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How to Land Your First Job (Associate Position)


You’re on a high after completing FOUR YEARS of dental school. Hundreds of hours were spent studying and navigating the dental profession. Now it’s time to find an associate position…… Do you feel prepared? Are there things you think dental school could have taught you? The short answer is yes. There are so many things dental school could have taught you, but they  didn't. AND THAT'S OKAY. We are here to help! (Click here to access our guide).

The interview process is your opportunity to showcase your skills, experience, and passion for dentistry. To help you make a lasting impression, we've compiled a comprehensive guide of interview tips explicitly tailored for dental associate positions.

Before the interview, thoroughly assess the dental practice. 

  • Where is the practice located?
  • What procedures would you most likely perform daily? 
  • What are the mentorship opportunities? 

Understand the practice's mission as well to see if it aligns with your own core values. This knowledge will demonstrate your interest and help tailor your responses to align with the practice's goals.

You should also expect questions about your education, experience, and achievements. If you’ve completed an AEGD/ GPR program, tell them about it! Tell them about your passion for dentistry and what services you can provide confidently. Be prepared to discuss specific cases, procedures, and notable accomplishments in your dental career (even if it’s just getting started) and for behavioral questions that assess your problem-solving skills, adaptability, and ability to handle stress. Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to structure your responses, providing specific examples that showcase your abilities.

On a similar note, don’t forget that you’re also interviewing them as well! Come prepared with questions that could help bring more light to the position. If the current associate is leaving, ask to speak with them. It may be a red flag if they don’t allow this communication. 

Of course, dental practices thrive on teamwork. Communicate your experience working collaboratively with other dental professionals, hygienists, and support staff. Highlight instances where you contributed to a positive team dynamic and helped achieve common goals. It’s also essential to discuss mentorship opportunities, as they directly relates to your growth and the practice's growth. Don’t be afraid to ask how you will be supported!

It’s also great to showcase your commitment to professional development by discussing continuing education courses, certifications, or workshops you've attended. Demonstrate awareness of current trends and advancements in the dental field, emphasizing your dedication to staying at the forefront of industry knowledge.

Once you finally land a position, make sure to hire a lawyer to review any associate contract. We have seen some exciting things included in an assistant contract. After the interview, send a thank-you email expressing your gratitude for the opportunity. Reiterate your enthusiasm for the position and briefly summarize how your skills align with the practice's needs.

Last but not least, approach your dental associate interview with confidence, preparation, and a clear understanding of your strengths and the dental practice's needs. You'll increase your chances of securing the dental associate position you aspire to by showcasing your clinical expertise, patient-centered approach, and commitment to teamwork. Good luck!