Written by: Dr. John Castronova, Diamond Braces Orthodontist
Date: January 24, 2022
Congratulations, you landed an interview for an orthodontist job!
It’s important to be prepared before any interview, to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward. As Forbes notes, ahead-of-time research can make the difference between getting you the job and leaving you in the discard pile.
This guide will help you prepare for any orthodontist interview, whether it’s your first job out of residency or you’re back on the market after a few years in practice.
Did you know Forbes recommends that you schedule your appointment in the morning? According to research, Tuesday through Thursdays before lunch are the best times to interview – employers may have other focuses at the beginning and end of the week, and after lunch they may be tired or distracted.
It’s also important to prepare ahead of time, by doing your research on the orthodontic office where you want to work, and preparing your responses to some likely questions. Having a sense of what you’ll share about yourself will prevent you from blanking or fumbling your words during the interview. The Balance Careers notes that practicing a mock interview with a friend or family member can help you shake out nerves and prepare your responses ahead of time.
When researching the orthodontic practice, go beyond the home page: look through patient reviews, educational pages, any research or articles they’ve been in, and the company founder. This will help you develop an understanding of the practice and decide whether it’s right for you, and whether you’re a good fit for them!
Dressing like you want the job and care about your professionalism is key as well. Dress professionally but not ostentatiously: investigation from Forbes found that wearing luxury designer logos on your clothes can send the wrong message to prospective employers.
Opt instead for clean, pressed slacks or skirt, button-up or blouse, and a cardigan, blazer, or sports jacket. A neat pair of dark denim jeans with no holes is acceptable if your research suggests that the office is more casual. Skip the sneakers and wear a pair of dress shoes as well.
Be sure to bring a copy of your resume as well: they may ask for an extra copy to keep.
Share you training and experience, including orthodontic residency and any other internships or previous work experience. If you won any awards or were top of your class, you can mention this here, but don’t spend too much time on the details: they have your resume for the full details of your experience. You should also mention your licensing, as each state has its own requirements for orthodontic licenses.
Example answer: “I went to University of Michigan for dental school and completed my orthodontic residency at Montefiore hospital in New York. I spent two years in a small private practice in New Jersey, and now I’m looking for a larger practice to gain experience with more complex procedures. I’m licensed to practice here in New Jersey, and I’m also board-certified by the American Association of Orthodontists.”
Since most dental school graduates go on to practice general dentistry, orthodontists have a unique story to tell about what drew them to a specialist career in orthodontics. This is an opportunity to share your personal story: rather than general comments like, “I liked orthodontics”, try to pinpoint the moment you decided on this career and what made you interested. This will make you more memorable to the interviewers, and a more relatable candidate for the job.
Example answer: “I had braces for 3 years as a kid, so I spent a lot of time at the orthodontist. I remember being doubtful that the doctor could really fix my crowded teeth, and when my braces came off and my mom and I saw the results, we both cried. It was a really powerful moment that I never forgot, and after that, I was always interested in being able to help kids the way my orthodontist helped me!”
This question provides an opportunity to talk about how you overcame a struggle. Rather than focus on how terrible the situation was or how helpless you felt, use this opportunity to show your ability to solve problems and find improvement. According to Topinterview.com, you can use the STAR method to answer this question: lay out the Situation and the Task you needed to complete to fix it; describe the Action you took to do so, and the Result of your action. This helps you answer the question as a story, with a beginning, middle, and end.
Example answer: “When I first started, I wasn’t prepared for the amount of paperwork we had to complete each day, and I quickly got buried in trying to finish it. Some of my fellow residents seemed to sail through it and I got really down on myself. I reached out to one of the mentoring orthodontists for help, and she showed me her process for methodically getting through it every day. I adopted her system and gradually made tweaks so it worked for me. It worked so well, I ended up teaching it to some of my fellow residents. It was a good lesson in the importance of consistent routines when it comes to daily workflow!”
You should prepare for at least 1-2 clinical questions in an orthodontic interview, so spend time ahead of your interview reflecting on some cases you’re proud of. You don’t need to go into too much detail, but share the results and why you’re proud of them.
Example: “We had a patient in her 70s who had always wanted to correct her overjet, and she finally decided it was time. Unfortunately, she had some pretty significant gum recession, so I referred her to a periodontist to get treated before we started her on Invisalign. We worked closely to develop a treatment plan, and she was actually able to start on Invisalign sooner than expected. The result was a beautiful smile with much healthier gums than when she came in to our office. I was glad we were able to improve her overall oral health and help her achieve the smile she’d always wanted.”
You don’t need to exaggerate and say you subscribe to every orthodontics magazine and email listserve in existence, but it’s important to demonstrate that you’re following the latest changes and innovations in orthodontic care.
Example answer: “I’m a board-certified member of the American Association of Orthodontists, and I’ve attended one of their conferences every year since I began my orthodontic residency. I also subscribe to their magazine, as well as several others. I love conferences because they help connect me to other orthodontists in my region and beyond, to catch up on the latest innovations in care.”
If you’re currently employed but looking for a new job, this is likely to come up. Answer this question honestly, but don’t badmouth your current employer – it never looks good. If you were fired, try to frame it in the most positive terms possible, but don’t lie. Always come back to why you’re looking to grow in a new position, and how you can benefit the orthodontic practice you’re interviewing with.
Example answer: “The last orthodontic office I worked with was very small, only me and one other orthodontist. That meant we were seeing a much smaller volume of patients, and due to the demographics it wasn’t the most complex caseload. I’m hoping to join a larger practice like yours to master a wider array of skills.”
This is a chance to show your best attributes – but not an opportunity to boast or put others down. Rather than focus on stats (eg, “I was the top of my class”), focus on those personal qualities that make you an outstanding provider for your patients.
Example answer: “I think my greatest strengths are my ability to communicate information to patients and families, so they understand the treatment process and what to expect. I’m also an effective teammate, so I’m always thinking about how to support my colleagues in their work. I don’t think the orthodontist is in charge just because of training – dental hygienists and assistants are just as important to effective care, and I make sure everyone feels supported and valued on my team.”
It’s best to frame an answer to a question like this as an obstacle you’ve overcome, rather than a problem you struggle with now. You don’t want to diminish your appeal as a candidate, but everyone is human, so acknowledging the ways you’ve struggled and worked to catch up shows that you know yourself, and can learn from your mistakes.
Example answer: “My whole life, I’ve been a do-first, ask-questions-later kind of person. This got me into trouble in school, and I really learned the limitations of this method in my residency. Orthodontics is all about asking questions first – you have to take the time to create a treatment plan that’s really going to work. I have trained myself to slow down and ask questions so I’m not rushing too fast, with my patients, or anywhere.”
If you’ve spent any time in the dental field, you’ve seen firsthand how much teamwork matters. This office will want to know that you understand the importance of teamwork, and that it’s not just about keeping the orthodontist happy.
Example answer: “I think good communication is the number one factor in a successful team. There are a lot of moving parts in the orthodontic clinic, and making sure everyone’s on the same page is key. Daily check-ins and huddles can definitely help and reviewing patient notes together. I’ve seen how things can break down when there’s bad communication, so I always try to go the extra mile to ensure my team knows what I’m doing and thinking.”
This is an excellent oportunity to make your final “elevator pitch”, as Glassdoor notes. Skip the vague nice things about you (eg, “I care about my patients”), and find the unique details of your experience and skills that make you the best fit for their team. Use specifics about your training and accomplishments. You can also take this opportunity to share what you like about them – after all, you want to be excited about the job as well!
Example answer: “I believe I’d be a strong addition to your team. My experience in a large orthodontic practice has given me a wide range of skills, and I’ve successfully treated over 300 cases personally. My attention to detail and my dedication to my team would serve your team well, and I’d love to be a part of such a close-knit team that seems to really support each other.”