The first thing we recommend you do is to visit the CDA official website and become familiar with this organization.
You must also read the official paper that was published on the reliability and validity of the CDA structured interview. This paper provides a good amount of background information about the history of dental school interviews, the implementation of the new CDA structured interview, the rationale behind the new interview, the format of the interview, types of questions, scoring system, etc. This is a very important tool that you must use prior to your actual interview date.
Understand the seven competencies. By understanding the seven competencies you will be able to better identify and categorize questions in a more systematic manner so that you can formulate a well thought out response. Once you have understood the competencies, try to create either SI type questions or PBDI style questions that contain one or more of the seven competencies. Recall that all questions test your communication skills, so the challenge will be how to incorporate other competencies into your questions.
Perform mock interviews in the same format as the actual CDA interview. Research shows that, just like anything else that you are preparing for (i.e. sports competition, music performance, DAT exam, etc.) functional training is the most appropriate and effective way to prepare. By functional training we mean preparing in a manner that mimics the actual event that is going to be encountered in the future. For example, if you are going to run a 10 km race, you will need to practice running well in advance and attempt to run a 10 km distance prior to the actual race day. That would be considered FUNCTIONAL training. Reading a book, weight lifting, or watching a documentary on long distance running, on the other hand, would not be considered functional training, as neither of those activities mimics running a 10 km distance.
Much like the way you prepared for your DAT, which involved doing mock tests, preparing for the CDA interview will require you to perform mock interviews. That would be the most functional approach to preparing for this very important interview. Reading books about interviews, looking at sample questions, and memorizing answers, however helpful they may be, would be considered non- functional approaches to preparing and those tactics will not give you the best odds at acing your interview. In fact, research has shown that,
Get professional feedback on your performance during mock interviews to learn more about your strengths and weaknesses. Just like in sports, when it comes to preparing for interviews, coaching matters! In preparing for your interview, it is not simply enough to perform mock interviews over and over again. What is important is that you receive appropriate feedback from an expert about your performance, so that you can make adjustments. Remember that, practice makes permanent, not perfect! So, the more you practice your interview skills without receiving constructive criticism, the more likely you will be to develop bad habits and poor tactics that will hurt you during your actual interview.
After performing your mock interviews and receiving appropriate feedback from an expert, it is important to spend some time reflecting back on the experience in order to gain an appreciation of how you can improve in the future. You should ask yourself, what went well? What did not go so well? What things can you do in the future to improve? What ideas do I need to reinforce for myself? Reflective learning is a very powerful tool and it will allow you to continuously refine your skills as you perform more and more mock interviews.
Repeat steps 1 to 6 until you score 35 on your mock interviews.
Lastly, as part of your preparations, become as familiar as you can with the dental school for which you have been invited for an interview. Get to know the faculty, the curriculum, and the type of research that is conducted at the school. Also, take the opportunity to visit the school well in advance of your interview date so that you are familiar with your surroundings. You do not want to be overstressed by the anxiety of being a new place on your actual interview day. So spend some time visiting the school. School tours, which are most often provided by actual students from the dental school, are a great way to get to know the school, the atmosphere, and more importantly, they can serves as a great opportunity to gain some first hand insight from students who have gone through the interview process already.
How to reduce anxiety & maximize your confidence In order to feel absolutely prepared and to reduce the anxiety and stress that you may be feeling either prior or during your interview, there are several steps you can take to minimize the effects of these unwanted feelings, which are shown to be the primary reason why candidates do not perform well in front of the admissions committee. There are long term and short term steps you can take to reduce your stress and to improve your confidence.
In the long run (i.e. months or weeks prior to your interview date), there are several steps that you can take to reduce your stress level. First, you can reduce your stress and anxiety by preparing for your interview with mock sessions. The more you prepare and familiarize yourself with the interview process, the types of questions, etc., and the more you refine your interview skills, the more confidant you will feel at your actual interview. Second, in order to reduce the anxiety and stress that you may be feeling, we recommend that you visit the school for which you will be interviewing and go on a tour of the school with a dental student of the faculty. This process will not only familiarize you with the environment in which you will be performing your interview, but it will also serve as a great opportunity to discuss the interview with a current student who has already gone through the process. These students are always helpful and friendly and are eager to share their insight and experience with incoming students. Third, we recommend that you spend a lot of time learning as much as you can about the dental school, its curriculum, its faculty, the type of research conducted at the school, etc. in order to be well-versed about the program in case you are asked a question relating to the dental school.
What can you do on the actual interview day to reduce your stress and anxiety? Well, it all starts with the way you organize yourself the day before the actual interview. The day prior to your interview date should be used as a day to relax and unwind. You should not be performing any more mock interviews, or studying past questions. In fact, studying the day before your interview can actually have detrimental effects on your performance. We recommend that you take it easy, go to bed early, so that you are well rested, and try to take your mind off of the interview as much as possible.
On the day of the actual interview, wake up at least two to three hours prior to your scheduled time, have a good meal, and leave yourself with ample travel time so that you are not feeling rushed. Once you get to the site of the interview, keep in mind that your evaluation will begin the minute you walk into the building and NOT once you are in front of the interview panel. Thus, when entering the building make sure you look excited (i.e. smile ☺) to be there and politely address all of the administrative personal who will be there to greet you. Also, once you have signed in and are waiting to begin your interview, it is important that you engage the other candidates and demonstrate good interpersonal skills. Do not be shy to start a conversation with the other students who are also there for an interview. This is a great opportunity to showcase your personality and interpersonal skills.
Prior to entering your interview room perform the following tasks:
A) Wash your hands with warm water and soap so that you do not have sweaty palms. You should also have a handkerchief in your pocket so that you can wipe off the excess sweat prior to entering the room and shaking hands with the interviewers.
B) Go to a quiet area where there are no other people around and begin taking on Physiologically Dominant Positions or PDPs. By this we mean either standing with your arms wide open and above your shoulders (as if you are going to give someone a big hug) for about one or two minutes, or sitting down at a chair, with your hands behind your head and feet up on a desk/chair. These PDPs will trick your brain to release chemicals that will make you feel more confident and dominant, and by default reduce your anxiety and stress.
C) Prior to entering the interview room, take a few minutes to perform deep breathing exercises. Take a deep breath in through your nose and slowly exhale through your mouth, ensuring that you are using your diaphragm. Repeat this three to five times prior to entering the room. The prolong exhalation that is associated with deep diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and simultaneously tone down the sympathetic nervous system. This is why basketball players or military snipers perform deep breathing exercise prior to shooting a free throw or a distant target, respectively. The prolong exhalation helps them reduce their heart rate and their anxiety. Interestingly enough, this is the same reason people feel relaxed after crying or laughing. It is the prolonged exhalation that is associated with both laughing and crying that causes the parasympathetic nervous system to activate and helps us relax. So take advantage of this biological loop-hole to calm your nerves prior to entering a room.
Once you are in the room, make sure you approach all of the interviewers and offer them a warm and firm handshake. Ensure that you smile and maintain eye contact as you introduce yourself to the interviewers. It is also essential that you remember the interviewers names as they introduce themselves to you, so that you can refer to them by their names and titles either during your responses, or when your interview is over and you are saying your goodbyes. An excellent way to remember someone’s name is to repeat their name back after they introduce themselves to you. For example, if the interviewer says, “Hello bob, it is nice to meet you, my name is Dr. Taylor,” you should respond by saying, “Hello Dr. Taylor, it is a pleasure to meet you.” By simply repeating their name back to them as you say hello, you will increase the likelihood that you will remember their name. Once your interview is over, you can take the opportunity to thank everyone personally for giving you the opportunity to be there and make sure you use their names and titles during these closing remarks. It will make you stand out among the other candidates who will be so nervous that they will not remember the names of their interviewers and will simply rush out of the room once their session is over.
During the interview, it is important that you engage the interviewers as they ask their questions. Make sure that you are actively listening and providing ample non-verbal communication back to the person asking the question. This means nodding your head, maintaining eye contact, smiling, etc. Once the question has been asked, take a few moments to gather your thoughts, when you are ready deliver your answer as clearly, concisely, and creatively as possible. Do not ramble on and on forever! Allow the interviewers the opportunity to ask follow up questions, or discuss ideas further.
Perfect Practice Strategy Makes Perfect! If you are serious about getting into dental school, visit our website to learn more about our proven CDA interview simulations, interview strategy and preparation programs designed to help you ace ANY CDA structured interview question.