Getting a VT place

Your final year at dental school will probably end up being one of the busiest and most stressful times of your life. Your thoughts will no doubt be occupied by exam revision timetables, making sure you have completed all your quotas and preparing your case presentations. But if all that’s not enough for you to worry about, there’s also the small matter of getting a job at the end of it all to cause additional headaches as well.

Looking for a Vocational Training (VT) place can be a very fraught and competitive process, and not to mention inconvenient. Who really has the time to spare making trips up and down the country when there is so much work to do? But don’t worry, Starting Out is here to try and make the process a little bit easier.

Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules you can follow to ensure that you get the VT place you want as there is no guaranteeing exactly what qualities a VT trainer will be looking for when choosing their new vocational dental practitioner (VDP). However, there are some measures you can take to give yourself the best chance of securing your dream job.

‘My message to final year students would be don’t panic,’ says Brian Grieveson, Dean of postgraduate dental education and training for the Mersey Deanery. ‘There are lots of jobs available, despite the rumours, and most people get the job that they want in the area they want to work in.’

Grieveson is adamant that your time would be put to better use concentrating on how to prepare yourself for the interview than discussing the scary prospect of not finding a job with your fellow students. Fear breeds fear and doesn’t help anyone in the job application process.

‘The most important things to remember are to have a good CV, a professional attitude at interview and also remember to be professional after the interview process has finished,’ he says.

So Grieveson advises not panicking and ample preparation as his top tips for getting through. Below is a list of other things he thinks should ensure that your dream job is just a hop, skip and a jump away.

Brian’s top tips

• Prepare a really good CV and make sure you show it to plenty of other people to get their opinions.

• CVs should not just concentrate on academic achievements but also on your outside interests and anything else you have achieved during your university career

• Include examples of any times you have assumed leadership roles or worked as a team at university

• Provide evidence of any research or audits you have completed as part of your elective period in the fourth or fifth year

• Write a short paragraph about what you really enjoy about dentistry and how you see your career developing over the next five years

• When choosing practices to apply to, pick the ones that suit you as an individual, not because they are close to where you live

• Be polite when making that initial approach to a practice. Arrange a suitable interview date or practice visit and make sure you get there on time

• Dress professionally and appear presentable when you attend for interview. Note for the gentlemen – don’t forget to shave

• Prepare a list of sensible questions to ask the practice. For example, how many patients a day am I likely to see? What types of patients visit this practice? Are any treatments excluded by this practice under the NHS regulations? What do I do about private work?

• Try to find out something about the immediate area surrounding the practice like a brief history and its geography

• Make sure the practice is within reasonable commuting distance as travelling for more than one-and-a-half hours per day can be tiring. If a practice further away does appeal, consider moving closer as it is only for 12 months. Remember, you can learn a lot from living locally to your practice

• At interview be confident, have prepared questions and ask when you will know the outcome.

• If possible, bring copies of any undergraduate logs that you have, indicating the clinical work you have completed whilst a student.

• If you decide to go for a number of interviews, choose the person who you think you will get on with the best, as you will be working with them every day for a year.

• You will be asked to provide references, so make sure you ask the referees’ permission before you nominate them. Trainers are strongly encouraged to take up references and a number of employment offers have been withdrawn following contact with a referee, so choose them carefully.

For more information and advice about vocational training, visit the website for the Committee of Postgraduate Deans and Directors (COPDEND) at

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