Having to talk about ourselves and our accolades is always difficult, especially for occupational therapists. Thus, creating an occupational therapy cover letter may feel overwhelming.
You might not even know where to begin and, if you aren’t a writer, you may spend many tedious hours trying to perfect every word before you feel comfortable sending it out. All of this, compounded with the stress of trying to apply to multiple jobs at a time, can lead you to want to avoid the cover letter all together.
Let’s face it. Writing an occupational therapy cover letter is a lot of extra work, and submitting one is rarely “required” during the job application process these days.
It’s easy to cop out and take the easy route, but leaving out the cover letter will almost definitely get your occupational therapy resume tossed aside. And if you think about it, if all of the other applicants are omitting cover letters as well, writing a really solid occupational therapy cover letter already gives you a leg up against the competition.
Your occupational therapy cover letter is the first glimpse of personal information that your potential employer sees about you.
Fight the temptation to skip the occupational therapy cover letter!
This article aims to help you put together the ideal occupational therapy cover letter for whatever setting your future job is in. You can even download a sample of an occupational therapy cover letter at the end of the article!
A good occupational therapy cover letter should be no longer than one page long. It should be 4-5 paragraphs long, so we’ll go with 4 paragraphs today for simplicity.
The first paragraph of your occupational therapy cover letter serves as an introduction, where you state your interest in the occupational therapy position, making sure to include how you heard about the role.
Employers put a lot of time and effort into creating the job listing and getting the word out about the open position, so be sure to acknowledge exactly how you heard about the position.
When you introduce yourself in the cover letter, keep it brief. Don’t launch into your life story right away. Instead, keep it simple. Your occupational therapy credentials and your general awesomeness will be covered in the main body of the article.
A good statement of interest might read, “My name is Kevin Garvey, OTD, OTR/L, and I saw your ad for a skilled nursing facility occupational therapist posted on CovalentCareers.com. After carefully reading about the position and researching your organization, I am very excited about the role and believe I’d be a great match. I’d love the opportunity to discuss the role with you in greater detail.”
Your introduction tells the hiring manager that you took the time to read the job description and understand what is involved in the role….and that you’re still interested in the position.
This has an added bonus because your statement gives the employer/hiring manager the satisfaction of knowing that their ad strategy worked as they hoped. After all, you definitely want the hiring manager “mentally patting him/herself on the back” right before getting to the heart of your cover letter!
Paragraphs 2 and 3
Look at the next two paragraphs as the true heart of your cover letter.
This is where you’ll want to address the aspects of the facility that are most important the employer (per the job description) and show how you can both add value and solve the organization’s problems.
The occupational therapy cover letter is important for both you and your potential employer. It helps the hiring manager because it lets him or her know that you understand the specific needs or problem that the organization is facing…the very needs that are leading them to hire a new occupational therapist.
And it helps you, because writing the occupational therapy cover letter will help you determine whether this job is really right for you.
While you write the content of these paragraphs, it might suddenly dawn on you that you’re applying to a occupational therapy patient mill, which might make you want to run for the hills. But the same organization might have huge appeal to you (or another applicant). You might jump at the opportunity to treat tons of patients every day if you’ve been getting bored at your current job.
This is where you need to put on your research hat, and your self-reflection hat. If you’re planning on spending a significant part of each day with this organization, it’s worth spending a few hours to ensure you really understand what they’re all about.
Researching and writing the occupational therapy cover letter is helpful in two key ways.
- You will discover tons of information about the organization. Research will unearth vital info about the practice philosophy, department’s mission, patient load, and types of occupational therapy provided. If you’re applying to a department of a larger organization, this phase also tells you about the parent organization and what they value.
- You will learn whether the role is really right for you. What you dig up during your research should answer the question you should always ask yourself as you job search: “Does all of this information align with my goals?”
You might find that the organization’s mission clashes with your goals. Maybe there’s no 401k, and you cannot imagine working somewhere without a retirement plan. This small investment of research time is a way to potentially save a lot of headache; it’s better to know now than 2 months into a new job.
At the same time, the job could wind up sounding better than expected, so don’t rule out a job that seems only “okay” at first…you might find that a little research shows you it’s a match made in heaven!
Do you understand what the organization needs?
Occupational therapy private practice owners, multi-chain clinics, and large medical corporations have at least one thing in common: they all have a mission or brand that represents their philosophy. One could argue that if there is no mission or brand statement, it can be a red flag that the organization lacks focus.
You should be able to identify those values and brands by doing a little research.
Take a look at the website and any press releases you can find by doing a Google search. A brand could be “geriatric occupational therapy for underserved populations”, while another’s might be “cutting edge neuro rehab” An assisted living facility or skilled nursing facility (SNF) might use “a nurturing, caring, place to regain function.”
Make sure you understand the brand, and address how your experience will directly relate to their vision.
For example, imagine a SNF is looking for a staff OT to eventually help open the new location across town. Your section that identifies the facility’s “problems” could say something like,
“I am eager to contribute to the mission of DireWolf Skilled Nursing Facility, as I believe that providing client-centered occupational therapy to the geriatric population is the most rewarding aspect of my practice. My entrepreneurial nature will be well-suited to the needs of DireWolf, as your continual expansion efforts will depend on like-minded OTs joining the team. I managed the Lannister Diner in Quahog, RI for three years, and I am comfortable with the managerial and resource allocation demands that will inevitably crop up as the DireWolf brand expands. I’d love to stay with the DireWolf team for many years to come, your mission of “providing nurturing geriatric OT care” resonates with my own values. Plus, my wife’s parents live in DireWolf village, and I am eager to move closer to them so that our children can see their grandparents as they grow up.***
***If you have family ties to the area, mention them! But if all you want to do is snowboard or escape a crazy ex, keep it general. Hiring managers believe that they are investing in you, and they fear turnover. Assure them that you are committed to staying with them. Otherwise, hiring you would be wasting their time.
Sell yourself by explaining how you add value.
The cover letter also serves to say, “This is how I can help you.” This is where you should cherry pick the best parts of your resume and highlight them.
Don’t simply repeat what your resume says; make sure to explain how your experiences translate into making you a great occupational therapist, especially for this particular job (again, tying your value to the clinic’s needs).
For example, if you’ve worked in a hospital-based inpatient occupational therapy department, but you’re applying for a private practice in hand therapy, highlight what you DO have. “My experience working for DireWolf Hospital has enabled me to treat patients with many different diagnoses, while enjoying a strong mentorship program from a team of specialist clinicians.” An outpatient occupational therapy clinic will be excited that you’ve already been groomed, trained, and mentored, enabling you to hit the ground running.
What if you’re making the opposite transition?
In this case, you can say, “My experience working for DireWolf OT Clinic has improved my flexibility, communication skills, time management, and ability to modify treatments for unique diagnoses.” The hospital hiring manager would think, “This applicant is used to high volume clinics, and won’t panic when things get busy.” By definition, managers have to manage; highlight the fact that you’ll make their job easier.
Look for parts of your resume that highlight your value.
Explaining how you can be a great addition in a hypothetical situation can work wonders. Can you start an autism club? Can you launch a blog? Expand the organization’s social media presence? Just be sure to work out the logistics before making any promises. You can be the best occupational therapist ever, but if you don’t have the intrinsic motivation or skills to make your promises come to life in the role, you could wind up being a bit of a disappointment.
The last paragraph rounds out your occupational therapy cover letter. Make sure that you include pertinent information about when you’re available to chat. Make sure to reiterate the fact that you are very excited about the role, and provide your phone number, email address, and that you’d love the opportunity to schedule a call or meeting to discuss the opportunity in more detail.
Final thoughts about your occupational therapy cover letter
Don’t worry. There’s no such thing as the “perfect occupational therapy cover letter” formula. Even if there were, it would be ineffective, because everyone would use it.
But there are still huge differences between a bad cover letter and one that will almost guarantee you an interview.
At the end of the day, the recipe is simple:
- Research to understand your potential employer
- Understand your experiences and strengths
- Present these experiences and strengths as ways to solve your potential employer’s problems.
- Show enthusiasm and passion for occupational therapy and make sure to get a trusted friend or colleague to read your letter for grammatical and spelling errors before you send it out.
Time to crush it!
The short job description
This can happen, too. Job descriptions might be short and lack details.
I’m sure you’ve seen the following ad:
“We need a friendly, energetic occupational therapist to work M-F 8:30-5 at busy outpatient pediatric occupational therapy clinic in downtown San Diego.” Hmph. That doesn’t give you much to work with.
But what you can do is take note that the hiring manager is way too busy to take the time to write out a full job posting. This gives you important clues.
A busy clinic is often needing someone quickly. This can work to your advantage if you’re ready to start a job right now.
Also, they might be hoping to offer evening and weekend hours. If you’re game to do this, say so! You don’t really know what the employer wants, but you can guess. Try to use what you can to sell yourself as the obvious pick for this position, no matter what your experience level is.
Identifying your value is always tough, especially for a new grad occupational therapist, who likely doesn’t have a lot of experience. But don’t worry! You can always bring value to a occupational therapy position.
It’s all about having confidence and knowing how to sell yourself.
Here are some ways to do so:
- Leverage your social media connections. You can use your existing occupational therapy twitter account, Facebook account, and LinkedIn account to attract the attention of clients and other clinicians.
- Highlight unique clinicals. Think of ones where you were able to pick up skills (both clinical and non-clinical) that a normal new graduate occupational therapist might not possess.
- Note any marketing skills that make you stand out. But recognize that these skill might be applicable to outpatient pediatric or hand therapy clinics. Larger hospitals or clinic chains tend to have their own marketing department, or contract out to larger firms.
- Frame potential weaknesses as strengths. We all know the one thing all new grad OTs lack: experience. Fortunately, you can spin this to your advantage, as new grads OTs also have fewer bad habits to break when ramping up in a new job. For example, when I was doing my fieldwork, everyone was freaking out over the fact that documentation was going electronic from paper. But I didn’t know otherwise, so the “transition” was easy for me!
Another benefit of being a new grad OT: a keen understanding of the latest treatment options and general flexibility with hours (usually). It’s up to you to present your selling points. New grads need to essentially say, “I’m can hit the ground running, but I’m receptive to being groomed.”
Hiring managers are looking for occupational therapists who can operate autonomously, but are open to mentoring and learning opportunities. This ensures that the hire will fit in well with the company culture.
New grads are also known for working hard. You might not have seen what another OT has seen in her 15 years of practice, but you can almost certainly work harder. You’re a motivated new grad! Do you have examples on your resume that show that you’ve gone above and beyond in the past? If so, make sure that you illustrate those experiences!
62 Sandshoe Ave>
Pasture NSW 2846>
T: (02) 4444 4444>
M: 0444 444 444>
Re: Occupational therapist position
I am writing to apply for the position of occupational therapist at Life Ready, as advertised recently on SEEK.com.au.
I am a motivated and passionate occupational therapist, with a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy, a Certificate IV in Allied Health Assistance (Occupational Therapy), and over two years’ experience in an occupational health setting.
In my current role, I am responsible for managing a large case load, working with a wide range of clients in both private practice and hospital settings. I am experienced in performing client and workplace evaluations, including ergonomic, ADL and functional assessments, as well as developing, managing and modifying individual care plans for optimal results.
I have experience in mediating between insurers, employers, unions, GPs and other specialist health practitioners to achieve the best possible health outcomes for the client. I am also responsible for the delivery of injury management training and consulting services to corporate clients, focusing on the minimisation of workplace injury risk and work environment modification.
I am a self-motivated professional who is passionate about caring for clients and getting the best results for their recovery. I possess very strong communication skills and pride myself on my highly developed interpersonal skills, which have allowed me to achieve great results both individually and when working as part of a team.
I am approved by WorkCover to conduct workplace assessments, and I am registered with both Occupational Therapy Australia and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. I hold a current driver’s licence and National Police Clearance.
My resume is attached and I look forward to being able to discuss the position with you further.