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How to Write a Great Dentist Resume

Orange manilla folder full of dentist resumes.

The path to becoming a dentist is a long one, and you’ve worked hard to get where you are. Whether you’re about to launch the career of your dreams, or you’ve been at it for a while, there’s really only one thing standing between you and scoring that first job interview. Yep, we’re referring to the much-dreaded resume writing process. It’s tough to know where to begin, especially if you’re new to the industry, but fear not: The process is actually pretty painless when you break it into manageable steps. What’s more, a well-polished resume serves as valuable proof of your professionalism, even against competitors who may have more experience.

We spoke to pros from every perspective of the job hunt, from recruiters to hiring managers to veteran dentists, for expert advice on crafting a dentist resume that stands out from the pack:

How Do You Format a Dentist Resume?

According to Warzel — and a 2018 study that found that recruiters make up their mind about a job candidate in just six seconds (!) — the importance of a clear, reader-friendly resume layout can’t be overstated.

To make sure you pass the six-second test, it’s best to stick to the following format:

  1. Contact Information
  2. Professional Summary/Objective
  3. Education
  4. License & Certifications
  5. Work Experience
  6. Relevant Skills & Affiliations

Section 1: Contact Information

If there’s one thing you want to be crystal clear, it’s how the hiring manager can reach you for an interview. The following elements should be clearly listed at the top of your resume:

  • Your Full Name
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address
  • Optional:
    • Mailing Address
    • LinkedIn Profile URL

The reason that your mailing address falls under the “optional” category? A little thing called applicant tracking systems (ATS). These are software systems that automate the resume review process and are increasingly being used by companies to weed out ineligible candidates. If you’re not local, or you’re in the process of moving, your resume runs the risk of being disregarded before it’s even read by human eyes — which is why you should think hard about whether to include your address.

While adding your LinkedIn profile isn’t required, our experts agree that it’s a thoughtful touch that elevates your resume by showing hiring managers even more of what you have to offer; especially if you’ve optimized your profile. Plus, they’ll typically search for your LinkedIn profile anyway, so you’ll score points for providing the link and making their lives easier. Just make sure your profile is polished first, and customize your URL so it’s clean and personalized (here’s helpful instructions on how to do so).

Now’s also a great time to make sure that your email address sounds professional. Your full name is always a solid option, but if it’s already claimed as someone else’s email address, you can usually find a similar variation with a little creative dot placement, abbreviation, adding a number or two (just stay away from an excessive amount), or combining your name with your profession (e.g., janedoedentist@gmail.com).

Section 2: Professional Objective

Summing up your career aspirations in one neat, shiny sentence can feel like pulling teeth (we had to!), but according to Dr. Salim, it’s also the best opportunity to put your “why” on display. Your objective should read like a third-person bio and highlight your unique value in one or two snappy, concise sentences.

“Beyond your competencies, your potential employer wants to have an idea of who you are as a human: your values, your mission, and what you stand for,” Dr. Salim says. “When they see that you’re driven by a strong sense of purpose, it goes that much further in showing you have the necessary mental fortitude and abilities to respond to challenges.”

Dr. Dhinsa echoes the importance of letting your personality come through, especially given the fact that most new dentists have fairly similar qualifications and courses under their belt.

"Choose powerful words that highlight your soft skills and show that you’re committed, driven, and approachable,” he says. “To finish strong, add in any areas of dentistry you have an interest in, or better yet, areas where you have additional qualifications to increase your value proposition.”

Your objective needs to be compelling, so don’t worry if you feel like you’re spending an outsized amount of time here — it’s time well-spent! And while this section lives at the top of your resume, it’s sometimes easier to write after really combing through the other sections, so feel free to come back to it after getting some inspiration. When giving it a read-through, make sure it reflects you and what you have to offer, rather than a cliche statement that could apply to any recent dental graduate.

Try this:

“Recent graduate combining excellent clinical skills with a gentle touch to treat children ages 3-17. Seeking to leverage Arizona license, 2+ years of hands-on pediatric experience, and bilingual skills (English and Spanish) to elevate patient care at HealthySmiles.”

Note: This objective provides quantifiable experience and soft skills, plus a personalized touch at the end.

Or this:

“Personable dentist specializing in preventative dental care for children ages 3-17. Seeking to leverage 2+ years clinical experience and compassionate chair-side manner to help pediatric patients achieve excellent oral hygiene.”

Note: This objective is also uber-personalized to emphasize the candidate’s experience with a specific population.

Not this:

"Hi, I'm Annie — an aspiring dental professional with a passion for patient relations."

Note: Pleasant, but it doesn’t really tell them anything about you as a professional or what you’d add to their practice. Plus, you’ll want to stick to third-person and instead of using words like “aspiring,” focus instead on the experience you do have under your belt.

And not this:

"Seeking a dental position in a growth-oriented organization. I have a proven track record of expertise acquired in a diverse array of critical industry skill sets."

Note: Here’s a cliche example that could easily apply to any new dentist. The first sentence is focused on what the hiring manager can do for you, not the other way around. The second sentence is stuffed with ambiguous words, which you’ll want to avoid in exchange for clear and concise language.

Section 3: Education

As you gain more experience, your education section will shift closer to the bottom of your resume. When you’re fresh out of school, however, this information should be placed higher up and list your educational history in reverse chronological order, meaning that your most recent schooling is at the top.

According to our experts, there’s no need to mention your high school diploma (a given) or your college GPA, unless the job posting specifically asks for it or it’s super impressive (i.e., a 4.0). If you participated in a dental externship in medical school, even better; you can add this to your education section as well.

Try this:

Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) ⏐ Anystate School of Dentistry, Anytown, Anystate
Sept 2015 - May 2020

Bachelor of Science (BS) in Health Science ⏐ Anystate University, Anytown, Anystate
Sept 2011 - May 2015

But not this:

Bachelor of Science (BS) in Health Science ⏐ Anystate University, Anytown, Anystate
Sept 2011 - May 2015

Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) ⏐ Anystate School of Dentistry, Anytown, Anystate
Sept 2015 - May 2020

Note: This isn’t in reverse chronological order.

Section 4: License & Certifications

As you know, all dentists in the United States need a state license to practice, so listing your license is a necessity. Any additional certifications you’ve earned also serve as an added bonus. Again, reverse chronological order is the way to go to keep this section clear and logical.

Try this:

General Dentist, State of Arizona. License #XXXXXX ⏐ 2020
General Dentistry-certified, American Board of General Dentistry ⏐ 2020

Not this:

2020 - Licensed in Arizona
2020 - General Dentistry Certification

Section 5: Work Experience

According to Warzel, the majority of candidates convey their work experience in a way that’s task-based. To set yourself apart as a diamond-in-the-rough applicant, take a value-driven approach and describe your experience in a manner that’s quantifiable.

“Stick to brevity while making those bottom-line accomplishments shine. Numbers and metrics will speak for themselves, and help you get to the interview,” he says.

Even when you’re fresh out of dental school, you can still use this approach to make your case. If you have experience as an intern or assistant, can you mention how many patients you assisted with? Any growth at the clinic? A particularly impressive score on a certification exam? Recognition for excellent patient care? Two to four bullet points under each job title is sufficient; any more is overkill.

You’ll also want to tailor your experience to mention the most relevant points from the job description. If the job ad repeatedly mentions “performing X-rays,” that’s an example of a keyword you’ll definitely want to include under your own experience (if it’s true, of course). While you may have one main resume template, it’s incredibly advantageous to tweak it a bit for each job you apply for to highlight those keywords.

Try this:

Dental Intern, Anytown Dentistry ⏐ May 2018-May 2020

  • Performed routine dental examinations, check-ups, and X-rays
  • Created a warm, welcoming environment for pediatric patients
  • Educated children ages 3-17 on oral hygiene and preventative care

Not this:

Dental Intern, Anytown Dentistry ⏐ May 2018-May 2020

  • Responsible for dental examinations and X-rays
  • Tasked with educating children on oral hygiene

Note: This is a task-based example, which describes your responsibilities but fails to mention how well you carried them out.

Section 6: Relevant Skills & Affiliations

Just like your work experience, your skills section is an amazing opportunity to again weave in keywords from the job description to catch the hiring manager’s eye. Rather than just plunking in said skills (i.e. “X-rays”), choose strong words to precede them, such as:

  • "Specializes in"
  • "Exceptional in"
  • "Solid background in"
  • "Effective at"
  • "Delivering"
  • "Knowledgeable in"

As a recent grad, you may have a leg-up in the technology department, and definitely want to highlight your proficiency with digital devices, equipment, programs, or techniques; especially ones specifically mentioned in the job ad. If your expertise in this area is extensive, list your skills in a statement such as, “Proficient with X, Y, Z...” to make them all fit.

You’ll also want to include a balance of hard and soft skills to show that you’re both competent and compassionate (aka, able to provide excellent patient care). One great way to put your soft skills on display is to mention any charitable or non-profit causes you’re involved with. Don’t hesitate to include them just because they’re not dentistry-related; according to Dr. Salid, this can add a huge positive dimension to your resume.

“It demonstrates that you care about others, as well as personal growth and contributions to your immediate environment and surroundings, in addition to what you may do at work,” he says.

Ditto with any professional memberships or leadership roles you took on in dental school — all of these details contribute to helping you come across as a well-rounded team player.

Try this:

SKILLS

  • Performing oral hygiene exams and X-rays
  • Effective in assessing and evaluating emergency situations
  • Excellent communication skills in both English and Spanish, especially with children
  • Proficient in operating and using modern dental equipment, including X, X, and X

AFFILIATIONS
Global Dental Relief Volunteer ⏐ 2016- Current

Note: This example covers both hard and soft skills, plus mentions a proficiency with technology. It caps off with including a long-standing volunteer position.

Not this:

SKILLS

  • Communication skills (bilingual)
  • Oral hygiene and X-rays
  • Emergency situations

Note: You’ll want to be as specific as possible in displaying your know-how, rather than keeping things general.

3 Final Tips For Success

Last but not least, our experts have three final tips to help elevate your resume and keep your morale high.

Tip #1: Do some industry research for inspiration.

If you’re feeling stuck or having trouble even getting started, Warzel’s advice is to peruse Glassdoor.com, Indeed.com, LinkedIn.com, or Salary.com to jog your inspiration. “This research is a good way to spot industry and job keywords (for your skills section), role responsibilities (for the experience section), and important transferable contributions in general for inclusion on your own resume,” he says. “Start a running list to record your findings.”

Tip #2: Optimize the file name and use PDF format.

Mendelsohn, who receives a fair share of resumes with file names such as “copy of bobs resume (1).PDF” or “38393944.PDF,” says that providing a clean, optimized file name (i.e. “Annie Diaz Resume”) is an easy way to differentiate yourself. “When I see that somebody is not motivated enough to change the file name, doesn’t know how to change a file name, or a combination of the two, the candidate is starting with two strikes before the resume is even viewed,” he shares. Another pro tip: Always save your resume in PDF format to ensure it renders correctly on whatever device it’s opened on.

Tip #3: Keep the faith!

Sometimes, you’re doing everything right — but there just so happens to be someone who is more qualified than you, or perhaps even has an inside connection to the practice. Scoring your first real job can be tough, but don’t get discouraged. “Trust that it will happen, and just keep going for every opportunity by tailoring your resume to fit the job ad,” Warzel says. “You’ll get to where you want to be!”


Image courtesy of iStock.com/mstahlphoto


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Berxi™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice.

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