Finding Job Opportunities

After you have graduated and satisfied your province's regulation requirements, your focus will naturally turn to finding a job as a dental hygienist. Where to find such a job, however, requires knowing where to look. Below are some ideas to get you started in your job search.


  • Before you begin to write

    Before writing your résumé, sit down and make a list of your skills, experience, and abilities that are relevant for the job. Keep these items in mind as you write the résumé. Know the specifics of the job and what the employer will want from you as an employee, and tailor your résumé accordingly.

  • Format

    At the top of the résumé, write your full name, address (must be a permanent address; if you are finishing school and planning to move, consider using your parents' address), telephone number including area code, email address (one that looks professional; use your school email address if it is easily accessible and you will have access to it for a while), and website address (if it is a professional one created solely for job search purposes).

  • Summary

    Begin with a summary or objective outlining what sort of work you are hoping to do. Tailor this as much as possible to the job and organization you are applying to.

  • Education

    The second topic to address is education. Include the names of your degrees and diplomas, with the date received and the name, city, and province of the institution for each. List your education in reverse chronological order with the most recent appearing first. Include GPA if it is complimentary, but remember to put it in context (different schools have different GPA standards, from a scale based on 6.0 to a scale based on 12.0). List any academic honours you have received. If you have not finished your degree or diploma, use words such as "eligible," "in progress," or "anticipated."

  • Experience

    The third topic is work experience. Give an overview of the work that has helped you develop your skills, in reverse chronological order. Use action words like "facilitated," "supervised," or "assisted" to give an idea of what you contributed to the office or company. Give addresses, phone numbers, dates of employment, the title of your position, the name of the organization, as well as specific responsibilities and achievements. Use a problem-action-results method of describing achievements: explain a problem or task you had to deal with, how you dealt with it, and what the outcome was. Do not underestimate the value of unrelated work experience. Think about how some aspects of it may translate to the job you are applying for.

  • Other Information

    Include a fourth section that outlines other important information, such as special skills and knowledge, leadership experience, volunteer experience, and participation in extracurricular activities. If you have published any papers or articles (see Student Publications) in newspapers, newsletters, or journals such as the Canadian Journal of Dental Hygiene, refer to them here. Volunteer work, especially in a field related to the job you are applying for, is important. Also, make sure to highlight your skills in areas such as communication, interpersonal relations, and teamwork. Include hobbies and interests if they are relevant.

    If you have just finished your dental hygiene program and are newly licensed with no experience as a dental hygienist, you may want to add other categories like "Registration," "Professional Associations," or "Community Service." These categories show a prospective employer that you are ready for immediate employment and that you do have relevant experience, although unpaid.

  • References

    References depend a great deal on the specific situation. Depending on your wishes and the request of the employer, you may want to include a reference sheet, but in many cases simply stating on your résumé that "References are available upon request" is appropriate. The only concrete rule is that any reference should be consulted prior to being included on your reference list. Also, in the specific case of newly graduated dental hygienists applying for their first dental hygiene job, you may want to consider asking a program coordinator, professor, or community leader to be a reference. Create a reference sheet with names, titles, and phone numbers, or you might consider asking one or more of your references for a letter of reference that you can bring to the interview.

  • Editing & Design

    When you are finished writing the draft of your résumé, ask others—friends, family members, professors, or résumé consultants—to proofread the résumé. Most, if not all, colleges and universities have career services personnel who will look over your résumé for you and make suggestions. It is extremely important that the résumé be free of grammatical and spelling errors. Also be aware of mixed tenses, and make sure that the résumé is easy to read.

    The design of the résumé should be simple and clear. Use plain or off-white paper of good quality, but avoid pretentious-looking stationery like parchment paper. Use a non-decorative font around 11-point, and avoid gimmicks like changing fonts and graphics, or shading. Avoid italics and underlined words as much as possible. Lines (horizontal or vertical, which could break up the copy) are not necessary. Use a laser printer, and avoid folding the résumé. Use a large envelope if you need to mail it to an employer. Use 8-1/2 x 11-inch paper and print on one side only.

    If the employer indicates a preferred number of pages, stick to that number. If not, the résumé should be one page. However, if you feel you have enough relevant information, additional pages can be used.

Cover Letters

  • Before You Begin to Write

    The cover letter, more than the résumé, should be customized for the job you are applying for and the practice you are applying to. Avoid the common mistake of focusing entirely on "I…" by keeping the needs and goals of the practice in mind. This requires research—look at the employer's website, promotional materials, newspaper articles, pamphlets or brochures, and any other place that you might be able to find insight into the practice. A very good resource is the internet; type the name of the dentist or practice into a search engine. Often, even small companies and professional offices have websites and are referred to in news articles. Talk to employees for insight into the practice if you can. Your cover letter should show the employer how you understand the practice's goals and would fit well into the practice's direction.

  • Tone & Focus

    Before writing, think about what you want to say. Create a clear picture of how you want to be perceived by the employer, and make a mental list of your best selling points. Remember, as a cover letter, it is your first impression to the employer. Be sure that it is well written and professional.

    Be professional in your writing, but also be friendly. Appropriate use of humour will set you apart from the other applicants. Remember that you are being considered for your personal skills and attitude as well as your knowledge and skills. Demonstrating that you are good-natured and desirable to work with is much more effective than claiming to be so.

    Brevity is important when writing the cover letter. Don't leave out important information or ideas, but try to be as concise as possible. Remember to keep to the point, and keep paragraphs short.

  • Introduction

    Address the letter to the specific individual who will be reading it. If the job posting doesn't include the person's name, do some research or phone the office. If you cannot find the name, write "Dear Hiring Manager." Also make sure to use the name of the company or practice and use the title of the position you are applying for.

    The introductory paragraph should be very short, two to three sentences at the most. Refer to the position you are applying for and how you found out about the opening. State concisely how your qualifications make you the top candidate.

  • Body of the Letter

    The body of your letter should be two or three longer paragraphs, where you include your sales pitch. This is where you expand on how your qualifications make you the top candidate. Pick out the most important experiences and skills that you have, and elaborate on how they will enhance your performance at this job. Be specific, but not redundant. Refer to your résumé for details, and keep your cover letter for examples of your achievements and qualifications.

  • Conclusion

    In your concluding paragraph, you want to inspire the employer to pursue an interview with you. Request an interview by expressing your interest in meeting face-to-face and by including your telephone number and times you can be reached. Refer to your enclosed résumé. Thank your reader for his or her consideration.

    Close with a professional phrase such as "Respectfully," or "Yours sincerely," and add your name.

  • Editing

    Perhaps the most important step is the last: proofreading. It is extremely important that the cover letter have no errors in grammar or spelling. Remember to check for any spaces you left for information you needed to look up. Get help in proofreading from others, like friends, family members, professors, or résumé consultants.


Take the interview as an opportunity to show the employer your interest in the position and, in turn, the energy and expertise you will bring to the job. Getting to the interview stage shows that the employer has deemed you as qualified for consideration, and the interview is your chance to show that you will put that qualification to good use.

  • Preparation

    One very important aspect of preparation for the interview is research. Hopefully you have already done research on the employer for the cover letter, but if not, it's not too late. Find out about the office, its staff, and its practice policies. Gather information about key staff and the size of the practice, and know the appropriate salary range. Find any literature available about the employer and/or the practice, and if there is any such literature at the office, you may want to read that while you wait.

    Another important preparation is self-examination. Develop a clear picture about your skills and interests. You know that there is an excellent chance that you will be asked about your strengths and weaknesses, so think about them and develop what you're going to say. Recall certain situations you have found yourself in at school, other jobs, extracurricular activities, and volunteer activities. Keep key accomplishments in your mind, as well as times when you made the wrong decision or took the wrong action, and think about what you would change. Think about your long-term goals.

    Practise is also a key part of preparation. Some people benefit from a role-playing interview with friends or peers, but some find it makes them more stressed. By now, you know what type of practics is best for you. Practise in some way, because it will make for an easier and smoother interview. Options to think about include meeting with a career counselor, practising with a friend, and videotaping or audiotaping yourself in a mock interview. From this practise, you can develop an interview strategy that you believe will show you in the best light and allow you to give the information that you think is important.

  • Presentation

    It is important to dress professionally and conservatively, but without misrepresenting your true self. The rule "less is more" is very appropriate and applies to everything from make-up to heels for women, and cologne and perfume for everyone. Be neat and polished.

  • Finding Out if the Job is Right for You

    Keep in mind that you are interviewing for a job as a professional. The focus is different from interviews for a part-time or summer job, in that the objective is no longer solely to impress the employer and get a job. If this job is the beginning of your career as a dental hygienist, you want to make sure that the position and the firm are right for you. The dentist will not only be your employer, he or she will be your co-worker. The interview marks the beginning of a working relationship, and it is important to get a feeling that all parties will benefit from this relationship.

    Don't let the interview be one-sided. Ask questions, be sure you are aware of details such as responsibilities, what kind of instrumentation is used, vacation, hours, and other office policies. Especially important to dental hygienists are the policies concerning scheduling. Ask about the staff and the office. Request a tour of the office and note details such as its equipment, layout, and supplies. Picture the office as your workplace and evaluate it from that mindset. Be cautious of high turnover rates; this is usually a bad sign.

  • Communication & Etiquette

    At the interview, demonstrate good verbal communication skills. Listen carefully, and answer thoughtfully and concisely. Ask for clarification if you don't understand what is being asked, and give the interviewer answers that are as complete and specific as possible. Use proper grammar, and try to avoid "um" and "like" (but don't beat yourself up if a few slip out). Don't be negative about past employers and co-workers, and especially about yourself. This is not the time to be self-deprecating!

    Non-verbal communication is also very important. Shake the interviewer's hand firmly at the beginning and the end of the interview. Smile and nod frequently and at appropriate times. Try to be as pleasant and calm as possible at all times. Show interest through body language and careful listening. Maintain eye contact. Be enthusiastic.

    Along with non-verbal communication, be aware of interview etiquette. Arrive on time, if not a bit early, ask for the correct spelling of the interviewer's name, and get their title. Be courteous at all times, and let certain topics—such as salary and benefits—be introduced by the interviewer.

    Keep in mind the image and qualities you want to convey while you're in the interview. Provide examples whenever possible and appropriate. Anticipate behaviour-based questions; questions about past experiences and incidents are designed to give you a chance to show how you deal with problems, interact with people, and learn from experience and mistakes.

  • Concluding the Interview

    Be aware of clues from the interviewer as to the length of the interview. When it is over, thank the interviewer for their time, and restate your interest in and qualifications for the position. Offer a firm handshake. Allude to further contact by asking when you might expect to hear from them and by saying you look forward to speaking with them again.

    Send a short thank-you letter directly after the interview. This is both a courtesy and a way to refresh the interviewer's memory of you. Restate your interest in the position. If any new questions come to mind, phone the office.

  • Working Interviews

    Working interviews are sometimes used for dental hygiene positions. If your interview is a working interview, don't be more stressed because of it; think of it as a first day on the job (which is the object of the application and interview process, after all) with no obligations. In a working interview, you and the employer have the opportunity to experience working together in order to determine whether the fit is right.