The thing you want to do is make sure you are acknowledging things about that office you are applying to. As you say, the more personalized a touch you can give these and other things (such as dropping it off in person) the more they will see you aren’t just another person interested in the job – that you took extra time to customize your approach to them. That’s an attribute employers want, especially dental employers who really value delivering a one-to-one experience for their patients. When they see that you not only talk about that ability to customize things, but also demonstrate it through your actions, it becomes a very powerful and persuasive tool to influence their decision to interview and then hire you.
Anyway, it’s all about overtly customizing your experience with each employer so that they will see you have that ability – which is a soft skill employers like, especially dental employers who like the one-to-one approach their employees can naturally give to patients.
Now, there is one type of cover letter you can use that you can create a generic template for, but I would classify it as a letter of introduction. It’s what you put with your resume when you go around and drop them off at offices that are not necessarily looking for a new hygienist. It’s intended to be more of an introduction of you to them, than the approach of trying to match you to them.
Off and on, I am ashamed to admit, I like a good Diet Coke. I’ve realized over the years how good Coca-Cola is at influencing me and millions of others (probably many of you). We’re suckers for certain brands – so how do you create that same desire for hiring you, a dental hygienist?
Yeah, I know, you are not a soft drink and you don’t have millions of dollars to get into people’s hearts and minds, but follow me on this because the principles are similar and have application to your job search and career generally.
Just like Coca-Cola, you have a brand. Your brand is who you are. You might say, “I am a hygienist with 10 years of experience, certified with lasers and a working knowledge of Dentrix.” That’s the technical half of your brand. But you also have a less-tangible half, “I am a able to help especially anxious kids relax, and am very influential in gaining patient compliance to treatment,” you might add.
Your brand, simply put, are the things that make you unique. These are introduced and guided by you through what you communicate to employers, but enforced through experiences they have with you. These experiences can come through personal interactions – dropping off your resume, interviews, talking on the phone and so on. But they can also stem from your job search materials – your cover letter, resume, postcards, testimonial sheet and others.
The best behavior science research today indicates that our beliefs (and decisions as a result of those beliefs) come from a mix of both the rational and emotional sides of our brain – right brain, left brain. So when an employer is reading your resume or meeting you in person, both halves are at work trying to size up your brand – who you are.
It’s complex, there are lots of factors that go into human belief and decision making. However, it’s believed by most experts that many people start and formulate much of their belief and decisions based on the emotional factors (left brain). Then as they find in their minds the nucleus of a comfortable belief about something, they seek to back it up using the rational side to stabilize a belief and then decision.
So, as you create your personal brand, you want to give employers both rational and emotional reasons for choosing you to interview and eventually hire.
Emotional Reasons to Hire You
Let’s start with emotional reasons to hire using the theory that employers start their decision on who to hire with emotional beliefs about the candidates.
First, the bad news: There is no one correct emotion-driving trigger to make you appealing to every employer. Just like you each employer comes with their own brand, their own set skills, abilities, interests, and most importantly likes and dislikes about everything.
But the good news is, most of us have things in common with most employers. And, if you think like an employer – their day-to-day needs and stresses – it will be easier for you to get into their head and match yourself up with them.
Things that make an employer feel good can also make you feel good. For example, your ability to efficiently work though a busy schedule might be something you enjoy and are really good at, and something an employer loves about you. Or, maybe you are exceptional with children, helping them relax in the chair, and the employer feels that’s extremely important to their practice.
It could be anything. The idea is to identify those things that define and differentiate you, that are also valuable to dental employers in general. Then, to further identify and match up things that are unique in you and to a particular employer.
It’s okay if you are one of many hygienists who are good with kids in the chair because your personal brand is multi-dimensional and chances are good your overall brand is different than anyone else – both in depth and breadth.
Along with that, you have now (after reading this) the wherewithal to identify the brands of your potential employers, AND the ability communicate your brand to them. Those two things will really help you stand out and make a connection with the RIGHT employers for you.
Rational Reasons to Hire You
Next, a word about the rational reasons. These are the more tangible differentiators – things like years of experience or certification to use lasers, or maybe a working knowledge of Dentrix.
These are important, too. But I really believe for most employers rational reasons to hire you are going to simply be justifications for the emotional factors that grab them.
Let’s face it, just because a job candidate knows how to use Dentrix, or has a certain number of years of experience, doesn’t mean they are going to be the best person for the job. I have written about it before, most employers want two baseline things (when everything else seems equal). They want an employee who represents them well with patients, and someone who gets along well with the team.
So, if an employer seems to want someone who has five years of experience and is a wiz with paperless charting, by all means describe how you fit that need. But your most important job is to address the emotional reasons to hire – the less tangible things you bring to the table. Those are going to be the most important factors to win them over and are supported by the rational reasons.
Where do you find THEIR brand?
Sometimes you can get glimpses of that from the job description – “we need someone who is really good with kids in the chair” and other times you might have to pick up on it from reading the employer/doctor’s bio online. You can pick up on it more when you meet with them for a job interview.
How do you communicate YOUR brand?
It’s easy to do in your cover letter and resume. But obviously the interview itself is an important opportunity also. A third way is to choose testimonials and reference information to share with them that also brings that out.
Whether it’s in your materials or in person, the idea is to acknowledge those elements of your brand that you have in common. In an interview setting you can take it a step further by sharing an experience you had that illustrates the point.
Give Them an Experience
Finally, it’s important that you intentionally work to create an experience about you for them. Pluck the emotional drivers that motivate them, then come in with a solid rational case