For obvious reasons, employers like perfect resumes. They like it when they can find all the information they are looking for – contact information, qualifiers for the job, and things that make you stand out. But they are also looking for holes – inconsistencies in the information or potential red flags.
This week I am sharing the key things they are looking for, along with the problems and how you can address them.
What Employers are Looking for
Let’s start with what they want to find on your resume.
- Name and Contact Information: No-brainer! All you need to include is your name, phone number and e-mail address. Don’t include your mailing address as it gives them a reason to eliminate you if they feel you live too far away. Not only that, but employers rarely if ever send rejection letters by postal mail any more. Just give them one e-mail address and one phone number (preferably your cell number).
- Qualifiers for the Job: In the job announcement you will often see that they are seeking technical qualifiers – someone with a certain number of years of experience or competency in using a specific software, to name just a couple. It only makes sense then that you should make sure your resume (and even your cover letter) includes this information. They are also looking for someone that fulfills their soft qualifiers – these have to do with your ability to relate to patients, work with co-workers, and other things. These, too, you should address in your resume and cover letter.
- Things the Make You Stand Out: This could be a wide spectrum of things, but in essence it includes the things you do that others don’t do (or maybe very few do) – I call them differentiators. One of the biggest ones is how well your resume is organized and designed (ie your use of visuals, colors, and style markers such as bullets). But it also includes how well it’s written, and what kind of information you give them. Employers favor writing that indicates results and not simply a list of tasks or responsibilities – so work to include that kind of content in your resume.
There could be other smaller things, depending on the employer. Maybe one particular employer favors grads from his or her alma mater or another employer likes to see that people they hire are involved in community service. By and large, however, if you focus on getting those done the way I outlined above you will be setting yourself up really well for an interview.
Holes Employers are Keeping an Eye Open for
So what are some potentially problematic pieces of information and how do you address them? The biggest potential issues are going to be found in how you display your work history.
- Inconsistencies: To name only a few, do you have gaps in your history? Those are spaces of time where you either didn’t work at all or work within dentistry. Another common one might be lots of overlap in jobs. I think it’s fairly common for a hygienist to be working at two different offices part-time. But when you start showing on your resume that you are or were working at three or even four offices at once, an employer might begin to question your loyalty or value to each of those offices.
To address the gaps in history, sometimes it can be helpful to indicate what it was you were doing during that time. I had a recent client who took time away (about a year) from dental hygiene to be with a sick loved one. I think it’s great to add a line in the timeline of your work history that indicates that. But it could be other things, too. Could be maternity-related or to be a stay-at-home mom, or maybe you took time away to consider or even pursue a different career path. Put that information on their up front and avoid any speculation or assumptions on the employer’s part that may cause your resume to be eliminated from the stack.
As far as addressing the more than two simultaneous jobs situation, I would consider dropping one of them from being mentioned. Drop the one that you spent the least time at or the one where you feel you may not get the best review if they were to be called as a reference. You don’t necessarily need it there and you are under no obligation to disclose your entire work history.
- Red Flags: Other problems fall into the category of “red flags” in your work history. The biggest one is moving around too much. If you’re changing jobs every year or two and have a pattern of that the goes back a decade, it’s a red flag. Employers want to believe the person they hire will stay with them a good long while. It’s important to chemistry of an office and to the retention of patients, both of which directly impact the business side of the practice.
To address this, consider eliminating a few of those jobs without creating a gap in your history. Again, hygienists tend to work a couple places at a time and so work histories often overlap enough that you can easily pull several of your jobs out of the history to make it appear more clean and less shifty.
Another possible red flag is if you worked a different job outside of dentistry sometime during your career, creating sort of a dental gap in your history. I think those are largely okay if you can put some space between them with where you are now. In other words, if you are currently employed in dentistry it probably won’t raise much concern.
If you’re currently working outside of dentistry and trying to get back in, consider adding a buffer of temp work. Do some temping work so that you can place that piece of work history above the non-dental job. That will help alleviate concerns that you are out of practice or rusty, or worse, not employable in dentistry.
Your resume may not win you a job but it’s an extremely important document toward helping you land a job. With a saturated dental hygiene job climate, you simply can’t have a sub-par or even average resume that doesn’t give an employer what they are looking for or raises concerns about your situation. If you need help figuring out your resume or simply don’t have time to do it right, call me, there’s a lot I can do to help almost any hygienist land a great dental hygiene job.
PS: If you’ve been fired or let go, here’s some bonus information to help you rebound from that.