Looking to stand out at your dental hygienist interview? These tips can help! In the guide below you’ll get specific advice on interviewing for a dental hygienist job – plus, you’ll find example answers and advice for common questions you’re likely to be asked during your interview.
Remember, if you’ve been invited to interview, it means your resume speaks for itself – you have the kind of training and experience that the office is looking for. The interview is to get to know you as a person, to see what kind of employee you would be. This is the chance for you to demonstrate your dedication, enthusiasm, and team spirit.
No matter what job you’re interviewing for, and how much experience you have, there are certain interview tips that never go out of style. Remember that you’re not just there to explain your experience and training: you’re also there to prove that you are the right hire for the job. You want to present as capable, confident, and enthusiastic, without being boastful or criticizing your past employers.
You’re also finding out whether this is the right job for you – you’ll likely have an opportunity to ask questions and find out more about working at that dental office. According to the Department of Labor, you should treat an interview like a “two-way discussion”: they are interviewing you as a potential employee, but you are interviewing them as a potential place to work!
Below are some tips for a dental hygienist interview, whether it’s your first job out of school, or you’re looking for a new employer after years in the dental industry.
Do your research about the office where you’re hiring – visit their website, read reviews, find as much information as you can about the company you want to work for. Finding out detailed information will help you decide whether this office is the right place for you, and whether you’d be a good fit for them.
Mentioning detailed information about their office during the interview demonstrates that you did your homework, and can help make you a memorable candidate.
Prepare your answers, as well – you don’t want to be taken by surprise by having failed to prepare your thoughts! While you won’t know exactly which questions you’ll be asked during the interview, you’ll have a general idea of what information they will want, so it’s good to prepare in advance. Glassdoor recommends you prepare an elevator pitch: a 30-second spiel about who you are, why you’re the right fit for this position, and what you can offer their team.
Even though as a dental hygienist your daily uniform will likely be scrubs, you shouldn’t wear them to the interview unless it’s a working interview where you’ll be observed on the clinic floor. Ask beforehand what kind of interview it will be and whether you should wear scrubs. If it’s a regular informational interview, you should dress professional in business or business casual attire.
Slacks and a blouse or button-up, a cardigan or blazer, and professional shoes are a safe bet for any dental hygienist interview. Don’t show too much skin, and cover up tattoos with long sleeves. Your wardrobe is an extension of you, and you want to convey as much professionalism and responsibility as possible.
As noted in RDH Magazine, you should also bring your resume along with you in case they need a copy.
Briefly describe your education and work experience, including clinical internships during your training. You can also mentioned where you’re licensed.
Example answer: “I got my degree in dental hygiene from the University of Michigan, and I did a clinical internship at All Smiles Dentistry in Ann Arbor. I am a licensed RDH here in New Jersey, and I spent one year working at Braces & More Dentistry and Orthodontics.”
Talking to patients about their oral healthcare routine is an important part of a dental hygienist position. Talk about your training and experience, and be sure to stay positive: even if this isn’t your favorite part of the job, you want to avoid any negatives answers.
Example answer: “Some of my coursework covered educating and training patients in oral healthcare, so I’m very familiar with best practices. In the last year I’ve helped hundreds of patients understand how to properly brush and floss; it’s very rewarding to teach patients the skills to care for their teeth themselves!”
Patient privacy is a critically important component of a successful dental practice. Make sure to brush up on HIPAA policies and procedures if it’s been awhile since you’ve looked at them.
Example answer: “My dental hygiene program had a course entirely on HIPAA compliance, so I’m very familiar with the procedures. My last office held monthly meetings where we discussed any HIPAA concerns and reviewed best practices. I’m always very careful about patient privacy and HIPAA compliance.”
You’re very likely to get a variation of this question, and it’s a great opportunity to show your strengths and personality! Be honest, and include any personal touches about your unique experience – this makes you a more memorable candidate and adds depth to your story.
Example answer: “My aunt is a dental hygienist and I always looked up to her growing up. She took me to the office to meet her coworkers, and everyone was so friendly and seemed to genuinely enjoy their jobs. I’ve always wanted to be a dental hygienist after that! I am naturally friendly and people-oriented, as well as a perfectionist, so it’s definitely the right kind of job for me.”
This is an opportunity to draw on your research ahead of time. Showing that you’ve taken the time to look into their practice and learn more about it will go a long way in demonstrating your interest and enthusiasm.
Example answer: “I read so many wonderful reviews online, and a lot of people mentioned that your team seems to really support each other. I believe teamwork is the most important part of a successful dental practice, and I’m looking to join a practice where people really support each other.”
Take this question as an opportunity to share what you perceive as your best attributes. Don’t boast or compare (eg, “I had the best grades in my dental hygiene program”), but you should come across as confident and sure of yourself!
Example answer: “I believe my greatest strengths are my ability to connect with people one-on-one and my hyper attention to detail. I triple-check all my work, especially if it’s notes on a patient’s file, because I never want to leave a mistake without realizing it. I also care passionately about my team, and have always loved team-bonding activities because I think they help us connect and work better together.”
This much-discussed question can be answered in lots of ways, but one thing you want to avoid is making yourself sound like a bad employee. The best way to address this question is by explaining how you’ve overcome the challenge, despite the weakness.
Example answer: “When I first started working as an RDH, I would get really frazzled by how many tasks I had to stay on top of every day. Things move fast in a dental office and I had a hard time managing my time. I ended up asking a more experienced RDH for tips on how to stay on top of everything. She made me feel better about how challenging it was and gave me some ideas for managing my time better. I still can get caught up in a conversation with a patient, but now I’m better at measuring how long things will take and how much time I need to do them. It’s a process but I’ve improved so much in the last few years.”
While there may be reasons you no longer want to work at your current employer’s, it’s very important not to badmouth them. Find positives by explaining what you liked about your last position, what you learned, and what you’re looking for in a new position.
Example answer: “I really loved my colleagues at my last office, and as it was my first job out of dental hygiene school, I learned so much about the real working life of a dental hygienist. I am looking to share my skills with a larger practice where I can be assisting in more complex dental procedures, so I can learn as much as I possibly can.”
While you may not be thinking of this position as your forever job, you still want to give the impression that you’d be a serious and dedicated employee. Be honest about your goals and highlight the opportunities this job could provide to help you achieve them.
Example answer: “I’d like to be situated in a dental practice I care deeply about, with coworkers I love and work hard with. I’d like to have mastered the dental hygiene profession and be in a position where I can mentor new graduates to pass on what I’ve learned. I want to be an excellent RDH who’s passionate about what they do and loves their job!”
A question like this is usually asked at the end, and it’s a great opportunity for you to really make the case for yourself. Set a confident, upbeat tone, without bragging or putting others down. As noted on Dave Ramsey’s website, having a personal statement prepared ahead of time can help you articulate what’s special about you.
Example answer: “I believe I’d be a great RDH at your dental practice because I’m an organized, friendly team-player who is serious about delivering patient care. In my last job I was frequently highlighted in patient reviews for my friendly chairside manner, and I’m also very committed to supporting my coworkers every day. I believe I’d make a great asset to your team!”