Talk Less, Listen More: 10 Tips for a Better Interview

An illustration of the first day in the office

Whether you are hiring someone or looking to be hired, an interview is the traditional way to assess whether or not a person or situation is a good fit. At ADA Practice Transitions, the interview is typically the first time that two dentists get to discuss their goals and weigh how strong a potential match may be.

Anything with high stakes – such as a practice transition – merits some preparation. Don’t go into an interview cold. Instead, keep these tips in mind when preparing for and managing an interview.

  1. Remember this is a two-way street
    Whether you are the hiring dentist or the dentist seeking an associateship, both parties are evaluating the situation to determine the fit. Both dentists are assessing if this is a person they can work with in a successful working relationship. If you assume it is just about your wants and needs, it is unlikely to go well.

  2. Talk less than 50% of the time
    This is an important consequence of tip #1: when hiring an associate, both parties are simultaneously the “interviewer” and “interviewee.” Make sure you recognize that and allow time for yourself and the other dentist to answer questions and share who they are and why they may be a good fit. Embrace the awkward silence: allow pauses so the other person has time to tell their side of the story.

  3. Stop doing other things!
    I wish I didn’t have to say this, but silence your phone (better yet, turn it off) and put it out of reach for the duration of the interview. Make sure the person you are speaking with knows they have your full attention. You don’t check your text messages while treating a patient, right? If you’re on a phone interview, step away from any devices that might tempt your attention.

  4. Provide affirmation
    The best way to let someone know you are listening is to provide subtle, non-interruptive responses – nods, mmm-hmm, OK, that makes sense, interesting. This is equally important – perhaps more so – on a phone interview.

    Put the phone down and make eye contact. Make sure the person you are speaking with knows they have your full attention.

  5. Do your homework
    This is not about being a stalker. Just Google the person to see if they have published a blog post or have an interesting online presence where you can look for common ground. Glance at LinkedIn to see if you have a shared school or connection. If you are interviewing for a job, look at the practice’s online presence to get a feel for its personality.

  6. Plan for your conversation
    Even if you are confident in what you want to learn, make notes and a list of questions. Having said that, do not read your list in order, and make sure you don’t need to scroll through your phone to find it. If possible, let each question flow out of the candidate’s answer to the previous question.

  7. Invite them to ask you questions
    This is the most important part of the interview for me. I learn the most by hearing what questions a candidate chooses to ask and I use my answers to share what I find most important about the role in question. If a candidate has no questions, I wonder how interested they actually are.

  8. Be yourself
    I never understand why people want to be markedly different in an interview. I tend to joke around a bit in interviews because I joke around a bit during my day. If a candidate is uncomfortable with that, I don’t want them to be surprised when it is a regular part of my interactions with them.

  9. Pay attention to non-verbal communication
    Think about your posture, lean in to show interest, avoid crossing your arms, and make eye contact. Your non-verbal cues speak volumes about how you interact with people. This is even true on the phone. In fact, consider standing during a phone interview, as it perks up your posture and energy level.

  10. Be open-minded
    Try to remain open to things that may be different than what you expected. Sometimes a person who is different than what you anticipated can be a way to open up new possibilities.

Do you have a favorite question to ask? Here is one of mine: Tell me about a mentor from your life (not necessarily from dentistry). What have you learned from your mentor that you apply to your life today?

Share your best interview tips in the comment section below! And if you're ready to start your own path to a new role, start your ADA Practice Transitions Profile today.