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Tips for writing your first resumé: Standing out as a professional hygienist

April 20, 2018
Julie Whiteley, RDH, provides tips for preparing that perfect resumé to catch potential employers' attention, especially for those who recently graduated.

Editor's note: This article was first published in 2018 and updated in June, 2022.

As a clinical instructor and certified human resources specialist, new graduates often ask me how to write a first professional resume. Some may be wondering, “How can I write a resume to compete with others who may have more clinical experience than I do?” You have a lot more to add to your professional repertoire than you may realize.

This is the first of two articles in RDH Graduate to give you pointers to showcase your skills, talents, and all that is uniquely you to land your first job as a hygienist.

Consider your direction and goals

Get clear on what types of positions you are interested in. Are you looking for a full or part-time position? Do you prefer large, busy, and dynamic workplaces, or are you more comfortable in smaller, slower paced environment? Do you want to be in an office that is high tech with all the latest gadgetry, or is that not a fit for you? Are you interested in a job in private practice, public health, or research?

Related reading

Résumés: What can you do better?
Getting your resume just right: What makes you stand out as a dental hygienist?

Consider the direction you would like to move toward and highlight experiences, choosing words to describe yourself and your skills that speak to the types of positions you are looking for.

Capitalize on related experience

Promote the clinical experience you do have. Perhaps you have prior experience in a dental office. Even if you don’t, you do have plenty of experience seeing patients in your school’s clinic setting. At this point in your education, you more than likely have experience with various age groups, periodontal therapy, performing patient risk assessments, placing sealants, taking impressions, patient education, etc. You may also have licensure in areas such as local anesthesia, which is not the case for all hygienists.

You are very current in your field right now with regard to so many things. Consider all you have just learned about the ever-changing and evolving world of dentistry. This is a great benefit to an office.

Make other past experiences relatable

Consider other work experience and academic experience, and how it relates to dentistry. For example, perhaps you have experience as a server at a busy restaurant. Highlight the skills that are transferrable such as reliability and multitasking. Highlight your strength in dealing with the public, and describe your stellar customer service skills.

Perhaps at school you had the opportunity to demonstrate project management and leadership skills by spearheading a group assignment or acting as a member of your student government. Maybe you held a role in the student chapter of a professional association. Discuss areas that highlight your relationship-building skills or those that show you can work well independently as well as function successfully within a diverse team.

These experiences are very telling about the type of person you are and what you are capable of handling. These are all things that translate back to being a value-added member of a group.

Your resume should be more than a list of job tasks. A good resume is a marketing tool, and the product is you. So highlight your unique strengths.

Stay tuned for part two of this series to be featured in next month’s RDH Graduate. We will discuss additional strategies and techniques to write a resume that stands out with hiring managers. Remember that as a new or newer graduate, you have much to offer. So let your light shine!