The 2 “Rules’’ Of Job Search

by Michele Bush

Many believe that a successful job search is based primarily on our resume – education, previous employment, certifications, involvement in extracurricular activities. Yet there is so much more to it, especially for those who may not have a lot of work experience yet.

There are two key things that can give a candidate an edge over the competition: being respectful and standing out for the right reasons. Why? Because it’s not just WHAT we do, it’s HOW we do it that makes the difference. The human connection we have with one another, with our teachers, co-workers, clients and potential employer is what professional relationships are based on. As an example, think about the importance of your communication skills when it comes to your clients. A dental hygienist can have all of the academic qualifications and technical knowledge required to perform the functions of the job – that’s the WHAT, but they also need to be able to make clients feel comfortable, ask the right questions and clearly explain procedures and preventative measures – that’s the HOW. This essential combination of WHAT and HOW is critical in the job search and interview process. Reflect on this statement: talent may get you in the door but your character is what will keep you in the room. This is even more important with the ever-increasing pace of technological communication. Despite all the tech advancements in recruitment, which includes online application tracking systems (ATS), resume review programs and artificial intelligence software that matches a candidates’ skills to a job description, there is still one constant that will never change –the users of all this technology are humans.

Being respectful and standing out does require you put in effort and thought but it can make all the difference. A genuine commitment to the job search process and to your future career will set you apart from the robo-applicant who simply drafts one version of their resume, cutting and pasting straight from the job posting, sends out the same untailored application to every dental office or online job advertisement and then just sits back and hopes that someone will contact them for an interview. If you remember and follow the two “rules’’ of job search, you will have an advantage over other applicants.

Rule #1: Be respectful

Understand what is involved in the recruitment process from the hiring manager’s perspective.

• Take some time to consider all the hours, energy and costs that go into finding a new member of the team. There are business plans, budgets, costing, headcount decisions, resume reviews, pre-screening, interviews. Hiring is just one of the many administrative activities for the office manager or dentist and can be one of the most time consuming. So, be sure to conduct yourself in a way that respects their investment.

• Carefully review the job posting and the expectations of the job. See if it’s potentially a fit. Don’t waste the valuable time of others by submitting your application for a position if you know that the location/commute are going to be an issue and you wouldn’t likely accept the job even if it was offered to you.

• Do the upfront work so the hiring staff doesn’t have to. Make sure that your resume, application, cover letter, email communications are relevant, succinct and tailored to what they are looking for. They don’t have spare time to be searching throughout the content of your documents looking for how your qualifications might match their needs.

• Understand the impact of mis-hires. A mis-hire occurs when a candidate accepts a position and doesn’t stay in the job for at least 12 months. The cost and time to search, interview, on-board, train and integrate are significant and if the new hire doesn’t work out, then it must be done all over again.

Rule #2: Stand out

Be the candidate whom the hiring staff will remember for the right reasons.

Network. Be connected, be visible, be aware of the value of meeting peers in the industry, continue to attend events and workshops, be notable because of your professional demeanor.

Online presence. Review your social media profiles. People will search for you when you apply for a job. Think about what your personal brand says about you. Do you appear professional/friendly/welcoming/conservative or do you come across as sassy/a partier/a judgemental sharer of very strong, personal opinions?

Resume. Make the layout relevant to the job posting. If required education is listed first, consider putting it first on your resume. Don’t just copy and insert the words from the job posting. Tailor it and ensure the content reflects the requirements listed. Include powerful, succinct and related accomplishment statements to describe your experience. If your work experience is limited, include accomplishment statements that make a connection to the job requirements. E.g. Volunteered at the local hospital admissions desk, assisting children and their guardians through the out-patient surgery check-in process, ensuring they were made to feel comfortable.

Cover letter. Even if it is not required, submitting a cover letter shows that you are willing to put in the extra effort. If there is no place to upload a cover letter, you can add it as the last page of your resume or include it in the body of an email. Research something about the job or the practice. Don’t just repeat information from your resume or tell them how wonderful you think you are, be sure to show them how you can be of help to them. E.g. I noticed that your office is located near several retirement homes and you have a lot of clients who are seniors. From my experience at a long-term care facility, I understand working with aging clients and can support the practice to enhance the services for that client base.

Emails. Ensure that they are professional, addressed to the correct person and that your personal email address is not inappropriate or juvenile. Avoid acronyms, emojis, short forms, or terminology that may not be commonly used by various types of readers.

Proofread. Check Grammar. Spellcheck. Have a friend or family member review your written communication. Their and there. You’re and your. Documents with findable and fixable spelling and punctuation errors are not acceptable.

Interview Preparation. Research and anticipate interview questions and prepare relevant answers using the STAR story format. STAR stories are expanded descriptions of the one-line accomplishment statements on your resume. Situation (what was happening?) Task (what was the problem you needed to address or solve?) Action (what did you actually do?) Result (what was the positive outcome of your involvement?). These are brief and to the point to show WHAT you did and also HOW you did it. Be ready for something unique: there could be a panel, a group interview, a Skype call, the need to do a presentation or answer a scenario, even an online video application.

The Interview. Know where you are going, how long it will take to get there and who you will be meeting. Be early but not too early (about 10 minutes). Turn off your cell phone (not just to Vibrate, but Off). Be professional and polite to everyone. Anyone you interact with could be part of the decision-making process. Bring 2 copies of your resume and a note pad. Jot down the names of the interviewers. It is very important to have relevant and intelligent questions prepared in advance that you will ask the interviewers. This should be a 2-way conversation and your opportunity to learn about their working culture, client load, instrumentation etc. How you fit in with the team and their approach to patient care is a critical part of this decision for both of you. And one more thing, never assume that you are the smartest person in the room.

Follow-up. Ask the interviewer for their email and send them a thank you note. Wait 24 hours instead of sending it from the lobby or your car. Think about it, briefly comment on something you learned in the interview about their practice, reminding them how your skills and experience are a fit with them. Even if you were not the successful candidate, send a thank you note then, too. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be this time, but how you behave and respond to a decline, increases your chance of being remembered for next time or them commenting about you to their colleagues who may have an open position.

Job search and interviewing can be daunting, especially if it’s not something you have a lot of experience with. Being Respectful and Standing Out – for the right reasons can increase your confidence and give you an advantage. When you are considerate of the hiring team’s investment of time and cost that goes into the recruitment process, when you make their job easier by doing the work to align their needs with your skills and when you are prepared, professional and positive, it will be you who they remember over the other applicants. It’s not just WHAT we know, it’s HOW we do it that makes the difference.

About the Author

Michele is an insightful and inspiring Career Coach, Business Advisor and Speaker. She is a passionate promoter of how employee engagement drives business success. She works with her clients to increase their confidence and improve their professional brand so they can realize their full potential. With over 25 years as a Human Resources Professional, Michele has taken her vast corporate experience as a recruiter, trainer, facilitator and communication specialist to develop a successful consulting practice.

For customized Job Search support including resume writing and interview preparation or interviewing training for managers, contact Michele through Linkedin at or by email at