My Top 10 Tips for Applying to your First OT Job.

So many of you have recently graduated from OT School {or are heading into your final semester of school} which is so so wonderful! So here are a few tips to get you interview-ready.

1. Apply to as Many Jobs as Possible

When you’re a broke new grad, there isn’t much room to be picky. So unless there is a specific population that you know you really don’t mesh with (or one that you don’t have the correct certification for; aka CHT), APPLY APPLY APPLY.

Also, don’t be afraid to utilize the resources at your college or university to enhance your resume-writing skills. A professional resume usually looks a little different than the resumes we learn to write in high school. I definitely asked our program’s clinical coordinator for assistance, and she was able to provide me with a general template; this really helped me keep track of everything like my course work and clinical experiences in a concise manner.

2. Look into Bigger Rehab Companies

Try applying to larger rehab companies such as Synertx, Medstar, RehabCare, and Genesis Rehab. Since these companies outsource to various hospitals, SNFs, and rehab centers, they will likely have more openings available.

3. Accept Any and Every Interview as Possible

Let’s face it, as a new grad you are desperate to get a job. Of course you want to work in a setting and with a population that you enjoy, but depending upon how many openings are available in your location/area, you might need to broaden your search. Which means you need to be prepared to accept as many interviews as possible.

*Side note: if there is a certain population/demographic that you know you will be miserable working in, maybe don’t interview for that position. All I’m saying here is you want to keep things generally broad to at least land that first position.

4. Use Each Interview as a Learning Opportunity

Spoiler alert: that first interview will likely feel like a whirlwind. And that’s okay.

When I went on my first interview, I had very low expectations that the interview would come to anything since I was interviewing before I even graduated. So I went in with the mindset that it was merely a learning opportunity for the many interviews to come. And believe it or not I felt more like my natural self during that interview than I had in any other interview I had ever been in to date.

So don’t stress. Learn something from every interview you attend. Make note of what worked, and what didn’t. Meditate on questions that maybe caught you off guard and discover what questions you might want to ask during the next interview.

5. Think about the Broad OT Concepts

Re-familiarize yourself with the basic principles of OT. What occupations are outlined in the OT Practice Framework and how will you incorporate those occupations into the population you are applying for? How do you define client independence? How do you make sure goals are measurable and attainable? Will you use a Top-Down approach with treatments? How can you grade your treatments? These are all questions that can be applied to any and all patient population and demographic. So be thinking about these concepts because you will likely be asked about them throughout the interview.

6. Know Yourself

We all know that interviews are the perfect place to brag about your strengths. But it is also important to self-reflect on your personal weaknesses. During my first interview, I was asked to outline both my professional strengths and my professional weaknesses. What helped most for me was to think back to the conversations I had with my Clinical Instructors during my fieldwork placements. Those conversations were especially helpful at recognizing the areas I thrive in as well as the areas that needed more time and care. Don’t be afraid to share these things during your interview. Your strengths and weaknesses are equally important and will eventually be revealed as you begin to work in the clinical setting. So be honest from the start while still selling yourself as the amazing OT you are.

7. Refer to the AOTA Regulated Reviews from your Clinical Instructors

If you’ve completed any sort of Fieldwork experience, you’ll know that your Clinical Instructor is required to complete an evaluation on your performance to allow your OT Program to understand your level of competency. But what you might not know is these fieldwork evaluations can also allow your interviewer to understand your level of competency. So use those reviews to your advantage.

8. Bring Extra Copies of Everything

Seems like a no-brainer. But the last thing you want is be caught off guard, wishing you had a copy of your cover letter or resume or transcript or license or whatever paperwork your interviewer may have asked you to bring. And if there is a certain document or form that you are debating whether or not to bring, just bring it. It will feel much better to have it and not need it, than to need it and wish that you had brought it along.

9. Have a General Timeline in Mind if you haven’t been Certified or Licenced

General rule of thumb is to wait to interview until you have at least passed your NBCOT exam. But if you are not certified and/or licensed in your state yet, your interviewer will likely ask you for your expected timeline of events. So have those dates in mind so that you don’t get caught off guard.

10. Remember your Passion

As occupational therapists, we are naturally passionate people. We love people and we love helping them return to the things and the lifestyle that they love. Before you head into that interview, think about those passions. Reflect on the things about the population you are applying for that really light your fire. What about OT in this setting do you love? How will you use your own interests and loves to support the patients you hope to work with? What areas of the healthcare system do you hope to support, and what areas do you hope to change? Tap into that therapeutic use of self.


I have no doubt that you will be a great OT in whatever setting you end up in. You have already accomplished so much. Each interview is only a step towards the career you have worked so hard to attain. Don’t stress. You are an amazing OT and you will change the lives of the people you touch. Happy Interviewing! -xo Allison

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