Standing out: Landing an interview for a dental hygiene position

Feb. 20, 2017
Gina Rosati, RDH, chats with a ProConvos expert about job hunting in dental hygiene.  

By Gina Rosati, RDH, BSDH

In recent years, careers in the dental hygiene field have been receiving great publicity. U.S. News and World Reports ranked dental hygiene as number 32 in the “100 best jobs of 2017,” and ranked dental hygiene in the top three for “best health-care support jobs of 2016.” As might be expected, this deserved influx of recognition for careers in clinical hygiene will increase the number of applicants and graduates of dental hygiene programs across the country.

Like any popular job, the demand decreases as the supply increases. When applying for a career in the field, it is not uncommon to submit your resume only to never hear from the employer to schedule an interview. This is often the result of the large number of applicants one job listing typically produces. But don’t be discouraged—be special.

How can you stand out from other applicants? I had the opportunity to sit down with Paul Stierer, the chief client officer of ProConvos. Part of ProConvos’ focus is coaching college students and recent graduates on how to successfully launch their careers. Paul provides a wealth of knowledge in the area of career-building, and shared expert advice on what dental hygienists can do to advance their career opportunities by standing out when applying for a dental hygiene position. Here are six important factors you should consider when applying for a position.

Network, network, network

Surveys show that up to 85% of jobs are filled via some type of networking. Building strong networking skills is a very powerful and important tool when searching for a new career. So how do you do that?

To start, prepare a 30-second “elevator speech” about yourself, your achievements, and your career aspirations. Start with your core network of friends and family, and branch out from there. When networking with new people, don’t be afraid to ask if they know someone they can refer you to (a neighbor who is a dentist; a cousin who is a dental supplier, etc.). That referral may not lead directly to a job opening, but that person may know someone else who is hiring.

The field of dentistry is a small world, and utilizing other people’s connections not only builds your own network, but also increases your odds of landing that all important job interview.

Don’t underestimate the importance of an effective cover letter

Typically, the first round in an employer’s search process involves the filtering of candidates by their qualifications. A great cover letter is an effective way to get the employer’s attention, and can be a valuable tool that gets them to read your resume.

It’s important to keep it short and to cut right to the chase. Your cover letter should answer one question, “Is this applicant qualified for this position?”

When an employer is reading your cover letter and resume, they are most likely reviewing a stack of other applicants as well. An effective way for your resume (and your chance for an interview) to land in the “yes” pile, rather than the garbage is to spell your virtues out for them. After a brief description of yourself (similar to your elevator speech), arrange and organize their requirements side-by-side with your qualifications just like below:

Organizing your information in this way makes it easy for the employer to read and answers the primary question that “Yes, this applicant is qualified.”

Utilize social media, but control your presence

Many employers use social media to gather information about potential candidates. It is great to be active on social media sites including Facebook and LinkedIn. However, monitor what you are putting out there.

A company is viewing your page as a potential representation of their brand. This is especially true in the dental field as it’s very common for patients to look you up on the internet. This cannot be stressed enough: What you have on your social media pages will affect your chances of getting an interview or a job.

Take down any photos that include unprofessional behavior, and use your better judgement when posting anything that could be perceived as controversial. Don’t rely on privacy settings to hide these things—just don’t post them. If you want to be taken seriously, it’s time you start taking yourself seriously as well.

Find a mentor

Mentorships are very valuable for career-building. Find someone in your field who has experience and is willing to share advice and give feedback. A true mentor will share their experiences—both good and bad—to help you learn your craft while avoiding potential pitfalls.

And don’t forget, a mentor also brings an entire new network of new people who can share contacts for your job search.

Join the ADHA

If you haven’t already, join the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. The annual fee is worth every incomparable tool that is available to members (including scholarships, continuing education courses, information on meetings and gatherings, job listings, etc.). Being involved in professional organizations, especially your local chapter, is a great resource for building your professional network.

There is always room for improvement

The dental field is constantly growing and evolving, and the role of the dental hygienist is expanding at a fast pace. The more qualifications you have, the more marketable you are.

Don’t be afraid to advance yourself by taking continuing education and certification courses. It illustrates that you are passionate about what you do and are motivated to improve your skill set. Make sure to note these accomplishments on your resume, and provide the anticipated completion dates for any programs you may have not yet finished. It will help set you apart.

For more information on Paul Stierer and how ProConvos can benefit your career, visit

Gina Rosati, RDH, BSDH, graduated from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences-Forsyth School of Dental Hygiene in 2011 with a BSDH degree. After graduation, she joined the hygiene team at Pioneer Valley Dental Arts, a private general practice in Longmeadow, MA. While continuing to work full-time, Gina is enrolled at the University of Bridgeport-Fones School of Dental Hygiene, working towards her MSDH degree with a double concentration in education and public health.