Have you ever thought of yourself (a dental hygienist) as a solution to an employer’s problem – don’t be modest! You really are!
Every employer looking to hire someone has a big problem on their hands. Not only do they need to find a warm body, they need a good warm body. Someone that represents them well with patients and someone who can get along great with the existing staff and office culture.
You may think that because the dental hygiene job market is saturated that this is an easy problem to solve. And maybe in some areas and situations it is, but they can usually only hire one hygienist. So it still has to be a good decision or it may end up costing them lots of money. And they do leave little clues as to what kind of a solution they are looking for
So let’s put the ball back into your court and show you how to find those clues and communicate back to them the solution called YOU.
Where are the clues?
The best place to find what an employer needs in a good hygienist is in the job announcement itself. Read it very carefully because what they write as qualifiers is some of what they either really liked or disliked about the previous hygienist. There are two kinds of qualifiers “technical qualifiers” and “soft qualifiers.”
The technical qualifiers are things like “two years of experience” or “working knowledge of Dentrix.” Those are important, but often times are negotiable if the soft qualifiers are more significant. For example if you have two hygienists apply for the same job, one has experience with Dentrix, but is a little bit quiet or reserved and the other has no experience with Dentrix and is very personable and friendly, an employer will often overlook the lack of Dentrix experience feeling that they can train that, but can’t train someone to be “friendly.”
Separate out the technical and soft qualifiers into two different lists. Next, go to their social media pages and website to see what kind of feel you can get from reading their posts and information. How do they strike you? Are they all business or kind of a fun bunch? Write all of that down. Finally, think about any kind of personal connections you may have with the office – do you have friends who go there? Do you know someone who worked there at one time? If so, then chat with them about the office atmosphere and culture. They may even be a great reference for you – employers trust recommendations from someone they know many times over someone they don’t know.
Now that you have all this information, it’s time to sprinkle it into your materials and interview prep.
It’s okay to start with a generic dental hygiene resume you have created. Then for each new job you apply for, do a “save-as” and customize and file it for that specific job you are applying for.
Ensure your resume addresses the office’s problem. This may mean swapping out some lines in favor of different information or re-ordering how it displays to ensure they see it. Pay specific attention to the “About Me” section (sometimes called “Summary” or “Objective”). This may be a good place to insert some keywords they use in their job announcement or that you see in other places that seem to be unique to that office. But there are other places throughout the resume where you can make unique.
You may even want to omit some information from your resume if you feel it either doesn’t apply to the specific job or may be detrimental.
Your cover letter is probably the main document you will want to customize. I recommend a sentence that acknowledges what they are looking for, using the same words they use and then using the sentences/paragraphs beneath it to talk about how you are the solution to that and more. I wrote about cover letters here.
For example, “From your advertisement, I see you are seeking someone who is detail-oriented, flexible, and can handle stressful situations.” And then further down is something like “Co-workers have applauded me for my organizational skills and how I am able to adjust and handle all different kinds of personalities and situations.”
I’ve written a lot about my recommendation that you keep short (1-5 sentences) testimonials from patients, co-workers, and employers and then place them on a Testimonial Sheet. If you have lots of these then you have the luxury of hand-selecting the ones you give to the employer, based on the specific things they are looking for. If they want someone who “goes the extra mile” then give them a quote from a former patient who said you “go the extra mile.”
Make it a routine habit to gather these throughout your career – you can’t have too many. Then, when you are seeking new employment, you can choose the ones that best fit each job opening.
I’ve also written about CAR Sheets – CAR stands for Challenge – Action – Resolution. Think of it is a micro case study, where in just 3-5 sentences you write about a problem, the action you took, and how it was resolved. You can read more about CAR Sheets here.
Similar to Testimonial Sheets you can pick and choose the best examples of your work and assemble a CAR Sheet that addresses the specific solutions a potential employer needs.
Finally, if you get an interview, this is your opportunity to really hammer home the key problems that office needs to address in a hygienist. First, empathize with them about it and then reinforce you as the solution through a great example from your experience.
For example: “It’s tough to lose a great hygienist as they become almost like family. It’s been hard for me to leave jobs over the years as I really miss working with my co-workers and the synergy we created, but the upside is you get the opportunity to still hire a great new hygienist and have new experiences together.”
I know I sound like a broken record when I say it every week – but standing out, doing things different than other job applicants is what gets you hired. Doing this kind of work to create a more customized response to employers is truly what makes you stand out and appear different. It’s worth taking the time so that your job search is over and done in a matter of weeks as opposed to months and even years.