(click on image to enlarge letter)
Too often, dental hygiene job seekers forget to create and submit a cover letter for openings. It’s kind of understandable. Many job announcements simply forget to request it.
But cover letters are great tools for standing out since not everyone includes one with their resume. They also give you an opportunity to communicate that you understand what it is the employer wants in a new employee.
In clinical dental hygiene, the duties are often very similar from one job to another, so it’s helpful for you to play close attention to the extra things you can spot in job announcements. Then, take that information and incorporate it into a customized cover letter for each job you apply for.
Other articles by Doug and Tracie Perry
Along with that, you want to create a cover letter that is simple, concise, and readable. Here’s five tips for creating a cover letter that helps position you as the right person for the job, plus the anatomy of how it all goes together.
Along with that, here’s a link to where you can download a free cover letter template that will help get you going in the right direction.
1. Customize it—Each job you apply for should receive a unique cover letter. There are basic elements that will be the same or similar, but spend a little bit of time with each one, customizing it to the position you are seeking.
To do this, carefully review the job announcement and pick out the qualifiers—things an employer is looking for in an employee. Then address each and every one of them in your cover letter. If the announcement says they want someone with Dentrix experience, then you need to include that you have that in the cover letter.
For those who like going the extra mile, visit the office’s social media pages and website to get a flavor for their style and approach so that you can further tailor the language in your cover letter. That will also give you useful information at the interview stage.
2. Keep it short—Cover letters are only one page, and usually about five to six paragraphs of one to three sentences each. You are one of many applicants, and there just isn’t enough time for an employer to read a “wordy” cover letter.
3. No errors—Mistakes make you look bad. They call into question your thoroughness and attention to detail (both skills employers want in new employees). Review it several times before you submit it. If possible, have a friend read it or try reading it backward (end to beginning) as that helps you focus on the words individually.
4. Use bullet points—No one enjoys reading large blocks of text. Keep your sentences short and tight, using bullets somewhere in the document. Bullets are especially pleasing to the eyes as they indicate a simplified area of text that can be absorbed more easily (especially if the bullets are short themselves and don’t wrap to two lines).
Sometimes the eyes will dart straight to the bullets. So it’s especially important that you fill them with words that have impact and leave the reader with a good idea of who you are in a nutshell.
5. Consistent look and feel—Create a cover letter that matches your resume. Use the same paper, font, color, and design scheme. Consistency is also an indication that you have organizational skills and an eye for detail. In general, a matching or consistent cover letter and resume communicate that you are a serious professional who took the time to get things right.
Anatomy of a cover letter
Again, cover letters are unique for each job you apply for, and so don’t think you need to do it exactly like this every time. However, here’s a detailed anatomy of one great way you can organize it.
- Date/Inside Address/Salutation: A cover letter is a formal letter. As with any such document, you begin with the date at the top left. Drop down two lines and include the name of the office and their mailing address (also called Inside Address). Drop down three lines and add your salutation, “Dear All Smiles Dental,” would be one good example. If the office is anonymous, the best you can do is post a date and generic salutation.
- Paragraph 1: From the salutation line, drop down two lines and start the first paragraph with an acknowledgement of the job opening. Let the employer know where you heard about the job and that you are formally applying for it.
- Paragraph 2: This is where I recommend you acknowledge any technical qualifications, such as number of years of experience, or experience working with Dentrix as an example. Employers tend to look at those as easy ways to eliminate some from consideration so you want to make sure it’s very clear that you meet those.
- Paragraph 3: Next, I would suggest that you acknowledge any soft qualifications. These are things related to your personality or personal attributes, such as a “patient” or “attention to detail.”
I like using the third paragraph as a great way to transition into some bullets that further describe who you are (your personal brand). After confirming the soft qualifications in a sentence, I will often lead that into a list of three to five additional things about you that you think will provide value to that office.
For example, if they seem like a “fun” office from your research about them, but don’t mention it in the job description, and you have a “fun” personality, then you may want to mention that in the bullets. It could be experience-related, too. Maybe you have experience as a nutritionist and are able to provide added value to your role as a hygienist in terms of your ability to counsel patients about nutrition.
- Paragraph 4: Always finish your cover letter with a call-to-action, as it’s termed in marketing. Write a short, yet clear, statement that you would appreciate an opportunity for an interview.
Here’s how I might word it: “I would be pleased to discuss how I am a great fit for your office at a time that is convenient for you. Please call me at 555-444-3333.”
- Complimentary Close: This is what you call the short closing with comma you see just before the signature line: “Sincerely,” is the most common example.
- Signature Line: Your name, plus your hard-earned credentials such as BSRDH or RDH.
- Final tip: Either use pre-printed letterhead (with your name, phone and e-mail address) or create that effect in the header/footer settings of your document so your cover letter looks that much more impressive.
Doug and Tracie Perry are authors of the book, “Landing a Great Dental Hygiene Job” and provide dental hygiene job coaching tips and services to thousands of dental hygienists. You can get a free copy of their book and free weekly tips at their website at www.GetHiredRDH.com.
This article is part of a series called How to Write a Cover Letter. To start this series from the beginning, read the introduction.
Your cover letter tells a story. It’s got a beginning, a middle, and an ending. If you tell your story right then you’ll get your resume read. If your story is a stinker, a fairy tale, a romance novel, or shrouded in mystery then you’ll likely land in the reject pile with the other sad, sordid endings.
If you’d prefer a happy ending by landing a job interview, then it pays to become a skilled writer and learn to construct your cover letter right! Write? To do this, it’s best to have a job description ready so you can match your skills to employer requirements. It’s also a good idea to attack your cover letter after writing your resume since the major cover points can be excerpted easily. Going over the Anatomy of a Killer Resume is a great way to get going if you’ve got resume writer’s block. Promise.
So let’s lose the drama, learn some anatomy, and get the facts right by authoring a cover letter that exceeds any editor’s great expectations. Here’s the general Anatomy of a Killer Cover Letter:
1. Your Contact Information
Like the beginning of your resume, your cover letter must state your contact information, including: name, full address, phone number, and email address. If you miss this mark or mistype your digits you won’t hear a peep from the people with the position. Get these details right and you’re off to a great start. Makes sense, yes?
175 Springfield Road, Vancouver BC, V1B 3Y7
2. Employer’s Contact Information
Always, always, always get your salutation right and address your cover letter to the RIGHT person. Addressing your application to the WRONG person could send your paperwork astray placing you far from the hiring manager’s desk and near the paper shredder.
Also, do yourself a solid by making the salutation specific and not just To Whom It May Concern, Dear Sir/Madam, or To: Hiring Manager. Going beyond the general position title and getting the name specific personalizes your application and can send you to the top of the pile. It may take a little legwork to find the hiring manager’s name, but by perusing the job description or by researching the company’s website you might just find the salutation you’re looking for.
Lastly, please don’t leave form letter space holders like, [Enter Company Name Here] in the cover letter contact area – or any area for that matter. I’ve seen this happen. Don’t let it happen to you.
To Whom It May Concern, or Hiring Manager
[Enter Company Name Here]
The Brown Office Building
Jane Davy, Documentation Manager
34 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC, V1B 3H7
3. Your First Paragraph
The first paragraph in your cover letter is important. Your leading words serve as your pitch for the position, so you’ve got to grab the hiring manager’s attention to get them interested. Start the first paragraph by identifying the position you’re applying for and then explain how you found the job. Be sure to mention a referral or friendly mutual contact if it’s relevant to the company, department, or position. Lastly, briefly explain why you’re the right candidate for the position. And please, don’t ever use emoticons (smilies) in your cover letter. 😀
Please hire me for that job at your company. I’ve been watching the want ads closely for months and this job seems to pay the best. I have a few friends who already work for you, so ask them about my skills. I scored some decent grades at college and I’ve worked two years already. 😀
I am submitting my resume for consideration towards the Technical Writer position advertised in The Daily on September 17, 2009. My four years of documentation experience combined with a Bachelor of Computer Science degree make me an ideal candidate for this position.
4. Your Second Paragraph (the third is optional)
Now that you’ve grabbed the reader’s attention, it’s time to demonstrate why you’re a good fit for the company. Be sure to list one or two of your relevant skills or qualifications and show examples that highlight your experience. It’s not a bad idea to mention why you want to work for the company and show that you’ve spent some time researching the organization.
BADSecond & Third Paragraph
I’d like to land a job where I can be an editor and not always write online help documentation. I’ve written help manuals for a number of years now and I’d like a change.
I can document a lot of different things, but I’d prefer to create training videos and it seems like Initech Corporation is a good company who likes to keep employees happy because you’ve been named one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers.
Sure, this may seem a far-fetched example – but I’ve seen MANY cover letters where the applicant complains about their current work rather than pitching their skills for the position. It’s amusing for the hiring manager, but it gets the applicant nowhere.
GOODSecond & Third Paragraph
For the last two years, I have held a technical writing position where my software development skills and training manuals have helped teach accountants to use complex inventory control software. As my resume reflects, I am a strong and flexible writer with experience documenting online help systems, end user manuals, how-to guides, installation manuals, and instructional videos.
I am very interested in working with Initech Corporation due to your selection as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers.
5. Final Paragraph
The last paragraph is where you seal the deal and ask for the interview. Don’t be shy about it. Restate your desire to work for the company.
I probably have what it takes to do a decent job at your company. If you’d like to discuss my skills further, I can be reached on Mondays and Wednesdays but only after 5PM.
I am very interested in Initech Corporation’s Technical Writer position and believe my skills and experience are an excellent fit for the job. Initech has an excellent reputation and I welcome the opportunity to meet with you for an interview.
Keep your closing simple. There’s no need to get weepy, lovey-dovey, or desperate. Always keep your final words professional and to the point.
Love and kisses,
Miss. Krissy Snow
Your signature (if sending a hardcopy)
Hopefully this article has demystified the mystery behind the anatomy of a killer cover letter. Once the components are broken down it’s easier to see how it’s possible to tell your story in just a few paragraphs and land that job interview in under a page. Now go get it covered! 😉