Resume Tips for Dental Hygienists
Successful dental hygienists are dedicated to their field, excel in independent as well as team-oriented roles, and take pride in their responsibility to promote proper oral care strategies. On the surface it may seem that all dental hygienists perform the same duties, and therefore if you’ve seen one dental hygienist resume, you’ve seen them all. This is simply not the case. Dental hygienists are not created equal, and it’s critical to keep this in mind when crafting your resume – yes, the standard skills and required qualifications you have will match others, but your resume can and should be much more than a listing of these credentials. Regardless of your experience level, follow these tips to write a strong, interview-winning document that effectively highlights your unique offerings.
Before we get into the individual sections of a resume, here are a few of the general rules to keep in mind:
- Limit paragraphs to 5–6 lines and bulleted lists to 7 for readability.
- Do not include details (including dates) for positions held more than 15 years ago.
- Write in first person but without the use of pronouns (I, me, my, our, we) and filler words (the, an, a).
- Avoid repetitive and weak language (e.g., “responsible for”).
- Sell it; don’t tell it. Your resume’s sole purpose is to land you interviews, so make sure every section is created with your audience 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 Hygienist.” The title of your resume replaces the outdated objective statement. Instead of stating, “Seeking a rewarding Dental Hygienist 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:
Compassionate, versatile, and enthusiastic Dental Hygienist with more than 10 years of experience delivering top-quality care to patients of all ages. Demonstrated strengths in managing heavy caseloads, identifying and resolving operational problems, and building lasting rapport with diverse populations; particularly skilled in working with children and the elderly. Valued team member with collaborative attitude, excellent process improvement abilities, and dedication to office growth.
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 hygienist buzzwords to consider including in your resume:
- Patient Relations & Education
- Scaling & Root Planing
- Oral Anesthesia Administration
- Digital X-rays
- Staff Training & Support
- Community Outreach
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 ensure your listed proficiencies match their required qualifications as closely as possible. Below is a job posting for a dental hygienist with the potential buzzwords highlighted:
Essential Duties and Responsibilities
- Performs scaling, cleaning, polishing of teeth as required.
- Administers local anesthesia.
- Places amalgams and composite restorations.
- Performs x-rays as needed.
- Records evaluations of mouth condition and extent of prophylaxis on dental charts.
- Advises and instructs patients on proper dental care and proper diet for good dental health.
- Participate in the development and implementation of provider productivity standards.
- Participate in staff meetings and in-service training as directed by Dental Director.
- Treats patients with highest respect in all functions of job and maintains patient confidentiality.
- Performs other duties as assigned.
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 hygienists.
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, team leadership, program management, or new system implementation, for example – that might benefit you in your hygienist 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.
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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 hygienists 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:
- Earned reputation among patients as a gentle and caring hygienist genuinely invested in their oral health.
This is great, but then what happened? What were the direct results of your efforts?
- Increased personal referral rate 50% by building and maintaining reputation among patients as a gentle and caring hygienist genuinely invested in their oral health.
See the difference?
Education & Training
List all degrees 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 presentations and publications, 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 hygienist resume sample created by the iHire team, visit the iHireDental Resume Services page
March 09, 2015
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