Over the years, dental employers have used different markers and methods for determining the best dental hygienist for the job. But it’s clearly shifted in the last 10 years, making it important to know what they are looking for before you arrive at your job interview.
Dental hygiene skills are important, but it’s really hard to show how good you are at periodontal disease diagnoses or how proficient you are in scaling. Employers know that, so they start to look for other factors in the interview process to help them decide if you are the complete package of what they are looking for.
Here are four areas employers are judging you heavily on:
Employers want dental hygiene candidates with a positive and optimistic attitude. When you are interviewing, lean forward in your chair with good posture – you literally want to be sitting on the edge of your seat. That helps project confidence and enthusiasm in your body language. But also don’t forget to lots of eye contact and to inject some youthful enthusiasm in your voice.
Avoid sarcastic comments (even if harmless about things like the weather) or sharing an overly dim view of ANY past work experience. If you need to say something negative for context, always follow it up with the flip side using transitional words like “but on the other hand…” or minimize the negative parts of your experience with lengthier descriptions of what you learned or gained. In other words, show that you know how to make lemonade out of lemons.
Also, in the flow of your conversation, show them you are fully engaged in what they are saying by rephrasing each of their questions before you respond. This demonstrates that you are understanding each other, but it’s also modeling strong communication habits – obviously a skill they are watching for.
Practice how you talk about things in a mock interview with a friend – have them share with you if you sound too monotone, gloomy, or slow. And the best enthusiastic impression you can leave of all is to smile a lot during the interview. That shouldn’t have to be said, but nerves and stress from the interview itself can cause you to forget so keep reminding yourself.
I touched on this in the first section, but it deserves its own treatment because research has shown that across the board in all industries and careers, the number one most important trait employers want is for employees with strong communication skills.
Your ability to articulate your experiences and skills in the interview setting will go a long way toward you winning the job. But beyond that, people hire people they like so you really need to change the tone of the interview from a question and answer session to a conversation. Question and answer sessions often come off awkward or rehearsed and sometimes both. Conversations are relaxed, so come prepared to inject some questions of your own into each response you give so that a conversation can spring out of your response.
It should come as no surprise that how good you are with patients is also something they are looking for. You have to not only be good at relating to patients but doing so quickly – there simply isn’t a lot of time to ease into it.
This also of course includes your ability to be a cheerleader for good oral health practices you see patients using, and your ability to influence others toward better habits. Be prepared to talk about the dichotomy of those two experiences because it’s really important for a dental employer to see that you are flexible and can be a powerful expert at the practice.
Another tip is if you actually know some of their patients, this is the time to do some name-dropping. If you already have a relationship with some of their patients their confidence in you will shoot through the roof and you’ll have a huge advantage over others.
Finally, employers need and are looking for a hygienist who isn’t just good at what they do, but able to blend in with lots of different personalities.
Co-worker drama is one thing employers absolutely dread and if they have any inkling that you will be creating or adding their “office family” you won’t get the job. Along with hurting moral, an office that is not cohesive and bonded together like family is less effective financially – which is obviously a huge driver for employers.
So treat every interaction you have with the front office and assistants with great care – showcase your relationship building skills with them. Even though they may not be interviewing you, you can be sure they are checking you out and reporting that back to the employer. Your ability to connect with them is equally and sometimes more important than with the employer.
And then in the interview be sure to talk about team-work and working well with all personality types so the employer at least knows you are aware of how important these factors are to an office.
Job interviews are challenging and it’s okay to feel intimidated by them if it forces you to prepare in these four areas of enthusiasm, communication, patient relations, and office culture.
The more you are prepared, the better the result. In fact, you should expect a better result!