For dental assistants, and healthcare support occupations on the whole, the future is bright. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dental assistants is expected to increase 25% between 2012 and 2022 with 74K+ new positions opening up. Even with this anticipated growth, a strong resume is still essential to a successful job search. To convince the hiring manager to interview you and not the next dental assistant, you must apply with a document that sets you apart from others. It may seem challenging to write a resume that differentiates you from your peers with the same core qualifications and experience, but it can be done with the tips and strategies outlined below.
Before we get into the individual sections of a resume, here are a few of the general rules to keep in mind:
Title, Summary & Key Skills
Every resume should have a title, summary, and key skills section at the top of the first page. This is where you introduce yourself as the perfect candidate for the job and compel the hiring manager to read the rest of your resume.
Simply put, title your resume “Dental Assistant.” The title of your resume replaces the outdated objective statement. Instead of stating, “Seeking a rewarding Dental Assistant position,” title your resume with the position you are best suited to fill followed by supporting details in your summary and core competencies sections.
Your summary should be no longer than 3–5 sentences and effectively tout your experience level, areas of expertise, and notable soft skills. For example:
High-energy, personable, and hardworking Dental Assistant with 5 years of experience in general and cosmetic dentistry. Excellent interpersonal communicator able to build confidence and trust with diverse patient populations. Demonstrated skills in administrative tasks such as charting, filing, scheduling, and accounting. Recognized for exceptional attention to detail, collaborative nature, and can-do attitude.
Following your summary, list 10–15 industry-specific buzzwords (no more than 3 lines) to supplement those already mentioned in your summary paragraph. This section is specifically designed to aid the resume in getting past applicant tracking system (ATS) screenings. The ATS will scan the entire resume for keywords, but it’s advantageous to create a separate section dedicated to key skills to ensure all bases are covered. Plus, this section is a concise, visually appealing display of your core competencies. Here are a few dental assistant buzzwords to consider including in your resume:
Patient Relations & Education
Great sources for which keywords to include are job postings. Before applying to a position, it’s a good idea to review the ad carefully to confirm your listed proficiencies match their required qualifications as closely as possible. Below is a job posting for a dental assistant with the potential buzzwords highlighted:
SUMMARY: The Registered Dental Assistant performs duties such as: prepare the patient for a variety of treatment procedures, assist the dentist in performing all treatment procedures on the patient, prepare materials and equipment for treatment and have them ready for the dentist’s use, take/process x-rays and assist the dentist with laboratory work. May perform other related work to include, but not limited to, making appointments, answering the phone, ordering supplies and processing dental billing. The dental assistant works collaboratively with the dental team to ensure quality patient care along with meeting the oral health needs of the patients while providing sound clinical judgment. The dental assistant needs to work well with children which may include children with behavioral and/or developmental disorders.
Here is where resumes will differ depending upon your specific career history and current objective. In a traditional chronological resume, positions are presented in reverse-chronological order with a brief paragraph outlining day-to-day duties followed by bulleted achievements/major contributions. This resume format works best for individuals with steady work histories and a career target that closely aligns with their current or most recent roles. However, this format can be problematic for some dental assistants.
For example, if you have worked for more than 5 dental offices over the past 15 years or took on numerous contract assignments, repeating those day-to-day job duties over and over again in a chronological resume will work against you. It becomes impossible to keep the reader’s interest and you’ll likely end up with a 4+ page resume.
Instead, consider using the functional resume format. Your career history is still listed in reverse-chronological order, but only your job title, employer name and location, and start and end years are included. Your notable career accomplishments are summarized in a bulleted section strategically placed right after your summary and key skills. This section – titled Professional Highlights, Key Achievements, Select Accomplishments, or Value Offered, for example – enables you to showcase your unique experience without being overly repetitive. Areas of expertise can also be expanded upon in this section if there isn’t enough room to tout them in your summary paragraph.
Suppose the chronological format is the right choice, but you have numerous accomplishments to tout. This is a great problem to have, and the hybrid resume format is the answer. This “best of both worlds” strategy includes a Professional Highlights, Key Achievements, Select Accomplishments, or Value Offered section with bulleted achievements as well as a detailed Professional Experience section. The hybrid format allows you to showcase your “greatest hits” on the first page of the document.
Attention career changers: if you have a prior career in a field unrelated to dental care, think carefully before deciding to leave it off of your resume entirely. Are there any transferrable skills worth mentioning – such as customer service, office administration, staff support, or filing/recordkeeping, for example – that might benefit you in your dental assistant career? If so, mention your previous positions in a separate section toward the end of your document. Be sure to keep this section as brief as possible and don’t let it outshine the details that really matter to your current audience.
Often the most difficult part of a resume to write but the most important, achievements are the details that will help you stand out against other applicants. All successful dental assistants have the same core traits, so your resume needs to convince the hiring manager to interview you and not the next candidate. Quantifiable achievements can be tricky to identify in healthcare, but by asking yourself the right question – “then what happened?” – you’ll arrive at the results of your efforts. For example:
This is great, but then what happened? What were the direct results of your efforts?
See the difference?
Education & Training
List all degrees or diplomas obtained with the school name and location. Only include your graduation year if the degree was achieved in the last 5 years. You can also mention honors, awards, and scholarships in this section.
Regarding training, there is no need to include every continuing education course you’ve completed. However, advanced training programs, national meetings/conferences, and recent courses in trending topics may deserve space on your resume.
In this section, list all of your licenses, certifications, and professional memberships. If you have several professional memberships, consider creating a separate section for these items. Remember to label any inactive or past credentials accordingly or provide the start/end years to ensure your resume isn’t misleading.
Depending upon your background, additional sections to include on your resume could be awards, volunteerism/community activities, and computer proficiencies. As mentioned earlier, a prior career in another field could be covered toward the end of your resume to tout transferrable skills.
To view a dental assistant resume sample created by the iHire team, visit the iHireDental Resume Services page.