Building a Great Dental Hygiene Resume

We would like to welcome guest blogger Doug Perry, dental hygienist resume coach, from the website gethiredrdh.com. 

Creating an awesome dental hygiene resume that grabs attention and holds it can seem overwhelming at first. There are lots of considerations and most hygienists simply don’t know where to begin. 

But in the several years I have been creating them for hygienists, I’ve found a really good formula that gets results for my clients.

 It’s really pretty simple and is made up of usually just five sections of content: a Header, About Me, Experience and Skills, Work History, and Education History. Sometimes, if there’s room, we can include some additional complimentary information.

Header
The most important content on a resume is your name and contact information, right at the top, in a section I call the Header. Make your name bigger so it really stands out (24-30 pt font). Add some color and graphics (possibly your picture) to really make it pop.

About Me

Most people begin their resume with an “Objective” section at the top, beneath their name and contact information. I prefer to re-label it “About Me” and then tell them about you – your personal brand.  

Keep this section really short, just two (maybe three) short sentences that describe who you are, your ability to represent the office to patients, and your knack for blending in with existing staff. Think of it as a written elevator pitch.

Experience and Skills

Generally, there are three different formats for resumes: Reverse Chronological, Functional, and hybrid of the two, sometimes called a Combination resume. The key difference between them is in how you showcase your skills and experience, which usually appears below the About Me section.

The most common type of resume used in other industries is the Reverse Chronological format, which means listing your work history starting with the most recent. Then beneath each job, you would list the unique things you did for that job.

However, most clinical dental hygienists are doing many of the same things from job to job and so to use the reverse chronological format means repeating the same list of duties and skills for each job – that’s just a waste of space and too repetitious.

A Functional format resume works better. Rather than repeating those items, you simply create a section, beneath the About Me section, that displays your skills and experiences all together. This comprises quite a large section of the resume so that you can thoroughly describe (in bullet point format) how great you are at many of the different dental hygiene duties.  

Ideally, you will be able to include several bullets of results, too. Things you accomplished or goals you helped the office obtain. Real results are more meaningful to employers – they want to know what kind of performance to expect, not that you simply know how to do things.

Work History
The next section, (Work History) is where you list your employers. Start with the current and then go back in time. It’s okay to list dental assisting or other non-dental hygiene jobs to help establish and show you have a work history. You can even use them as a tool to show you have advanced and acquired skills along the way that are useful to dental hygiene (ie patient relations).

A couple things employers look for in your work history are longevity at jobs and if there are any “gaps” or periods of time you were not employed. The further you can remove yourself from those experiences by recent displays of longevity, the better. But you should come to interviews prepared to explain them as employers may ask.

Education History
The next section is your education. This, too, should be listed from most recent to oldest and include the name of the school, the degree you obtained, and what year you graduated.

If you got your dental hygiene education then, years later, went back and received significant other training (I'm mostly thinking of anesthesia), then you should add that too.

Additional Information
If you still have room at the bottom, you can create an additional section called Community Service or Related Participation and Recognition. In this section you would list any volunteer service, including association or community service or any awards you have received.

Wrapping it Up

Using a Functional format for your dental hygiene resume is a great start, but there are other things you can do to stand out, including creating a great design, using color, and choosing the right words and phrases.  

There’s also other materials to consider using that will compliment your resume and strengthen your appearance to employers, including cover letters, testimonial sheets, CAR sheets, LinkedIn profiles, professional websites, and even resume videos.

And before you interview it’s a good idea to review potential job interview questions and review dental hygiene salary averages for your area. 

But it all comes down to doing things different, being different. Employers notice and tend to hire dental hygienists who are unique and so as you search for a job, begin to think outside the box and it won’t be long before you land a great dental hygiene job.

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Doug and Tracie Perry are authors of the book Landing a Great Dental Hygiene Job and provide dental hygiene job coaching tips and services to thousands of dental hygienists. You can get a free copy of their book and free weekly tips at their website at www.GetHiredRDH.com