Surviving the interview process: Be the gem they discover and keep!

Feb. 8, 2012

By Jan Keller

It’s time to get a job. Now what? How do you ensure you are the one who dazzles — the one who is “the gem” — on your resume, in the interview, and once you finally land the job?

Most employers will tell you it’s surprisingly easy to stand out in the applicant crowd if you follow a few simple rules. So let’s take a look at what some of those rules are, and how you can make sure you’re the gem they find and want to keep.

The journey from applying for a job to showing up for work on Day One can be summed up in a seven-step process. Let’s take a closer look at the steps, and how you can avoid possible mis-steps along the way.

Step One
Step One is pretty straightforward. Answer the ad in the manner requested. For example, if they ask for resumes to be emailed, do not fax yours. Then call to make sure the application has been received, and ask if there is any other information you can provide. Be polite, not pushy.

Details matter! Remember … you are not the only one applying for this job, and chances are you’re not the only qualified one applying for this job. Take extra time to make sure your resume represents you as it should. Check to see if it’s clear and easy to read. (Absolutely no “fun” fonts!) Are there any spelling or grammatical errors? Make sure to include a cover letter if requested. Keep the letter brief and to the point, and your signature should be legible.

Every communication you have regarding this job application, whether it’s written or spoken, must look and sound professional. These days, you can even expect your potential employers to look for you on social media sites. What will they learn about you from doing so?

Don’t rush this first step. It’s vital to your chances of moving on to Step Two.

Step Two
You have now moved on to a telephone interview. Make sure you know, or be sure to ask, what the practice is looking for. Your tone of voice and diction should be clear and professional. Answer the questions they ask of you, and inquire if you don’t understand a question.

Step Three
Congratulations, you’ve made it to the face-to-face interview. Stand out from the start by understanding the Five P’s that will positively impact your chances of begin hired:

1. Punctuality.
No excuses here. Don’t walk in late and say, “You wouldn’t believe how heavy the traffic was!” Yes they would, they deal with it every day. Make a dry run if you’re not sure where you’re going. Be on time or don’t expect to get the job, end of story.
2. Presence. Assess your professional attire, makeup, and grooming, including nails, perfume, jewelry, tattoos, and piercings. The practice is looking for someone who will be a good fit. If that’s you, make sure you do not undermine your chances of getting the job by ignoring these small but important factors.
3. Preparation. Have you done your homework? Do you know what the practice is looking for and how you can fill that role? Show genuine interest in the job and the office. If you find that difficult to do, you may not be applying for the right job.
4. Promotion. Don’t be afraid to sing your own praises, which is not the same as being arrogant or superior. Be honest, enthusiastic, and genuine.
5. Professionalism. Employers want employees who are courteous, respectful, use appropriate language, and, in a dental office, are caring and understanding with patients. Make sure they know they can rely on you to be that employee.

What to expect, and be prepared for, in your interview
Ideally, interviews will be held in a private setting, and you will be given a brief overview of the interview process. Expect a detailed description of the job, and employ the 80/20 rule, with the person being interviewed doing 80% of the talking. Expect someone to take notes during the interview so the office can review details later. For this reason, it’s important to make sure your answers are clear — did you say what you meant to say and did the right answer get recorded? You can ask if you’re not sure. “It’s important to me that my answer was clear, so I would just like to say again that…”

Keep in mind that the interview process is not a one-way street. You need to know what questions can legally be asked or not. You will be asked if you have any questions for the doctor or the practice, at which point you should say yes, then you can conduct your own (brief) interview. Again, you are both looking for a good fit, and now is the best time to make sure an office is right for you, which is just as important as you being right for them.

What to expect after the interview
The interview is coming to a close. At this point, you should:
• Shake hands and thank them for inviting you to the interview.
• Ask when you will hear about their decision, and how they will contact you. Phone? Email? Letter?
• Send a follow-up thank you letter.

Step Four
The interview went well, and you have been invited back for lunch and a skills assessment. Let’s look at the skills assessment first. Your potential employer will be looking for certain attributes, including skill level, self-motivation, and communication skills. They will also be looking at how well you get along with other team members and patients. Testing of your abilities may include:
• Four-handed dentistry
• Taking radiographs
• Chart documentation
• Sterilization procedures
• OSHA guidelines

Step Five
The skills assessment is over and it’s time for lunch with the team. Understand this is not just a meal, but another, though more casual, interview. You will probably be asked questions that are not just job-related, but family- and home-related. Be honest, but use your judgment. If you talk about problems with day care, or the fact that your car is on its last legs, you may raise red flags.

Step Six
You’ve been offered the job — well done! Now is the time to make sure you understand exactly what the job is (clarify the job description), begin the final salary negotiation, agree on start dates and hours, and learn who you will report to. Ask what orientation and training is in place for you. Be proactive.

Step Seven
It’s day one on the job, and there are two more steps to complete — orientation and the training plan. Orientation should take place with the doctor or office manager and should last no less than one hour, and preferably be longer. Ask detailed questions about how the office works and what you can do to begin making an immediate impact.

Your training plan should outline in detail how you will learn your job, who will train you, and how much time this will take. This is vital to your job success, so make sure everyone is on the same training plan page.

As you look ahead, keep in mind what you can do to ensure your long-term success and enjoyment of your job. Remember these four invaluable lessons:

QTIP - Quit taking it personally. You will undoubtedly receive negative feedback at some point in your job. Accept it, learn from it, and move on with a positive attitude.

Understand that performance reviews are a good thing. They are your opportunity to learn and grow. Don’t fear or dread them.

Don’t expect something for nothing. There is nothing employers like more than employees who give as much as they get. Be cognizant of what you can do to contribute to your practice’s success, and then do it.

Learn how to ask questions and ask for help. No one knows everything, nor should they be expected to. But if you don’t ask questions when you don’t know, or don’t ask for help when you need it, you will be more of an obstacle than an asset.

Follow these simple guidelines and don’t be surprised to find that next time YOU are the gem they find and don’t want to let go!

Janice Keller has 25-plus years of experience in dentistry, clinically, and as an office manager and software trainer. Now, as a practice management consultant, she provides high-quality, customized practice development and education to clients and their teams. Janice is certified by Bent Ericksen & Associates in employee law compliance, and also certified by the Institute of Practice Management. She is a member of the Speaking/Consulting Network, and the Academy of Dental Management Consultants. Contact her at [email protected].