Written by: Andriy Gaydaychuk RDA
Date: January 24, 2022
Once you’ve completed your dental assistant program and decided on a career in orthodontics, it’s time to start looking for a job!
This guide can help you prepare for an interview in the orthodontic assistant industry, whether you’re a recent graduate or an experienced professional.
The job you’ll apply for depends on your experience and certification, as well as the licensing requirements in your state. Some orthodontic offices will want to hire assistants with specific orthodontics experience, but many will simply require dental assistant training and experience.
Congratulations, you landed an interview! That means your resume speaks for itself; your experience and education are the right fit for the job. The interview process is to get to know you as a candidate: why you personally are a great person to fill this role.
Research and prepare ahead of time for every interview. You should go online and find out as much as you can about the orthodontic practice – go deeper than just the homepage. Sharing details of what you learned demonstrates that you’re serious about the job.
You should also prepare and reflect on your answers ahead of time: even though you don’t know exactly what they will ask, have an idea of what you’ll say about your skills, experience, and weaknesses. As financial and professional guru Dave Ramsey notes in his blog, writing out a personal mission statement ahead of time can help you gather your thoughts on your own skills, passions, and goals.
Dressing well for an interview is about more than looking good: it demonstrates respect for your interviewers and shows your professionalism and responsible character. Business casual is always a good bet for interviews, even if you’ll wear scrubs once you’re on the job.
The exception is working interviews, where you’ll be showing your skills on the clinic floor. Ask beforehand what kind of interview it is: if it’s just a regular informational interview, opt for a professional look like slacks and a button-up shirt, dress shoes, and a sports jacket or cardigan. Don’t show too much skin, and hide any tattoos with a long-sleeve shirt and long pants.
Share your training experience, either in a dental assistant program or on-the-job training. If the job specifies experience in an orthodontic practice, be sure to note this.
Example answer: “I completed an associate’s degree in dental assisting at Fairway Community College and was an orthodontic assistant at Family Smiles Orthodontists for 2 years, where I worked mostly in pediatric orthodontia.”
Since a large part of orthodontic assisting involves using a computer and medical software, note the training you’ve had. This isn’t the place to mention your social media savvy or gamer skills – stick to work!
Example answer: “I had several courses devoted to software and coding in my dental assistant program, so I’m comfortable with Electronic Health Records and dental billing codes. I have plenty of experience billing through Medicaid and Medicare.”
If you’re not up-to-date on HIPAA protocols, brush up before your interview so you’re ready to field any questions.
Example answer: “We covered HIPAA protocols extensively in my dental assisting program, and my last job took patient privacy very seriously. I understand the importance of abiding by HIPAA policies and always double-check to make sure I’m compliant.”
X-rays are a very important part of the orthodontic assistant job. If you’re licensed, note that – if you’re not, the office may help you become licensed, so note that you’d be happy to become licensed.
Example answer: “I helped in radiology as my last job nearly every day, so I’m very familiar. I received my x-ray license back in Connecticut, and am planning on getting licensed here in California as soon as I can.”
Since most dental assistants work in dental practices, this is a great opportunity to share what drew you specifically to orthodontics. A personal anecdote is a great way to connect to your interviewers and make a memorable case for your hiring.
Example answer: “I had braces for four years as a kid, so I spent a lot of time at the orthodontist’s office. I got to know the assistant really well, and she made the whole process so much more enjoyable. When I was picking a career, I remembered what a difference she made in my life, and I decided I wanted to help others with their smiles.”
As stated above, doing your research can make all the difference in answering this question. Demonstrate your respect and admiration, and make a note of how your skills will be an asset to their office.
Example answer: “I was drawn to your practice because of your focus on early orthodontic intervention. I love working with kids and have a knack for making them feel at ease. I’d love to learn from your experienced team and offer you my own talents.”
When answering a question like this, strike a balance between explaining a difficult situation and demonstrating how you overcame it. According to Forbes, you should divide the answer into 3 parts to give a PAR answer: state the Problem, explain the Action you took to correct it, and the Result of your action.
Example answer: “In my last position, we were having a workflow issue with instrument sterilization. We didn’t have a great system for whose responsibility it was, so sometimes we’d have to scramble to sterilize throughout the day. I brought it up with the office manager and suggested a rotating schedule that stayed the same so we could always know our shifts. It solved the problem pretty quickly, and it was a relief not to have to keep checking whether someone had sterilized instruments.”
Be honest and confident without boasting or putting others down. This is an opportunity to let your personality shine, but you don’t need to brag or compare.
Example answer: “I think I have a knack for connecting with patients while staying on task. Patients have told me before that the visit is over before they know it because we’ve been chatting and laughing throughout – but I’m focused on my tasks the whole time. I love working with a team and I think my respect and care for my colleagues shine through.”
Rather than put yourself down and look like an undesirable candidate, use your answer to this question to show how you’ve overcome a natural weakness, and how it’s made you a stronger candidate. This is an important question to prepare ahead of time, as it’s one of the most common interview questions for any job and is very likely to come up.
Example answer: “I’m dyslexic, and had a hard time keeping up with my peers in school, especially when it came to reading and writing. I found a tutor in high school who helped me identify where I struggled, and how to tackle a situation where I got stuck. I also developed an instinct for double-checking, just to make sure I haven’t accidentally made a mistake. I think that’s actually made me a more careful reader and writer because I’m extra careful not to make a mistake.”
It’s possible to answer a question like this without coming across as arrogant or bragging! Highlight your skills and experience, and also note while you’re drawn to this orthodontic practice.
Example answer: “I’ve heard a lot of great things about this practice, from patients and employees, and I can tell how passionate you are about patient care and making families feel welcome. As an orthodontic assistant, I’m always looking for an opportunity to go the extra mile for my patients and support my colleagues however I can. I think my dedication would be a great fit for your enthusiastic team!”