Land Your Dream Job: Tips for Success from an Owner Dentist – Cari Callaway-Nelson

Cari-Callaway-Nelson-landyourdreamjobIt may have been a few years since I went on my first job interview after graduating from dental school, but I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I felt so nervous and inadequate, thinking about the fact that I just graduated and this doctor I’m interviewing with has nearly forty years of experience. How can I possibly convince him that I know what I’m doing?
Now I am the practice owner, and the shoe is on the other foot. I am the one conducting the interviews and hiring new graduates. If I can give all new dental school graduates one bit of advice it would be this: RELAX.
With that in mind, I’d like to offer the following tips for success throughout the job search process.

Prepare for the Interview

  • Do your research

Find out as much as you can about the practice and the owner dentist. Familiarize yourself with the doctor, the office hours and the number of clinicians currently working in the office. Visit their website, blog, etc. Discover if they utilize modern technology and if so, be prepared to discuss it.
If the doctor is a solo practitioner, be prepared to discuss the need for an associate. Ask  about any previous associate and what made them successful or unsuccessful. Is the purpose of taking on an associate to allow the owner doctor to transition in some way, cut back hours, or grow the practice? Be prepared to discuss how you will be an asset to the practice and the owner doctor.

  • Define what has shaped you.

Character is more attractive to employers than skill. Spend some time thinking about who you are and what motivated you to become a dentist. If I am going to hire you, allow you to work on my patients and put my business in your hands, I want some insight into your personality. I want to know the “why” behind your work. I call it your “why-dentity.” What drives you?
For me, it was the dream of owning my own business and creating my own work environment. I always had an interest in healthcare and helping people. Dentistry was the vehicle for me to do what I was passionate about and be happy in my day to day routine. Work life balance was appealing to me. I wanted to be a wife and mother and still own my own business.
Share this “why-dentity” in your interview. Let them see you for who you truly are. If we can see who you are as a person and understand what you are passionate about, then we can serve you better as an employer, mentor and colleague.

  • Define your professional goals

Determine what type of opportunity you are seeking. Are you looking to become a long-term associate at the practice or are you looking for ownership potential? Ask about any opportunity or expectation for ownership. It is important to be honest and transparent from the outset.

  • Determine your financial expectations

Don’t avoid a conversation about money during your interview. Be honest about what you want to make. You may want to frame it in a question.  “If I want to earn $X per year, what would I have to do to accomplish this goal?” It would be helpful to come with a thorough understanding of your financial obligations including any student debt. What do you need to earn to cover your “monthly nut?”

Ace the Interview

  • Show that you are humble

Convey that you are confident with your abilities and the education that you have received, but acknowledge that there is still much to learn. Ask your potential employer what they are expecting from you as an associate. Ask them what kind of CE they attend regularly and what recommendations they would make to a new graduate.

  • Show that you are hungry

Demonstrate that you are inspired by others, but are self-motivated. Share any large or complicated cases that you may have treated in dental school. Share what you have learned from these experiences and how that garnered you clinical confidence. Show that you can be a source of optimism, passion and energy even when those around you are lacking in these areas. Let the owner dentist see that you can be a leader in the practice.
Always remember that you are evaluating the practice and owner dentist just as much as they are evaluating you.  Take the time to evaluate your options and which opportunity is the best fit for your goals and the way you want to practice dentistry.  It will save you a lot of headaches in the long run and bring you much closer to realizing your true potential as a dentist.

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