How to land your first dental assisting job

a laptop with the screen displaying a job search board

Graduation season is here, which means many dental assisting students will soon be starting their careers. Understandably, this can be both an exciting and stressful time. Your hard work is finally paying off, and you’re ready to start earning an income in a field you’re (hopefully) passionate about! But it can also be intimidating to begin your first job search and prepare for interviews.

Don’t worry, though — this guide is here to help you find your first dental assisting job.

Determine what you want in a job

Before you start applying for dental assisting positions, think about what you’re looking for in a job. It’s easy to apply for any entry-level dental assisting position or say, “I’ll take any job I can get” when starting your career. However, you also want to find the best fit for your situation and preferences.

Do you prefer a fast-paced or slower paced work environment? What’s your ideal work schedule? Will the office support your future goals? Other factors to consider include the size of the dental office, specialty (e.g., orthodontic or pediatric), patient volume, and office culture. While you can’t always determine these answers from simply searching the practice’s website or social media pages, you can learn more through the job listing and by asking questions during the interview.

Read more: Is a big or small dental office right for you?

Seek help from your connections

As you prepare for your future career in dental assisting, you can make many connections. Whether it’s an instructor at your dental assisting program or a mentor from an internship or volunteer work, these relationships are invaluable as you start your career. These people can help you in many ways, as they will likely have a large network of their own from their years of working in the dental profession. Your network can give you advice, serve as references on job applications, write letters of recommendation, and even set you up with opportunities at local dental practices.

Earn certification

When you’re searching for jobs, you want to stand out from other applicants. One way you can do that is by earning certification. Obtaining the National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) certification from DANB can help jump-start your career. Earning NELDA certification demonstrates a foundational knowledge of dental radiography, infection control, and anatomy — plus, it shows your commitment to the profession. Other benefits of DANB certification include increased knowledge, improved confidence, and higher earning potential.

Read more: How DANB certificants stand out

Create a memorable resume

Your resume is usually the first chance to make an impression on a prospective employer. Be strategic and thoughtful about putting your resume together instead of merely listing your work experience and education.

For instance, the summary or objective is the first thing a hiring manager will read at the top of your resume. Make sure you show why you’re an ideal fit at the dental practice by briefly highlighting your education, internship experience, technical and interpersonal skills, and passion for dental assisting. You can then go into more detail in the body of the resume once you’ve captured their attention. Get more tips for writing a dental assistant resume here.

Prepare for the interview

All your hard work is coming to fruition, and you’ve landed an interview at a dental practice! Now comes what is often the most intimidating part of a job search: the interview. With the right preparation, however, you can go into the interview with confidence.

For example, you should research the dental office beforehand and be prepared to explain why you want to work there, specifically, as well as what you can bring to the table. You should also practice answering some sample interview questions that are often asked of dental assistants. And don’t forget to prepare some questions of your own, as this shows that you have genuine interest in the role and allows you to see if the practice is truly the right fit for you.

Read more: Starting salary and beyond: what to expect as an entry-level dental assistant