents—a true nightmare for anyone with allergies.  

Okay, now that you are dressed appropriately and have fine-tuned your interview skills through careful preparation, my last piece of important advice involves your demeanor. Be pleasant and, if you have to, force yourself to be the first, or one of the first, in the waiting room of strangers to reach out your hand and introduce yourself. Schools will be looking for leaders, so here’s your chance to be one! 

At the end of the day, be sure you collect your interviewer(s) contact information (or ask at the reception desk if getting this information is appropriate). Double check that you have the correct spelling of their name(s) and titles. Afterwards, be sure to send them a thank you note including something unique that you spoke about during your interview that will help them remember and identify who you are. Also, sending a thank you to the scheduling coordinator who made your appointment for you is a plus. Your graciousness and appreciation of all those involved in providing your interview experience will go a long way. 

Good luck and enjoy!

About Lolita Wood-Hill, M.S.:

Lolita Wood-Hill

L.A. Wood-Hill, M.S.
Director, Prehealth Advisement
Yeshiva University

Ms. Lolita Wood-Hill has been a Prehealth Advisor for over 20 years. She was the premed advisor at City College of City University of New York (CUNY) for many years and retired from Hunter College of CUNY in 2010. She has been Director of Prehealth Advising at Yeshiva University (YU) since that time. Ms. Wood-Hill received her B.A. in History from Boston College, and her most recent graduate degree in Urban Affairs was earned at Hunter College of CUNY in 2010. 

Special recognition for her work has come from several organizations, including the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the Associated Medical Schools of NY (AMSNY) and the National Association of Medical Minority Educators, Inc. (NAMME). She has also served on the governing board of several local and national prehealth advising organizations, including the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions (NAAHP), the Northeast Association for Advisors for the Health Professions (NEAAHP) and NAMME. Additionally, she has served as consultant to several non-profit organizations dedicated to making health professions careers more accessible to disadvantaged students. She often collaborates with her husband (a financial aid officer), providing workshops around the country regarding medical school admission, financial aid and debt management.

Ms. Wood-Hill’s most recent endeavor has been to help facilitate a college fair, College Edge, for young people in Washington Heights, NY with students at Yeshiva University (YU) organizing and running the entire event. The event is in its third year and has hosted over 300 students from some of the neediest high schools in New York City, offering workshops on financial aid, interviewing, career choices and career training pathways.