Question: What’s better than a dental hygiene resume and cover letter that talk about how great you are?
Answer: Information you can give employers from others talking about how great you are as a dental hygienist.
Consider the following research on consumer behavior toward products:
- 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations
- 81% of customers reach out to friends and family members on social networking sites for advice before purchasing products.
- 59% of consumers say user-generated product reviews have a significant impact on their buying behavior.
These examples apply to the job market as well. Simply put, employers put greater value in what others say about you. In psychology it’s called third-party validation, and it’s a powerful influencing tool – you probably use it to help educate your patients as well.
Third-party validation for job seekers can come in three forms that you create. However, keep in mind, employers are seeking third-party validations more and more from acquaintances they share with you and the Internet – finding information from others about you without you knowing. But let’s just focus today on the three ways you create:
- The traditional letter of reference
- Information for a “live” reference
- A third sheet you give to employers that we have called a “Testimonial Sheet”
All of these are really important, and fairly easy to get over the course of your career.
So, let’s talk about each one of them, including how to get them, and then at the end I want to give you today a FREE template to get started on a Testimonial Sheet.
Letters of Reference
- Letters of reference are a typed letter – usually from an employer, but could also be from a co-worker, patient, or someone else who knows about your professional performance.
- The letter will first talk about how the person came to know you, then be filled with some sentences and paragraphs about the work you did and how well you performed.
- They often are “glowing” and hopefully give an indication of what a new employer could expect when they hire you.
- Like any other letter, there are some mechanical things such as being printed on the company letterhead, dated, and signed.
- Letters of reference are typically only given to an employer upon request.
- Don’t be shy about asking employers for them, because you can use them for a variety of things (not just job changes).
- Some employers will ask you to write it. Take them up on that offer – they still have to agree to it and sign at the bottom (so it’s no unethical).
- If you have a professional website (we create those for hygienists), post them on it.
- A live reference is a person an employer could call and talk to about you.
- You should always be prepared to offer up two or three individuals who are familiar with your work as live references.
- The best candidates for this would be an employer or supervisor, but also acceptable are co-workers and possibly others familiar with your work (possibly a sales rep or person you volunteered with). Friends and family, though easier to obtain, are usually not acceptable. I would even avoid submitting a friend or family member you work with.
- You absolutely must talk to your live references ahead of time so they aren’t caught off guard when they get a call. Even if they know you really well, they won’t feel or sound prepared to talk about it and I have seen them turn into disasters.
- Not only should you give them advance warning, it’s also a good idea to get your ducks in a row – meaning prep them about what you both agree would be some key points to touch on.
- Some hygienists will put a line on their resume that says “References Available Upon Request,” which could mean either live or paper references. Some will even actually list them (name and phone number). That’s okay if you need to fill up space, but it’s otherwise unnecessary.
- A testimonial sheet is a series of quotes from employers, co-workers, patients, or others familiar with your work.
- The testimonial sheet should be submitted with your cover letter and resume as a third one-page document when applying for a job.
- It’s best if you can combine a mixture of quotes from people in different roles. In other words, not have quotes from only co-workers or only patients – mix it up.
- These quotes would ideally be between one and three sentences (shorter means an employer is more likely to read them).
- Quotes should include at least the first name of the person you are quoting, and a date when they said or wrote it would be great to include also.
- The sheet is one page and one side and includes your contact information at the top.
- Include quotes that say different things about you, not just the same basic thing.
- Gather as many quotes from people as you possibly can, and pull them from your letters of reference. The more you have to choose from the better the testimonial sheet you can craft.
- Collect them through out your career. Make it a point to ask for them anytime someone seems really pleased with your work. I have a personal goal to get at least four new ones per year.
- Like letters of reference, you should also include quotes on your personal website. You can see a website I built for a client and her testimonials here.
Even if you are 15, 25 or 35 years into your career as a hygienist, it’s not too late to start gathering third-party validation. Trust me, it will come in very handy if you should find yourself looking for work.
To help you out, I am going to include a FREE download here of a testimonial sheet template you can use that is formatted for Microsoft Word on a PC: Testimonial Sheet Template (Word). Here’s a PDF version that is not editable, but at least allows you to see what it looks like: Testimonial Sheet Template (PDF)