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Dental Problem Scaring Off Employees?

Dental Problem Scaring Off Employees?

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

A reader writes:

I’ve been troubled by a recent dental accident that’s left me with a noticeable piece missing from a front tooth.

I’ve been unemployed (except for temp work) for almost two years due to a layoff and have been rejected by several companies because I am “overqualified” (with a possible factor of being 58). Now I have this physical defect to add to my nervousness if I actually get to the interview stage. I am barely scraping by on my bills and have no insurance to cover a dental repair. The occupations I’m most qualified for are those involving face-to-face contact with clients and I can’t help but think that my current appearance is detrimental to my chances of employment.

How can this be explained or downplayed to a potential employer? It’s not one of those no-one-else-would-notice things. I’m worried that it marks me as someone who doesn’t care about their appearance or is unprofessional, or that I represent an undesired load on their health plan because I would have the work done as soon as possible.

I once interviewed a guy who was missing an entire front tooth. He told me as we were shaking hands that he was in the midst of having dental work done and that he was embarrassed about the tooth. And I didn’t really think anything about it after that (aside from “that sucks, poor guy”). We’ve all had dental stuff happen or known people who have suffered through it.

I would take the same approach this guy took and just address it right up-front. Say something at the outset like, “I’m a bit embarrassed about this, but I had a recent dental accident and the work to fix it isn’t finished yet.” There’s something about saying you’re embarrassed that makes people want to set you at ease and prove to you that there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, I suspect it actually makes people who otherwise might have been judgmental less likely to be.

I wouldn’t worry at all that employers are calculating the impact of that dental work on their health insurance. The ethics of that calculation aside, something like that is unlikely to impact their rates anyway.

By the way, I do wonder if your self-consciousness about the tooth is affecting your confidence and the way you interview, or even making you less likely to smile, so pay special attention to that. Good luck!

Quiz: How Does Your Hand Shake?