Therapy Resumes: How to Build One That >Stands Out

Whether you are a new grad, looking to move to a new company, or looking to change settings completely; there are things you can do while writing your resume that will support your aim and help you to stand out!

As a COTA and soon to be OTD, I have had many jobs within the healthcare and therapy field. I have worked in 6 settings (both adult and pediatric) and I have had input on the hiring of new therapists in a couple of these settings!

I may be an odd duck; (actually, I know I am) but I really love writing and formatting resumes! I wanted to take this interest and love and combine it with my husband’s expertise as a recruiter! Although, I think I’ve got a handle on my resumes for the most part, I always ask him for his input. We both have some tips and tricks for you to make resume writing easy, with the end goal of getting that position you are hoping for! I’ll also be answering some FAQ’s that you submitted through the Life’s Occupations’ Instagram page.

First thing is first.

Formatting the Document

  • Margins can be decreased to 1/2″ which will allow you to include more information on one page.
  • Choose a font that is easy to read, but a little different than your typical Times New Roman or Arial.
  • If you’re having alignment issues — use a Microsoft Word template or use LiveCareer Resume Builder to get your format down. You pay for a subscription to LiveCareer, but what I have done in the past is use it for the month I need then end my subscription. With the subscription you can download your Resume in a Word Document and then save that formatting for future versions.
  • ALWAYS SUBMIT YOUR RESUME to an electronic database as a PDF DOCUMENT — this will prevent your handwork in formatting your resume from shifting in the uploading process.

Now the important stuff:

Headings Ideas and What to Include or Omit

Personal Information

I personally like including an Interests section at the bottom of my resume. Many will advise against this citing that even though it is illegal, hiring managers may discriminate based on their opinions of your based on your personal information. I would prefer to work for a company that sees my interests and sees them as an asset. If I include my interest in natural living and life-long learning — and the company judges me based on this, then I don’t really want to work there. That being said, at the beginning of my career when I had less experience and I wanted THAT job, I felt differently. I was willing to curb my personal opinions and preferences to get the experience I was eager to get. All in all, this is going to be at your own discretion! Here is an example of how you could format a section like this.

The Heading

This is where your name and contact information lives. You will want your name to be something that stands out but is not over stylized, but should be the biggest item on the page and call attention to the resume. Recruiters and interviewers see some of the most bizarre email addresses come across their desk — make sure your email address is professional and easy to understand. Yourname@xxxx.com will be the best choice.

Professional Summary

This is a short, well-written sentence, summing up who you are and what your goal is in submitting your resume. Ex: Doctor of Occupational Therapy student seeking to gain a fieldwork opportunity in an area of interest of challenging setting OR Occupational Therapist seeking to apply skills as a feeding specialist within a pediatric setting which is sensory-based. 

Education

This is where you will list the schools you have attended and the degrees you have earned. Make this part simple and short, the only thing an employer will want to know is where you went and when you graduated. I have never met an employer who cared about my GPA and seasoned therapists will not have this on their resume. I would recommend omitting this from your resume. If you are a stellar student, that is awesome! Highlight your honors society membership at the bottom of your resume in a Community Involvement or Awards section.

Experience

This is one of my favorite sections. I like to include experience in two formats; 1) Core Qualifications and Experience and 2) Past and Current Employment.

My Core Qualifications and Experience are at the top of my resume, right underneath my Professional Summary. I like these two sections to live together because I want to grab the readers attention with a summary of myself right from the start. Here is who I am and my intentions (Professional Summary) and here is what I can do (Core Qualifications and Experience). My Job Experience comes underneath the Past and Current Employment section.

Past and Current Employment

In this section, you will want to include the name of the company of facility you worked, the dates you worked there, where it was located, and BRIEF description of your role. If it is more than one sentence, use bullet points to organize the text and consider making the sentences one line of text each. In this section you will want to include relevant employment history. Example: if I am applying for a job as an Occupational Therapist, I will not include my time spent as a student worker on campus sitting at the front desk. I will however, include a Teacher’s Assistant Position in Anatomy Lab from school because this is more clinical and shows that I am strong in Anatomy. If I am not a new grad, I am not going to include that I am a flight attendant 4-6 days a month — this is not relevant and is only going to take up space.

New Grads: This is where you highlight your fieldwork experiences (Level I and II), volunteer experiences and shadowing that you have done on your own outside of your academic program. If you do not have experience in the setting you are applying for, I would get some! Shadow, volunteer, find a mentor — do whatever you can get expose yourself to the setting you want to work in.

Certifications and Competencies

This is where you list your NBCOT license #, state license #, whether or not you are CPR/BLS/Infant CPR certified, FIM Certified, and any other certifications you have obtained throughout your career. If you are looking to switch settings; take a continued education course in the setting you are looking to switch to and list that here! Show that although you may not have opinions of in that area, you have taken initiative to seek out knowledge about that population/setting on your own.

New Grads: This is where you can shine from your fieldwork experiences! If you become competent in an assessment tool, list this here! In Colorado where I practice, these are called “service competencies.”

Tips and Tricks from a Recruiter:

My husband is a recruiter and these were his quick 5 tips on writing resumes for the job you really want. Some of these I need to do to update my resume (which you’ll see in the screen shot examples 😉)

  1. The 1-page rule is a myth, but definitely do not have an excessive amount of information.
  2. Make the resume as relevant as possible to the job you are applying for. Tailor your resume to that job. Don’t make anything up, but look at the job description and to the best of your ability, relate your experience to what they are asking for in a candidate. It is perfectly okay to have multiple resumes, in fact I recommend it.
  3. Keep work experience to the last 10-15 years.
  4. Quantify your experience and accomplishments (led a 15 person team, carried a 45 patient caseload).
  5. Get on LinkedIn and network. Connect with as many people in your field as possible. Connect with hiring managers of the jobs you are applying for and send them simple professional messages when you apply. See if you have a mutual connection with others who already work there to see if there is a potential for a personal or professional referral; these will always increase your chances of getting an interview and getting the job.

Your FAQs:

  1. How do I showcase the important things as a recent graduate and keep it to one page? Per my (recruiter) husband and in my experience, it is not important to keep it to one page! I know some keep a condensed one-page version of their full resume just in case, it’s not important unless that’s what the application requires.
  2. How do I make my resume reflect my passion for life-long learning and advocacy? Reflect this amazing quality throughout! List it in your positions of a role as a teacher and as a leader. Under Certifications and Competencies, list all of your accomplishments and courses you have attended. Consider including a Community Involvement heading a list your advocacy. i.e. Capital Hill day 2019, Lobbied for Bill xxx in the Colorado Capital.
  3. How do I organize my subheadings? However you want! But I personally like to include things that will make me stand out at the top. I don’t think anyone is going to keep reading if I start with listing my alma matters. I choose this order typically; Name/Contact Heading, Professional Summary, Core Qualifications and Experience. Like this:

4. What is more valuable? Experience vs. GPA as a new grad? Experience, always. List your fieldwork opportunities, Level I and II. List shadowing opportunities you completed, volunteer hours — any experience that has exposed reading to the population you want to work with. If you don’t have it to list, I would recommend completing some typically outside of your academic program!
5. I’m a career switcher, I just became an OT. How do I tie in non-OT experience? It’s all about how you frame it. Your prior work experience has prepared you for a career in OT more than you know. I would head my husband’s advice and frame your current experience in terms of the OT job you are applying for’s Job Description. List your prior jobs (if you can make it relevant) and frame your job description this way. But make sure you list your Fieldwork experiences and volunteer hours as well! The fact that you have already held positions in a career is a plus for employers because you are not the typical 24-year-old new grad looking for their first job — own that!

More Questions?

Please reach out! My husband and I would love to answer them, and if you have input you think would be an asset to this post, please contact me! I would love to amend this post to include it.

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