Do you have the right look?

September 21, 2017

Employers who hire based on vanity - and not experience - risk losing out on talented team members. 

As a hygienist, the main criteria that should be reviewed when being considered for employment are the following:

  • Are you licensed?

  • Are you compassionate about the care you provide?

  • Are you a dependable employee who shows up each day ready to work?

Unfortunately, these key points are sometimes overshadowed by other vainer ones, and we’re not just talking about skin color. Now, the requirements can range anywhere from your body type to hair color to even how old you are. For some offices, if you’d like to know where you’ll fit in, or if you will at all, just take a quick look around. It’ll become quickly apparent.

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Do you remember when you landed your first dental hygiene job? We all had butterflies and wondered if we were going to be “good enough” to serve our patients. Fortunately, the only requirements were that we were licensed by the state dental board and confident and compassionate about the care that we provided. Patients didn’t care if our hair was blonde, black or brown. Being female was also not mandatory.

I have worked with several male hygienists who were just as great at what they did. In the end, all patients really cared about was that you did an excellent job with cleaning their teeth and educated them on proper oral hygiene, therefore making them feel like their teeth were not only important to them but to you as well. So, why should it be any different for employers? As a result, when offices choose to hire based primarily on hair color, bust size, gender, or ethnicity, they lose out on the possibility of having a great addition to their team.

I will never forget hearing rumors of a dentist, whose specialty I will not mention, who would only hire blonde, busty, size 4, white females in their early 20s. Several women in the dental community had told me that if you didn’t have his “preferred” look, or weren’t in that 25 and under age group, then don’t even bother applying to his post. One of my favorite patients, who we had referred to said dentist’s place of work, had even joked that that dentist had enough eye candy to give any man a cavity. And when I asked him, “What does your ideal girlfriend look like?” he replied all the women who worked there. Despite what I was hearing, I still found it odd and was somewhat skeptical that all the employees could possibly be so similar, and in so many ways.

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However, when their organization hosted a “Lunch & Learn” at P.F. Chang’s and invited my outfit, along with many others, I was finally able to see for myself. Surprisingly, they did ALL, in fact, fit that very description. It’s a shame when a company's hiring qualifications are based on the outer appearance of an individual in order to increase profits, ignoring experience and educational value. Fortunately, not all are like this, and there are many great employers out there who value your competence more so than your appearance.

Having a young, outgoing party girl can be a great addition to any business, especially since she’ll be able to vibe with younger clientele. She’s the one who knows all the best places to go, and patients love seeing her out at their favorite spots. However, what happens when she shows up hungover from that wild party the night before?

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During my time at a corporate workplace, there was a hygienist who was so hungover the day after that she was using the oxygen mask to try and sober up before her first patient! When I discovered what she was doing and why, I was furious, so I began to think, “Was the other young dentist with her last night too?” And, “Is that why he had called in sick this morning”? We were all going to come under a lot of heat if anything went wrong while she worked hungover, and even worse, risk a patient being harmed in the process!

So, I immediately phoned the regional manager and told her to get to the office before we were faced with several malpractice lawsuits. Shortly after, the regional lead dentist and manager came in to save the day. The other young dentist never showed up (apparently, he too was hungover, but from a different party). As a result, both the hygienist and dentist were fired, and the office stayed sober ever since.

Employers who hire based on vanity not only negatively affect the employment of prospective team members, but also lose out on the possibility of a great talent working alongside them. Youth is new and refreshing; however, with age also comes experience and maturity. Organizations that make it their goal to include both are blessed to have a mix of employees who will come together to build a united front that any dentist will not only profit from but be proud of as well.