Guide to associate interviews

shutterstock_157573751Worried about being under the spotlight in an interview? Vishal Patel gives his valuable advice on how to approach associate interviews for first timers.

I remember my first interview after my vocational training year and I have to admit I wasn’t well prepared for it and didn’t end up getting the job! However, like with everything in life, it’s a question of learning from your mistakes and making sure you’re better prepared next time.

On the day

Dress smartly and arrive at least 10 minutes early. Body language tells an employer a lot about you, so sit relaxed but not slumped, with arms unfolded as this is quite a welcoming posture.

The type of questions initially asked relate to personality and a bit about yourself as it’s important to the principal that you will fit into the current team. The second part of the interview can sometimes include a few technical or practical questions to ascertain your depth of knowledge.


Questions you may be askedshutterstock_178351865:

  • So tell me about yourself…
  • If you could have a perfect day of dentistry what would it involve?
  • What areas of the job do you enjoy the most?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Answer the questions to the best of your ability, as there is normally no incorrect answer.

It’s very important for you to fully assess the job. At some of my early interviews, I had no questions prepared and as a consequence, I left without all the information I required to decide if it was the right post for me. Asking the ‘right’ questions to a prospective employer is important in showing them you are serious about the role.


Questions you can ask:

  • What’s the reason for the vacancy?

It is important to establish if an existing associate is leaving or if this a new patient list. If you’re taking over a list, then check how long the previous dentist has been there for and why they are leaving. If you’re building a new patient list, beware it will take longer to establish a stable patient base and income.

  • How busy are the current dentists?

Ideally a two-three week waiting list is great, as it shows that the surgery is reasonably busy. Ask to check the day-lists for the past few months, so you can confirm how full the book is on a day-to-day basis.

  • Is the list well maintained with regular X-rays where appropriate?

A well maintained list is obviously much easier to manage, compared to a list where no regular caries screening has been done, and patients may have multiple cavities that have been neglected.

  • If it’s an NHS  job, what is the UDA (units of dental activity) value and target?

Units of dental activity values vary nationwide but recently the average seems to be around the £10 mark. Ensure you’re comfortable with the UDA target they want, and don’t overstretch yourself early on in your career.

  • Will you get a qualified experienced nurse?

Having an experienced nurse is vital, especially when trying to settle into a new surgery, where you won’t know where things are in the surgery or how its run.

In summary, your first few interviews after foundation training can be daunting, but the more you do, the better and more confident you will get. Good luck!


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