How you can sabotage your chances of getting an interview
by Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, RDH, BS, MBA
You have the necessary skills, and you need a job. However, there are several factors that employers take into consideration before they give you the benefit of a face-to-face interview. Unfortunately, many applicants unknowingly sabotage themselves in the application process. Those early mistakes can cost them the opportunity for a job. What are those mistakes, and how can you prevent them?
Today, employers who are looking for qualified candidates to fill openings in their offices have several advantages. First, the pool of available candidates is larger than it has been for many years. Many states report that there are far more dental hygienists seeking jobs than there are available jobs. The attrition rate for dental hygienists has dropped steadily over the past 20 years, and dental hygienists are continuing to work after they have children and past the traditional retirement age. Another factor is that the marriage rate has been in decline for many years, meaning there are more single dental hygienists than in the past. Since single hygienists do not have spouses to support them, they often work full-time or multiple part-time offices in order to survive financially.
Other articles by Watterson
- Notifying patients of relocation
- Top reasons hygienists are sued
- 6 communication tips to improve customer service in your dental practice
The second advantage that employers have today is related to how they can advertise a job opening. Online job advertising mediums, such as craigslist, give employers a cheap, anonymous way to seek applicants. Newspaper advertising for candidates is still a viable tool, but the steadily rising cost of newspaper advertising has caused some employers to seek other advertising venues.
How to prevent yourself from getting an interview
Recently, one of my consulting clients had an opening in her office for a dental hygienist. As her consultant, I conducted the first round of interviews. We ran an ad on craigslist and received a total of 20 resumes over a four-day period. Of the 20 resumes, only three made it to the face-to-face interview stage with the doctor. Here is a summary of some of the problems:
1. No references provided
When the applicant does not provide references, the person reviewing the application may call a former employer to get a reference. The former employer may not give the former employee a good review. The bottom line is this: do not force potential employers to have to ask for references. The phrase "References provided upon request" forces the employer to chase you down to obtain references. This alone could derail your attempt to get an interview. Always provide three references, and make sure you get their permission to use them as a reference.
2. Poor reference
One applicant provided a reference who gave her a very poor rating as an employee. Sometimes, a former employer is hesitant about recommending someone. When I detect hesitancy, I usually ask this key question: "Given the opportunity, would you hire this person again?" If the answer is "No," that's really all I need to know.
3. Confused reference
Two of the references I contacted said they did not know the candidate. "If she said she formerly worked for me, I have no recollection of her at all."
4. Reference phone number is nonworking
Provide correct phone numbers and email addresses if possible.
5. References not credible
People who make good references should be individuals who can speak to the quality of the applicant's work. Former employers are best. If the applicant has never been employed, program directors or internship administrators will suffice. Using your best friend, neighbor, or (worse) a family member does not provide a credible reference.
6. Unable to reach references after numerous attempts
Make sure your reference is willing to accept phone calls from potential employers.
7. No resume attached
Probably, most of us have forgotten to attach a file when sending an email with an attachment. However, this simple error can cost a candidate an interview. When an applicant replies to a craigslist ad, the recipient is not able to reply directly back to the applicant. So if the applicant did not provide an email address in the body of the post, the recipient has no way to let him or her know the attachment was omitted.
8. Poorly written resume
Resume templates are free and readily available for anyone needing a little guidance on how to develop a professional-looking resume. One candidate sent a three-page resume with very large font, very little information, and no references.
9. Unprofessional Facebook page
Given the popularity of Facebook, most employers will check to see if an applicant has a Facebook page. Please understand that if you have a Facebook page that contains profanity, vulgarity, racy photos, off-color remarks, or other unprofessional content, this could cost you an interview. One candidate had a beautiful cover letter, a professional resume, and a stellar reference from a former employer. However, when the doctor typed the applicant's name into Facebook, she got a very different view of the applicant. The home page contained a provocative picture of the applicant in a string bikini holding a beer. Some of the language was offensive and vulgar, which was a huge turn-off to the doctor. The conservative doctor found the content to be unsavory and chose not to give the applicant a face-to-face interview. A person can produce a "paper persona" in the form of a resume, but some would contend that Facebook shows the "real" person.
10. Cover letter focuses on money
One applicant made clear demands on what she expected for starting pay. While pay is an important consideration, the resume or cover letter is not the place to begin pay discussions, especially in today's job climate. Those discussions should be broached in the personal interview.
11. Poorly written cover letter
The cover letter is your formal introduction of yourself to the potential employer. The letter should be grammatically impeccable, free from misspelled words, no more than three short paragraphs, and a succinct statement of who you are and what you could bring to the practice. Remember, the cover letter is your first impression opportunity.
12. Poor telephone skills
Here's an example:
Female – Hello.
Me – Could I speak with Shannon Jones [fictitious] please?
Female – (long pause) What is this about?
Me – Excuse me, but with whom am I speaking?
Female – I said, what is this about?!
Me – She submitted a resume that I'm following up.
Female – Who is this?
Me – My name is Dianne Watterson.
Female – (long pause) – Oh, OK, this is Shannon… (giggle, giggle)
Me – The position we have is for two days per week. Would you be interested in that?
Female – Weeeeellll, like, I don't know, like, I reeeeeally want full time. But, maybe I should … I don't know.
Me – That's OK. It sounds like this is not for you.
Female – Uhhhhhh, well, like, call me back if it can be full time … I reeeeeeeeally need the paycheck … so what does it pay?
Me – That's OK. Thanks for your time.
13. Calls not returned
Two candidates had acceptable resumes and cover letters and even received a favorable reference. However, my messages left on their voicemail were not returned.
14. Voice mailbox not set up
One candidate gave a cell number, but when I called, there was a message that the person's voice mailbox was not set up. So I was unable to ask the candidate to return my call.
15. Lives too far away
One of the problems with craigslist is that ads often go out to a very large geographic area. Two of our potential candidates simply lived too far away from the practice.
From this real life example, you can see that there are several stumbling blocks that can prevent you from getting an interview. The most important aspect of your ability to get your foot in the door is your references. This is why it is never a good idea to leave a job on a bad note if possible. The words from a former employer can make or break your chances in a new office. Always conduct yourself in a professional manner while on the job, and make patient care excellence your personal mandate.
Always remember that the ground is not level when it comes to employers and employees. Employers have the advantage. They form perceptions of potential employees based on many things, including the resume/cover letter and online presence. Employers carry a serious responsibility in owning a business that provides high-quality, competent care to its patients. They need high-quality employees to help them run their businesses efficiently and profitably. They try to avoid individuals who they feel might bring drama, bad attitudes, gossip, or low professional standards to their practices.
Job competition is fierce today. The way in which a person presents him- or herself before a face-to-face interview is a key element in whether there will be an opportunity for such an interview. The winners are those with a proven track record of strong work ethics, dependability, friendliness, and patient care excellence. These attributes are built day by day. RDH
DIANNE GLASSCOE WATTERSON, RDH, BS, MBA, is a professional speaker, writer, and consultant to dental practices across the United States. Dianne's new book, "The Consummate Dental Hygienist: Solutions for Challenging Workplace Issues," is now available on her website. To contact her for speaking or consulting, call (301) 874-5240 or email dglass [email protected]. Visit her website at www.professionaldentalmgmt.com.
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