There are many things new dentists must do as they venture out onto their own and begin their careers – one of the first steps in that process is putting together a valuable cover letter.
A cover letter is the entry point into any potential employment, and in a dental practice setting where it is often a tight-knit group, personalizing yourself in the first few sentences of the letter is vital, says Bao-Thy Grant, DDS.
“A cover letter is a snapshot of your intentions. It allows an applicant to personally showcase him/herself on paper,” Grant said.
Grant knows a thing or two about job hunting. In 2007, she spent six months sending her application to doctors in Orange County while completing her residency on the East Coast.
“During breaks and weekends I would fly back to California, do the interviews that day and fly back the next day,” said Grant, who eventually took a position in Orange, Calif., in July 2008 and took over the office a year later.
The entry point to all of her interviews was an enticing cover letter. She says there are three essential things to put in a cover letter: a personal introduction, background with schooling and experience, and a personal invitation to get to know the prospective employer better.
“I put a lot of effort into my cover letters because it is essential in the whole application process,” Grant said. “People want to be able to connect with you in the first sentences when reading about you, so showcasing yourself is so important.”
Establishing a connection with the office through a cover letter is valuable, says Natasha Lee, DDS, a past member of the CDA Committee on the New Dentist and current member of the ADA Council on Membership.
“Put some personality in your cover letter,” Lee said. “Here's your chance to let them know a little bit about you as a person. And remember, interviewees are drawn to people when they have things in common with them, so do your research.”
Before putting together a cover letter, Lee recommends researching the dentist who will be receiving it.
“Customize your cover letters specifically to each job you are applying for rather than using a generic cover letter for all opportunities,” Lee said. “If you know that the practice is production and volume based, you'll need to tailor your cover letter differently than if you know you are applying for a position in a practice that places high value on taking the time and making the effort toward relationship-building between the doctor and patients.”
Lee also says to highlight important aspects of the job that will pertain to your job as a dentist.
“As a new grad, you may think dentistry is all about your clinical skills, but it's so much more than that. An employer will want to know that you are reliable and responsible, that you are a team player and that you can build trust and rapport with people,” Lee said.
Both Lee and Grant agree that “generic” cover letters are not a good idea. According to CareerBuilder.com, “Hiring managers can spot a mass mailing a mile away. What gets their attention are letters that address the company – and its needs – specifically.”
“Cover letters are no different than thank you cards for a nice gift – they should be personal, direct and heartfelt,” Grant said.
View more career options in the Guide for the New Dentist. For a listing of job openings, visit our classified section.