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Secret Weapon for Dental Hygienist Job Interviews

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It was 2002 and I was coming off what I thought was a pretty strong interview for a great job opportunity. I mailed off my “secret weapon” – a hand-written thank you card the day of my interview and crossed my fingers.

A couple days later I got a call from the employer. “We appreciate you coming in, but have offered the position to someone else. You interviewed strong and we noted your thank you card – no one else did that,” the employer said.

thank-youI was sad, but didn’t dwell on it and kept looking. Two days later something happened, and it wasn’t the first time in my career, nor was it the second.

For the third time in my career, I went from being rejected for a job to a few days later being offered that same job because the person ahead of me had a change of heart or circumstances.

Was it all because I sent thank you notes following job interviews? No, obviously other stars need to line up – you can write a beautiful thank you note and still be a lousy candidate (I’ve been in that boat, too).

But when you’re a strong candidate and things are pretty equal – as often is the case for dental hygienist job interviews – who would YOU hire: The five people who didn’t go the extra mile to send a thank you note, or the one person that did?

The only reason a thank you note after a dental hygienist job interview is a secret weapon is because most won’t do it. Here are five key elements for sending one:

When to Send?

Immediately after you interview. In fact it have it ready in your car, addressed and stamped so the employer can get it the next day. Alternatively, you could drop it off later that day or the next morning . The point is you want to get to them before the make a final decision. Some have used e-mail. It’s better than nothing, but not as good as a physical note.

Typed or Handwritten?

If you have bad handwriting (as in some say they can’t read it), I would type it. But handwritten always looks better, more personalized.

What kind of paper?

A small box of pre-printed thank you cards that look professional work great.

What should you include?

Your business card, if you have one.

What should you write?

This depends on your interview, so here are some scenarios, but keep it short and succinct (2-5 sentences).

Scenario 1: You feel like you may be lacking in a key area

Focus a comment or two on your biggest strength. Draw their attention away from the weakness. If you are certain you will not get an offer, then take a gamble and address it, coupled with how you will make up for it. Example: “I recognize I only have one year of professional experience, but I also have four years of dental assisting in my background and worked closely with the hygienist observing and learning during that time.”

Scenario 2: Things were left unsaid

Sometimes there are things you wish you would have been asked about because you had something really strong to say. A thank you card is a great way to share it.

Scenario 3: When everything went well

If you feel your interview was good then reinforce your strengths. Example: “Thank you for the opportunity to interview with you today. You mentioned the importance of finding someone nurturing for your patients. My co-workers have said, my strengths include treating patients like family. I think you have a wonderful office, and I would love to help continue the success you have achieved.”

Think Outside Your Dental Hygiene Resume

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It’s been fun coming up with great ways for dental hygienists to market themselves for a job over the years. Whether it’s postcards, video resumes, digital resumes (websites), or testimonial sheets – it’s all about making YOU stand out and look professional.

Today, I’m pleased to announce a new idea for you to consider. Actually, it’s not new at all, but very effective none-the-less. I call it a CAR Sheet – now before you double check to make sure we’re talking dental hygiene let me assure you CAR is an acronym.lightbulb

CAR stands for Challenge Action Resolution, but it will definitely add some varoom to your job search engine.

Typically, dental employers will assume because you have a license in dental hygiene that you know how to do dental hygiene – which is fine. The bigger question is how well you do it.

Accompanied with a dental hygiene resume, cover letter, and testimonial sheet, a CAR Sheet helps employers see it before you get to the interview stage. Like a Testimonial Sheet, it provides an element of third party validation that you are legit – a great hygienist.

So let’s create your CAR Sheet. This is a one-page document designed with the same font and overall look of your resume. But for the content, you will share 3-5 experiences you’ve had as a hygienist in very simple, succinct writing. We’re talking something like five sentences in one paragraph.

Here’s an example:

At All Smiles Dental, I serviced a patient that had an intense fear of dental offices. She had been to several different practices in the last five years and kept changing because she didn’t feel comfortable. I could sense her apprehension and decided to give her a little extra attention – more empathy, compassion, and tried to connect with her on things we had in common to help distract her. It worked! She became one of my best, most consistent patients (and a great friend). She thanked me profusely when we were done and would only reschedule on days when I was working.

Did you catch the ChallengeActionResolution formula in the example? I color coded it so you can see it better.

Again, you need to really work to keep it short. I know it’s hard to do that sometimes because there’s always more to the story – and some of the detail can be quite compelling. But save it for the interview. If you can keep it short and sweet, you will greatly increase the odds that an employer won’t skip over it thinking it will take them too long to read. And I also wouldn’t recommend filling up more than one page for the same reason.

These are your top experiences – your best examples of how you shine as a professional dental hygienist. And you should continue to add to them over your career so that you can choose the best of the best when it comes time to seek a new job.

Remember, this all about standing out and being different than other applicants and a CAR Sheet will make you look that much more professional, that much more impressive, bringing you a step closer to landing a great dental hygiene job.

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