Occupational therapists are in demand, but that doesn't mean that everyone can easily land their ideal OT job placement or that every opportunity is the right one. However, it does give you a better shot at getting that dream job, provided you do the hard work up front.
The good news? Dedicated, talented professionals who are licensed and credentialed are needed in all occupational therapy settings in locations around the country. Here's a look at some tips for landing that perfect job, including resume advice and ideas for interview preparation.
Choose a Resume Format
According to the expert site Cover Letters and Resume, you can opt for two main approaches to your resume format: The first is chronological, and usually only has a few headings — for example, “School,” “Work Experience,” “Volunteering” — with jobs arranged beneath in chronological order, with most recent at the top.
The other format is functional, in which you divide all your experience by topic. This helps potential employers get a good grasp on your skills and expertise quickly, without having to hunt for various school programs and jobs.
Once you’ve chosen a format, type your resume and proofread several times. Get someone else to proofread it, too — to ensure your resume is error-free. If you’re attaching via email, Cover Letters and Resume recommends attaching your resume as a PDF rather than a Word document. If you are handing or mailing a paper document, print it on high-quality linen or other resume paper.
For an in-depth look at building a great OT resume, check out Potential's post How to Make Your OT Resume Stand Out.
Get Your References in Order
Occupational therapists are expected to have completed an internship during school, but you may not have much professional experience in the field if you are a recent graduate. Therefore it’s important that before you apply for jobs, you connect with your mentors, professors, previous employers and anyone else who might be able to serve as a great reference for you.
Talk to them a little bit about the types of jobs you hope to land, the workplace culture at your target companies, clinics or schools. Your best shot of getting the job you want is for them to convey the same vibes when they talk with your possible employers, so be as specific as possible about what you’d like them to say. Ideally, you can also have them write a letter that you can attach to your application packet.
Write a Great Cover Letter
A cover letter performs multiple functions. It lets your prospective employer know that you care about the position, since you took the time to write a letter when applying for it. It shows that you can communicate effectively (so edit well!). Lastly, it conveys information, specifically about why you want the job and what you can bring to it.
If you’re not sure how to format your cover letter, check out this professional example from Jefferson University. Pay special attention to the formatting of contact information at the top, as some employers are traditional and value this. When including your cover letter in the body of an email, you can skip this part.
Prep for Your Interview
No matter how well you’ve done at all the previous stages, if the interview doesn’t go well, your chances for landing the job could get slimmer. It’s a good idea to prep for common interview questions as well as spend some time with a friend or mentor practicing your interview skills. Model the environment in which you’ll interview as closely as possible, for example, a coffee shop, office or conference room.
Take a look at Potential's past post, Nail Your Occupational Therapy Job Interview, for some specific examples of common OT questions and how to answer them.
The day before, be sure to get enough sleep. Get ready and arrive at your interview with at least 10 minutes to spare, which conveys professionalism, as well as leaves time for traffic.
Make sure the employer is as focused on your professional success as you are focused on your patient’s success. Inquire about professional development and career advancement opportunities. Your growth and continued learning as a professional should be a priority for both you and your employer. The success of your patients is directly tied to your success.
On a final note, it’s important to be realistic. Not every opportunity is the right one for you. Be sure to know what your personal and professional goals are to ensure that the opportunity you choose is one that will take you to the next level in your career. Follow the above steps, and you may be there sooner than you ever thought possible.
About the author
Lisa Orlando is the Vice President, Marketing, Communications and Early Intervention at Progressus Therapy. The company is a leader in connecting their candidates with therapy jobs, including occupational therapy. They offer jobs for therapists across the United States.
If you are currently on the hunt for an OT or COTA job, learn more about the 6 steps to finding the right OT job!