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How can I compete with other hygienists with many more years experience when looking for a job?

I am a new hygienist and wanted to know if others had advise on how to compete with hygienist that have many years of experience during interviews. I find myself discouraged when there’s a job posting due to many hygienist with 10yrs plus of experience applying to same job I am. Any thoughts on why a dentist would choose me vs a seasoned RDH and what could I say to make myself more appealing candidate. Also should I be asking for a lot less pay to help my chances?



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8 Answers

This is a great question because it can seem nearly impossible to find a job when you are competing against people who have much more experience than you. While you don’t have the same experience as other applicants, you can use your energy of being new in your career to your advantage. Let the doctor know you are a team player and are willing to help around the office and go above and beyond what they may think the hygienist’s primary role is. If you get a working interview, show them by doing this. For instance, instead of asking the dental assistant to get something for you, ask where it’s located in the office, then get it yourself. This shows initiative to learn. During a working interview and if time permits, help with sterilizing instruments, stock your operatory, things that show you are a team player and that you don’t have the “someone else will do it” attitude. Ultimately, the doctor and other employees are going to want to be in an office with somebody they enjoy being around and you don’t need 10 years of experience to be a team player and personable.
 
To get experience, I would suggest temping. Temping teaches you how to walk into an office and know exactly what to ask about regarding the office’s protocols to get the job done. This gives you a great advantage for when working interviews for a permanent position begin. It also gives you an idea of what you like and don’t like in an office and systems that work (organization, protocols) to then implement in a permanent position. The same can be said for volunteering. Some doctors who volunteer like to hire those who volunteer as well. Both of these things are networking opportunities as well.
 
On the pay issue, I would check out your state’s employment website and see what the pay range is for dental hygienists. Here’s an example of my state’s (Oregon) occupational wage breakdown: http://bit.ly/1RLyFcC. Wages can vary not only state to state, but county to county, which is why the employment department is a good resource; many breakdown wages county to county. Knowing this range is key! When the time comes where you are discussing pay say something along the lines of “The average pay for hygienists in our state is $40 an hour (or whatever it is in your state), but I understand I’m a new hygienist so I’m willing to start at the $36 – $38 range, which is on the lower end of average pay for hygienists in this area.” With that said, don’t lowball yourself too much (stay within the range). This is so important, working for less than you are worth not only devalues you, but devalues the hygiene profession as a whole. When hygienists do this, it keeps wages stagnant or can even drive wages down. You can also ask the doctor of office manager if you can have a review in 3 to 6 months, once you’ve become acclimated to the office, and ask for a small raise of a dollar or so.
 
Do make sure pay is discussed, but try not to be the first one to bring it up during an interview and just immediately offer to work for less. Focus on your strengths as to why you are a good hygienist, what you have to offer, and why you are a good fit for that particular office. If an office hires you for the sole reason of saving a few bucks an hour you will probably find that is not the most hygienist-friendly or patient-focused office. That’s been my experience anyway!

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My first job right out of hygiene school was a temp job to cover for a maternity leave for 12 weeks. I got this job with no experience because my resume looked really professional and well written and because the office manager liked my personality during the interview. She also she liked giving new grads opportunities to get experience to put on their resume so I lucked out with that and was very grateful for that office manager. I also got paid pretty low but I was willing to work for just about anything justfor the experience (which they knew and was a plus for the doctor). That experience helped me get my next job which I started only a few months after the first one ended and I have been there ever since. In the end the office was more interested in the attitude and work ethic of a potential new team member. The rest will cultivate later and most offices know and understand this (they were new to the field once too). Just stay positive and persistent. It’s a numbers game. The more interviews you do the more likely you are to get hired somewhere. In the mean time volunteer for the clinical experience. It can go on your resume as experience and clinics in need will take anyone who is willing to donate their time!

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I know it can seem frustrating and maybe intimidating at times. But remember you are a skilled professional. In my office we have hired both experienced and new graduates. Many offices consider it a positive to hire newer grads as they can ‘train’ them to their office specifics! Subbing is a good way to network as well as joining your local hygiene study club. Best of luck!

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Subbing is a great way to gain experience and get a feel for the kind of office you want to be a part of.
When I was first starting out, I delivered my resume by hand and expressed my willingness to fill-in with little notice. I kept busy until I found my home. 🙂

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Do as much temping as you can! Many offices don’t advertise but are looking for quality team players. So put your best foot forward! I found myself getting many offers while temping! Know what your looking for. Usually they will casually ask if you have a permanent job. When you say no, they will ask what you are looking for. I was honest saying I was open to FT, PT, that I just wanted to,right fit as a team player. Whatever it is you want, let them know! They may just call you down the road if they have a spot!

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Dont sell yourself short because your right out of school. Employers know what they are looking for and its not always experience. As someone with experience, and looking for a job, I have found that the rate of pay has been dropping because people are accepting positions willing to take less because they dont have experience. You are still a professional and as such you should be compensated for it. The job market is sparse right now so just take heart in the fact that you are a professional and experienced or not it has to be a good fit for you and the office.

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Temp as much as you can!! I mistakenly settled down with whoever would take me straight out of school. It isn’t about how long you’ve worked exactly, but what you have to offer. Go to different offices. Get acclimated to different types of offices, equipment, etc. Find what suites you best, and then look for that office to call home. Your experience within many different practices will make you stand out. Sure, another potential candidate for the job has worked as a hygienist for 20 years, but what if shes been in the same office the entire time? Plus, I work with a hygienist whos been working for 20+ years (only 3 years for me) and she’s horrible. You’ll be fine, just try to be patient. Good luck!!

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I agree with Kara RDH. I have almost always been one of the youngest in the office. Ok, maybe not as much recently, seeing as I have 17 years in hygiene. But I always feel that each of us has something unique to offer. There are many doctors that do not want the same old thing (not old age wise). They want someone who will bring fresh ideas. They want someone who can help them appeal to the young technology savvy generation. They want someone who can bring in a new energy and vibe to the office. I often feel that young hygienists have more to offer in these areas. Be sure to be you. Be confident in what you offer. Be willing to learn new things and adapt. But don’t ever think you don’t have something wonderful to offer, because you do!

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