How to stand out in a job search

Beverly Wilburn and Leslie A. Lytle

Hold DANB certification, showcase your personality, and more advice from two hiring managers 

As a dental assistant or prospective dental assistant, you may be job searching for a variety of reasons. You may be striving to land your first role in the profession, to find the right dental office, or to make a career change for other reasons. While the prospect of a new job can feel exciting, it admittedly can also seem a bit nerve-wrecking. Navigating the dental assistant job-application and interview process can be challenging — even for those who are especially qualified and bring their A-game to the interview. 

To help ensure dental assistants have a smooth experience, stand out among other applicants, and ultimately receive the job offer, Beverly Wilburn, MAADOM, and Leslie A. Lytle, MAADOM, offer their advice. These hiring experts not only hold Mastership from the American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM), but also have years of combined experience when it comes to finding new dental assistant applicants, hiring them, and helping them succeed in the dental office. 

DANB: Where do you recommend job-seeking dental assistants look for job postings? 

Lytle: One of the first places that I post a dental assistant role is, as well as Facebook. As a hiring manger, utilizing social media allows for getting the word out quickly. 

Wilburn: has a great new “matching” service to connect job candidates with ideal offices. Register with those types of sites and keep your resume active. Also, talk to people you trust in your network, and let them know you are looking. Consider calling offices that have great online reputations to let them know you are available. Don’t forget about establishing connections with members of the AADOM chapters in your area who may be able to help! 

What helps a dental assistant job candidate stand out to hiring managers? 

Lytle: I am always looking to hire someone who has some experience and who already is knowledgeable in what they do. Also, I consider an applicant’s educational background; those who hold DANB certification stand out to me, for example. Finding a DANB Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certificant to hire in our area can be very tough, but worthwhile. 

Wilburn: Showing your personality in your application is key. A resume can be very bland. In your application cover letter and during the interview, tell me about yourself and what you love about your work. Applicants stand out in the interview if they are well-spoken, demonstrate knowledge about their field, appear to be open to new experiences, and show they have done research about the office where they are interviewing. 

What should a dental assistant look for when determining whether a role or practice would be the right fit for them? 

Lytle: Pay attention to the conversations you have with the practice/hiring manager and the other team members during the interview. Is the conversation smooth? Do you seem to share the same professional goals? Does the team seem to work well with the doctor, and is their work style similar to yours? 

Wilburn: Also consider whether the interviewer was punctual, kind and genuinely interested in what you had to say. Ask lots of questions about the position and the culture of the office and take notice of the office environment. And most employers have some type of online employee-rating of them available on sites like It is a good idea to check former employee reviews, plus the office’s patient reviews online before accepting an offer. 

How can a dental assistant be best prepared for a job interview? 

Lytle: Before the interview, make sure that you have researched and meet your state requirements and hold DANB certification(s), especially if required in the state in which you are applying. During the interview, be willing to explain what you can bring to the practice, as well as any knowledge that you may have or goals that you want to achieve. And prepare a list of questions you may have. 

Wilburn: Be punctual. If the location is one you are unfamiliar with, do a “test run” the day before, so that you won’t be late. Also do some research about the office and doctor. 

What’s your No. 1 piece of advice for dental assistant job seekers? 

Lytle: During the interview: Make sure to make eye contact with the interviewer, and make sure to have references available. Overall: Be willing to go with the flow. You may be coming from another office where things were completed a certain way, but keep in mind that a new office will have their own protocols. 

Wilburn: Be willing to give the job a try if it feels like it may be the right fit. Pay, benefits and hours all can be negotiated, but working in an unhappy environment can’t be easily changed. 

What’s your No. 1 piece of advice for dental assistant job seekers for what NOT to do? 

Lytle: Make sure to silence your phone or, better yet, put your phone away. There is no reason to have it out unless you are scheduling a second part of an interview. 

Wilburn: Don’t have a “me-only” attitude. Good-quality, long-term, mutually beneficial employer/employee relationships start with a “we” approach.