There’s a lot to consider when you sit down and start designing a dental hygiene resume. So today I want to give you four of the biggest cautions or things to think about and consider when you begin.
Spoiler Alert: A resume by itself is not going to win you a dental hygiene job. It’s sole purpose is to get you from point A to point B so that you can win the job with your personality and interview kills.
But as it turns out, that barrier of just getting an interview is huge in dental hygiene right now. And so the greatness of your resume really does matter!
Caution 1: Wrong Format
There are three types of resume formats – chronological, functional, and a hybrid of those two. For most hygienists I strongly recommend the Functional format.
The functional and chronological formats are only different in one key way and that is where you place your accomplishments, skills, and experiences. In a chronological you list them beneath each job you’ve had and the job section is near the top, whereas in a functional you place them in their own section near the top. And then beneath that section you create a simple listing of jobs you’ve held.
Because most dental hygiene jobs require a very similar skill set and perform many of the same duties, it makes more sense to place all of that within its own dedicated section at the top, as opposed to the repetition of putting the same information under each dental hygiene job you’ve held.
The only exception is if you have some very specific accomplishments – unique to each job – that you can highlight. Even then, I recommend a hybrid of the two types because it gives you best of both worlds – a little bit of room to include your skills at the top and a little bit of room to emphasize some specific accomplishments beneath each job.
Caution 2. Too Lengthy
The main purpose of a resume is to get an interview. You want the resume to stand out but not in negative ways. Arguably, one slightly negative way could be the length. Generally, keep it to one page. I have done resumes for hygienists who have no experience on up to 40-plus years and they all fit fine on a one-page resume.
In most cases, there isn’t much up-side to making it longer than a page – no one ever got hired because of what they had on the second page of a resume. As an employer reviews 30-40 resumes (or more) for one job opening, there simply isn’t much time spent on each one.
The only exception I recommend is if you have lots of dental industry leadership experiences beyond clinical dental hygiene. For example, if you have made lots of presentations, written lots of articles, performed lots of research, participated in lots of local or national association leadership positions, then you really do have a great case for needing the extra space.
Caution 3. Boring or No Flare
There’s one guaranteed way to make your resume boring and that’s to make it look and read like everyone else’s. You don’t have to get crazy, in fact I would caution against that, too. Instead add small touches of flare. This could include adding a little bit of color, increasing the font size on your name, using a font different than Times New Roman, adding your picture to the resume, using lines or other graphic touches to create sections, using bullets and columns instead of large blocks of text, and also using bold or italics here and there to create emphasis.
Caution 4. Difficult Navigation
Resumes that are packed with single-spaced blocks of text are intimidating for human eyes that are already not enjoying their review of dozens of applicants. Moreover it makes it challenging to navigate and find the key words or information an employer is looking for. One big thing you can do to improve the readability of your resume is to include extra white spacing and markers.
I love white space on any document – it points to two great attributes we all hygienists should seek to showcase – clean and organized. Try to include line spacing settings of 1.1 to 1.5. It’s okay to pull the margins out a bit (to .4 or .5) to help achieve that.
Markings are related to what I was talking about it Caution 3 above. You want to include things like larger fonts in key places, bold, bullet points, and graphics not just to keep your resume from looking boring, but also because those signals that help guide the employer to finding specific things they are looking for. Think of it like a map – if you were in a city you have never seen before and looking at a map, you would want for there to be lots of signs and landmarks to help you find where to go.