How to Create a Badass Occupational Therapy Cover Letter
Written by Dominic Lloyd-Randolfi, Published on March 22, 2017
Job applicants sometimes liken cover letters to the weird uncle at Thanksgiving dinner. He's boring, maybe a little awkward, and sometimes it's easier to just avoid him than deal with him. While this approach may work for Uncle Larry, omitting an occupational therapy cover letter from your job search is a very foolish move, especially when you're fresh out of OT school.
Because an occupational therapy cover letter is a new grad's first opportunity to differentiate him or herself from scores of other job applicants.
Sometimes, you have to put yourself in a hiring manager's shoes to truly understand a cover letter's importance. He/she has worked hard to get to that role, and now he/she must hire a team of effective and conscientious therapists. If all the manager has to go by is a stack of resumes, interviews will be granted solely based on credentials, most of which will be more impressive than a new grad's.
At the same time, if some of those resumes had thoughtful, sincere cover letters accompanying them, the hiring manager would have more of a complete picture to put on the resume.
Maybe you weren't lucky enough to have a pediatric neuro clinical, but you grew up with a disabled sibling. Perhaps that blogging experience slipped under the radar on the resume, but your cover letter can highlight how your stellar writing and communication skills can help grow the organization.
Imagine that you were the one in charge of hiring a candidate and you've got exactly 6 hours to interview 6 OTs for a position.
Would you waste your time interviewing someone who sent the same generic resume to everyone, without taking the time to drop a friendly note to the organization?
Create a positive first impression in your occupational therapy cover letter
Other than your resume, your occupational therapy cover letter is your first chance to make an impression on your potential employer. While new grads certainly may boast impressive resumes, they will almost categorically offer less clinical expertise than more experienced clinicians.
Hence, your chance to present yourself as an outstanding job applicant lies primarily in a cover letter that shines. A good cover letter conveys your strong work ethic, enthusiasm, and a likelihood of contributing to the organization's positive growth.
Don't forget that a cover letter is also an opportunity to highlight your attention to detail. Avoid rookie
mistake's mistakes like using possessives in place of plurals!
Remember, the impression you make via your cover letter is lasting; ensure that you keep the tone positive and future-focused.
Learn about the organization to boost your occupational therapy cover letter
Prepare adequately before writing your occupational therapy cover letter. Learn as much as you can about the potential workplace, including its culture and mission/vision statements.
Obviously, you may be limited to how much you can learn about an organization in advance. Staffing agencies and job lists may not post the hiring organization's name. If they don't, carefully read the job description so you're familiar with the role and what the organization needs in an employee.
Is it a “busy pediatric clinic looking for a creative and adaptable therapist”? In this case, you should mention that you've worked with pediatric populations and are comfortable in dynamic environments. Think of the cover letter as a chance to show the organization how you can meet its needs.
If you’re applying to a large hospital system or chain of rehab facilities, read the corporation's vision statement and mission statement, making note of the terminology used. If you read a mission statement that says something like, “To nurture, empower, and promote healthy living in the region we serve”, consider mentioning that you strive to provide an empowering treatment philosophy in a nurturing environment.
Use the right tone in your occupational therapy cover letter
When writing your occupational therapy cover letter, make sure to echo the tone of the job ad to which you’re responding. If the posting is short, dry, and matter-of-fact, stick to providing basic facts and general pleasantries in your cover letter. If the job listing is several pages long, listing a myriad of qualifications and certifications desired, take the extra time to address the areas where your skills/experience line up with the organization's needs.
Your occupational therapy cover letter: Dissected :)
People are quite opinionated about how to kick off a cover letter. We recommend following the lead of the organization, again, basing your approach on the job posting. If you're shooting for a small clinic with a casual attitude, a simple “Hi!” or “Hello” may do. While states on the left coast have a reputation for being more casual than the rest of the US, don’t go overly casual when kicking off communication with a potential employer.
Just like choosing wedding attire, you're better off being too formal than too casual. No matter how casual you feel you can be, let's avoid the "Whatup!" or "Hey!" intro, unless you're already buddies with the owner/manager or you are independently wealthy and can afford to lose the job before you even have an interview.
Conversely, a large organization may respond well to “Dear Rehab Manager,” "Dear Director of Rehab," or "Dear Hiring Manager." Some applicants use the intro, "To Whom it May Concern," but we feel like that sounds a bit confrontational!
Typically, 3-4 body paragraphs will be plenty so try to avoid the temptation to delve into every one of your magical achievements within one letter. Within your 3-4 body paragraphs, you'll want to organically work in the following elements:
1. Why you admire the clinic
Before anything else, mention something flattering about the organization to which you're applying. Did it win awards for pediatric trauma care? Low infection rates? Does it engage in autism awareness volunteer work in the community? This is, quite possibly, the most important part of your cover letter. It is how you convey your most sincere interest in the position and organization as a whole. This section proves that you’ve done your homework and truly want *this* job, not just *a* job. Remember, the last thing that busy clinic director needs is to waste time interviewing a lackluster and unengaged job candidate.
2. Why you want a job at the organization
Do you like working with an underserved patient population? Do your knees go weak at the thought of pediatric stroke rehab? Is your sister autistic and you want to work with that particular patient population? Heck, did you receive treatment or clinical education/mentorship at the clinic? Do you like working with a large team of multifaceted staff members...or do you prefer an intimate family-sized team? Mention specifically what it is about the clinic that attracted your interest.
3. Why you are such a dadgum special candidate
Seriously: what makes you so special? We're sure there are plenty of things to love about you, so stick to relevant info about your clinical experience and desire to learn. RESIST THE URGE TO BRAG. A well written occupational therapy cover letter does not exist to regurgitate the exact information found in your resume. Rather, drop at least one key experience point from your time in the field that directly relates to the job position. For example, if you worked at a Children's Hospital, and you're applying for an outpatient pediatrics position, you could say:
"My passion for pediatrics truly emerged during my level II clinical rotation, where I was able to work with children in an acute care setting. I would love to bring my existing knowledge to an outpatient pediatrics clinic, where I can also receive mentorship to build my pediatric treatment skills ."
4. A few "soft skills" that connect well to the facility
If you really don't have professional experience that matches the job description, you can still tout personality traits that line up with the company mission statement. Are you punctual, warm, flexible, eager, friendly, caring or ambitious? Some quick digging can tell you if the facility values innovation, nurturing, flexibility, etc.
In most cases, you can glean clues from a company's website that highlight practice philosophies or how active they are in community service. Try to connect on the levels that matter to the organization. If you cannot find an area where you feel you can build a connection, make sure to mention one of your qualities that will enhance their practice. For example, if you have been told that you're a bundle of energy, state that you're someone who will always bring energy to the clinic.
Without fail, thank the person reading the letter for their time. Make sure to reiterate your interest in the position, and provide several methods of contact. For example:
“If you agree that I would be a good complement to your team, please contact me anytime at (phone) or (email). Thank you very much, in advance, for your consideration. I hope to hear from you soon!”
Your attitude shows through your parting signature. Unless you're targeting a casual clinic, avoid “Cheers,” “Best” or "Thanks". “Best regards” is always a good bet for hospital systems, and “With gratitude” might work for a yoga clinic. "Warmly" can work, depending on the rest of the tone of your letter.
If you're having writer's block, never fear. Think of a friend/family member, and pretend you're explaining why you're applying for a particular job. Write down the points as you think of them, and work them into a letter. Points to omit from the letter include the fat stacks of cash you'll be earning and other self-serving reasons for applying :)
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