Whether you are a recent graduate or a seasoned veteran,
the process of interviewing for a job is enough
to send shivers down the spine of even the most hardy.
Harriet H. Kushins, CDA, RDH, BA, and
Rona Rockland, RDH, BS
In order to achieve success and satisfaction in your job, you must spend time exploring and preparing for your career path before an interview. At this junction, it is important to reflect on your personal objectives and goals. Create a personal philosophy and write down ideas that will embody your purpose for enjoyable and productive employment. Consider each of these questions ...
- Where have I been?
- Where am I now?
- Where do I want to go?
- How am I going to get there?
- How will I know when I`ve arrived?
Ask for input from family members and peers to help you define your direction. Role-play with those whom you know best. Bounce your ideas off others, and share your concerns. Use tapes to record "practice interviews" and play them back. Share your thoughts and feelings with your family and friends to answer these questions. This will build your confidence and prepare you for the job interview.
Now you are ready to create your mission statement - a written statement defining your professional goals - keeping in mind the career path you wish to follow. Your mission statement may include the following elements:
n Commitment to work and being the best at your job. Be willing to learn new technologies and accept challenges. Be flexible, self-motivated, and enthusiastic. These personal characteristics will make you a successful candidate.
Following a code of ethics. In your routine working environment, you must be aware of any ethical discrepancies relating to your tasks.
Ask yourself these questions. Am I competent to perform this task? Am I performing this procedure in a safe working environment that meets OSHA standards? Do I maintain complete and accurate records, and have I documented all information arising with the patients? Am I respecting the patient`s right to privacy and confidentiality?
> Functioning as a team player. To function as an effective team player, you must have a friendly attitude toward other staff members, maintain office policies, observe office hours, establish meaningful social friendships with staff, and be able to accept constructive criticism.
> Strengths. Think about why you should be hired. Can you work under stress? Do you have strong communication skills? Are you well-organized? Are you dependable? Are you on time for work? Do you always do the job assigned to you?
> Weaknesses. Do you have limited experience in specific skills? Are there certain types of personalities that you have difficulty with? Do you lack self-confidence? Are you impatient? Can you address your weaknesses and begin to change them?
> Population segment you would like to serve. Be aware of the variety of potential opportunities and localities of work available. Then determine more specifically what types/kinds of people you want to serve, such as the handicapped, the compromised, or the geriatric patient.
> Workplace/job environment. Do you want to work in a small office, multiple practices, or large group practices? You may want to take a position in research, teaching, or work for a dental insurance company. Dental manufacturers and laboratories also offer employment opportunities.You may be interested in institutional dentistry - prisons, VA hospitals, and clinics. Opportunities in a foreign country, an underdeveloped, rural town, or a reservation may also be among your options.
Write, review, and commit to achieving your goals. Realize that goals might change, and flexibility is a constant factor in the challenges ahead. Once you have designed your own mission, identified your career goals, and compared your professional, moral, and social values with those of potential employers, you are now ready to embark on finding the "right job" that will suit your needs.
The interview is an opportunity for both prospective employer and employee to exchange information and determine if employment will be positive for all involved. Your preparation for the process includes objectives, a mission statement, and your goals. These tools can make the difference between an unhappy, unfulfilling work life or a smooth transition into the "job of your dreams."
The three major components that require consideration during the interview are:
Y Job responsibility (including hours and scheduling)
Do the job responsibilities outlined by the employer match your initial mission statement and professional goals? Be aware of less desirable tasks and functions that may compromise your daily work schedule. This information should be made clear to you during the interview. It is prudent to confer with other practitioners - as well as your local association - about the range of salaries in your area.
The interview should cover questions pertaining to:
Y The criteria for performance review
Y How and when salary increases are awarded
Y The compensation policy for staff when the employer closes the office
If the interviewer does not discuss these questions, you should be prepared to inquire about office policy regarding these issues. A policy addressing these questions is often omitted; therefore, these topics should be brought up at the appropriate time.
Suggest a performance review after three to six months, then a yearly review. Determine your employer`s vacation policy and make sure your vacation plans coincide with his or hers.
Avoiding potential problems
If the interviewer does not address such issues, a pertinent line of questioning to pursue would be: "What would be my typical responsibilities on an average day in the office, and how much time do I have to complete these tasks?"
A number of years ago, one of the authors took a job in an office and neglected to ask this question. Unfortunately, she soon found that during the course of a 45-minute recall appointment, she was also expected to complete patient insurance forms and do bookkeeping for accounts receivable on each patient. Since the employee had very little experience in these areas, she did not enjoy these tasks.
This situation created a very stressful work environment. Had the question been asked at the interview, the potential employee could have avoided this situation based on the following:
Y A request to modify the job responsibilities or the amount of time allowed to perform these tasks
Y A request that some of these responsibilities be assigned to another staff member
Y A decision that if the employer was not willing to modify the situation, perhaps this was not the right job
Methods of compensation
There are several methods of compensation: fixed salary, salary plus commission, and commission only. Fixed salary offers an hourly or weekly rate. Salary plus commission is a base salary plus a percentage of the fees collected. Commission is a straight percentage of patients` fees for service rendered or a guaranteed minimum base. Before you request one of the compensation plans, consider these factors:
Y Local area practices - Some are salary-based; others offer comission plans.
Y Your level of expertise - If you are a new graduate, consider a salary-based position until your speed and accuracy become more proficient.
Y Your comfort levels with each of the compensation plans - Are you satisfied with commission that allows you to earn more money, but leaves you with downtime due to cancellations, inclement weather, and related situations?
With the "cafeteria" plan of benefits now offered in many practices, it is extremely important to know your priorities before the interview. A young, single parent might have needs such as child care, insurance, personal days, and sick days. Because of their potential high costs, health insurance and child care require strong consideration.
An individual in her 50s with grown children might have different needs, such as a retirement plan, profit sharing, and increased vacation time. Again, know the value of each of these benefits, and then prepare to negotiate those benefits that are less important. As the interview proceeds and information is gathered, you should remain clearly focused on your mission statement.
Go after that dream job!
You are now ready to market your skills in an effective interview. Keep in mind that you must continue to improve your skills by learning new technologies in your profession; this will further enhance your interview. Continue to evaluate your objectives and ask yourself if they have been addressed and are realistic. In the final analysis, carefully determine if this potential opportunity is right for you. Your vision should be clear and certain.
Harriet H. Kushins, CDA, RDH, BA, is an adjunct clinical instructor in the Allied Dental Education Department, New Jersey Dental School, University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, N.J., and Bergen Community College, Paramus, N.J. In addition, she is currently a radiology lab instructor in the Allied Dental Education Department. She has 25 years of clinical dental hygiene experience in general and pediatric practices. Rona Rockland, RDH, BS, is an adjunct clinical instructor in the Allied Dental Education Department, New Jersey Dental School, University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, N.J.
CONSIDER THESE QUESTIONS TO CREATE YOUR OWN PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY ...
Where have I been?
Reflect on your employment history, inquiries relating to your recent job, and changing your job. Be ready to explain questions regarding your job history.
Where am I now?
The career path that you have designed for yourself at the present time is important so that you can securely follow a course of direction.
Where do I want to go?
Identify your short-term and long-term goals. Think about the present and the future, and try to envision where you want to go.
How am I going to get there?
What are the necessary steps to achieve your short-term and long-term goals?
How will I know when I have arrived?
Determine your level of success - is it financial security and/or personal growth? Only you can determine those answers.
A BENEFIT PACKAGE MAY BE INCLUSIVE OR ABBREVIATED BASED ON THE FOLLOWING ...
- Dress allowance
- Retirement plan
- Profit sharing
- Child care
- Personal and sick days
- Continuing education
- Family leave of absence
- Professional memberships (reimbursement of fees)