Career Compass

Treat your residency interviews like dating

Welcome to Residency Week! All week we’ll feature posts about what to expect from a residency, how to prepare and how to get in. If you’re thinking about doing a residency after dental school, be sure to subscribe now. We have 5 posts coming that will help you find your way through the dental residency process. 

And now for the first post of the week:

Fresh off General Practice Residency application season and Match Day being a thing of the past, I have to admit that the interview process was not what I expected. More importantly, it was very unlike the process of interviewing for admittance into dental school. Strangely enough, our faculty “advisor” for interviewing and CV review could not have been more wrong with his advice. And for that, I am thankful.

To preface this, I was applying to GPR programs within the New York metro area. There are a lot of programs, but that’s not surprising considering that PGY1 is required for licensure. I was extremely selective where I applied, and I have been told by the program directors that they were also equally selective. I was expecting the worse when it came time for that fateful interview day, but I actually enjoyed myself. I hope to give some insight into my experience and what I think shaped my interviews to the point where I actually had fun, for the most part.

I am confident that specialty programs like OMFS and Orthodontics put more weight on grades and class rank. However, I was expecting my GPR interviews to touch on the subject of academics too. Instead, they were more like first dates. Only at my first interview, it was like leaving my wallet home and my gal was stuck picking up the check. You see, I was told by my advisors that I would be asked about my grades (“C” is for Cookie, it’s good enough for me), what I thought my strengths and weaknesses were, my research, my outreach, etc. Pretty heavy stuff if you ask me. It was the polar opposite.

I went into my first interview/date with my “canned,” I mean, “prepared” answers. However, the date did not go as planned. I was asked, “what did you do last weekend?” I was taken aback. I’m a gamer and I spent the weekend painting miniatures while my wife was at yoga. Did they really want to hear that? I paused for what seemed like an eternity while I debated with myself if I was actually going to answer truthfully. Could I somehow spin it into how I’m a good dental student? To relate back to dating, you can’t build a good relationship based on a lie, so I told them the truth. Yes, their look was a bit quizzical, but it opened the door for me to talk about a big hobby of mine, and my short-lived foray into yoga with my wife. More importantly, I was then able to ask the same question right back. This exchange then led to a discussion on all the great things we’ve done on weekends in NYC. That’s how we connected. My Cs never came up.

My next date (I mean interview), went similarly. There were five interviewers sitting around a small table. I thought that if there was ever going to be a difficult interview day, it was going to be this one. Instead, we started off talking about my alma mater’s football team and their surprising start to the season. The next series of questions asked about what super-power I wanted and what was my favorite book and movie. We talked about my cat. They even asked if I had photos of the latest miniature I was painting and then passed around my cell phone to each of the interviewers. Eventually, the truth came out. There would be a total of eight residents at the program site, and they wanted to know I could get along with people. All this emphasis on grades and academic feathers in my cap was misguided. To them, when it came to ranking their residents, personality won out.

My last date of the interview season was with the proverbial “Dream girl.” This was my number one choice. The one aspect of my CV that dictated the whole course of that interview was the one section that I was “advised” to leave off. At the end of my CV is a Personal Interests section. It has things like diving, home-brewing, kayaking, etc. My CV is probably too long as it is, and it was recommended I leave this section on the cutting floor. I kept it in. Every question and talking point revolved around the items I had in that section. Let’s just say we ended the day talking about our mutual love of Mythbusters and the Velociraptor article I wrote for Mouth.

I am happy to say I’ll be spending the next year with my “Dream girl.” I would later find out from my future co-resident that beach volleyball was a large part of his interview. Classmates of mine shared similar stories from other programs where dentistry was the last topic of discussion. So take a deep breath, be real, and be ready to talk about all the things you love to do outside of school. If you pretend like it’s a first date, you’ll do great.

~ Greg Sabino, Ph.D., Stony Brook ’16, 2015 – 2016 editor-in-chief

Gregory Sabino

Gregory Sabino is a fourth year dental student at Stony Brook University. In 2010, he received his Ph. D. in Molecular and Cell Biology with a concentration in Immunology. Prior to attending Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine, he conducted his post-doctoral research in the Department of Periodontology. He is the current 2015 - 2016 National ASDA Editor in Chief.

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1 Comment

  1. You must give careful consideration to meetings before you get started – so use a meeting space San Francisco to talk with your colleagues about how you intend to go about meeting your goals.

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