Occupational Therapist Tips
You’ve worked so hard during your school years to receive your graduate’s degree in the field of speech-language pathology, or in the field of occupational therapy with the hopes becoming an occupational therapist. All graduates understand the endless dedication, sweat, and tears that goes into it! So first things first, congratulations! Go celebrate! Be proud of yourself.
Secondly, after making sure to reward yourself for that hard work, it’s time to nail that dream position! This blog will include tips, reminders, and information to boost your preparedness and confidence before entering any interview.
Before the Interview
Before any interview, make sure your resume is up-to-date and presented in a professional manner. Chances are, many resumes are sent to companies on a daily basis, so make sure your resume stands out.
Do not underestimate the power of attention to detail – it would be a pity if a potential employer disregarded your resume because of a grammar mistake.
A cover letter provides a chance for potential employers to know more about you and why you would be an asset to the company. It gives an opportunity for the company to not only see your writing skills, but to also truly envision you as a prospective candidate, with the image you’ve provided of yourself.
Professional Image Online
If your resume catches the attention of a potential employer, the first thing that will likely be conducted is an online search. Make sure your image online is professional. Review all posts and pictures, and make sure to delete them if they are not “work appropriate”.
Reach out to companies via phone call or -mail
The world of speech-language pathology and occupational therapy is competitive. Even if you have a stellar resume and cover letter, it can still be difficult to gain an interview. It is encouraged to reach out to potential employers via email or phone call, even if there are no active job listings. Seek that connection!
Preparation for the Interview: Prepare, prepare, prepare
A key word you may hear throughout this blog is: preparation. It is extremely important to set yourself up for success by being as prepared as possible. You may think, “How can I prepare when I don’t know the questions that will be thrown at me?”; and while it is true that there is no way to predict the exact interview questions that will be asked, it is also true that your employers will know if you have prepared to the best of your ability.
Step 1: Mock Occupational Therapist Interview with yourself / family members / friends
You got that interview opportunity! That is an accomplishment in itself. The potential employer already sees potential based on your education, work experience, and skills.
As mentioned above, it is impossible to know the exact questions that will be asked, which is commonly the most nerve-wracking aspect of interviewing. Everyone is afraid of that question where you simply have no idea how to answer. The solution? Prepare your responses for as many questions as possible. Prepare for the unexpected!
Whatever you do, do not wing it during an interview. Interviewing, for most people, is a learned skill. Although there are some (very lucky!) people that are incredibly well-spoken during interviews they have not prepared for, they are a rarity.
Write Down Potential Questions
Write down questions that your potential employer would ask – include the general ones (e.g., “Can you tell me more about yourself?”), and the more specific ones (e.g., “What would you do if…?”).
Include skills-based questions, behavioral questions, and situational questions.
**A list of commonly asked occupational therapist questions is included below for reference.**
Research and Study the Company
It is important to not only research the company, but study the company. Learn the core values and learn the mission statement.
Include specific information about the company when answering questions. Not only will it show the company that you did your homework, but it will also show that you have prepared to interview for this company, and not just any company.
Prepare Clinical Portfolio
Compile your resume, transcripts, writing samples, letters of references, and activity ideas in a large binder to showcase yourself. During the interview, you can reference to areas in your Clinical Portfolio that make you stand out.
Rehearse and Mock Interview
After writing down all of the potential questions, (it is also helpful to write down the answers), practice rehearsing them. Rehearse answers for every question. Sometimes we may think we know the answer to an “easy” question and don’t have to practice it, but then we realize it doesn’t come out as eloquent as we were hoping it to.
After rehearsing them to yourself in the mirror, engage in mock interviews. As silly as it may feel, you will feel so much more prepared and confident. Take video recordings of yourself and/or practice with family members and friends. Analyze your answers, vocal tone, and body language.
It’s Interview Time!
It’s the big day! You’ve done your homework and prepared the best you could. If you are feeling nervous, remind yourself that it is natural! Also, remind yourself that you are interviewing the company, as much as they are interviewing you. This thought process will calm your nerves a bit, and will remind yourself that an interview is a way of getting to know each other. Below are some tips to optimize your interviewing experience on the big day.
Prepare an outfit in advance– Make sure you dress professionally. Dress in neutral colors, with a clean look (e.g., natural makeup, clean nails, etc.)
Prepare copies of resume and Clinical Portfolio – Make sure to bring copies of your resume, as well as a clinical portfolio that includes examples of your writing style, letters of reference, and activity ideas that you have created.
Allow plenty of time to arrive – in fact, it’s okay to be early and wait in the parking lot! There is no worse feeling than rushing to get there on time, especially after all of your hard work and preparation.
First impressions are everything – Be polite to everyone, from the moment you enter the building. Stand tall, give a warm smile, a firm handshake, and appropriate eye contact. Wait for the employer to sit down first, and then follow.
Body Language – Body language is arguably more important than verbal language. 90% of what you say is via non-verbal communication. It’s okay to be nervous, but present yourself with confidence and poise.
- Firm handshake before and after interviewing, while giving a genuine smile
- Display appropriate eye contact throughout interview
- Open stance – avoid crossing arms or crossing legs
- Tall posture, lean slightly forward when listening or speaking
- Nod occasionally and smile
- Avoid touching face and hair
- It’s okay to supplement responses with hand gestures, however, do not overdo it. Place hands in your lap, as much as you can
- Take your time before answering questions –
- An immediate impulse is to answer questions as soon as they are asked. Remember, it’s okay to take a moment to pause, breathe, and think about the question that’s being asked of you. Be thoughtful with your answer – not only the content, but also with the vocal tone, volume, and rate of speech.
Show enthusiasm for the job – Be yourself and show your personality. Show that you are excited about the idea of this job via smiles and enthusiasm. Show your passion!
Do not bring up salary or benefits until after you have been offered the job – Your questions may be valid; however, it is not a good luck until after you have been offered the position.
Prepare questions to ask the company at the end of the interview – Always end the interview with a question or two to ask the potential employer. It demonstrates interest and motivation.
Thank the interviews for their time – Let the interviewer(s) know that you look forward to hearing from them and that you appreciate their time.
More and more, we are also seeing a rise in virtual interviews, especially in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Virtual interviews are convenient — you don’t have to worry about getting lost or finding the right building. However, it is still important to prepare just as much for a virtual interview – if not a bit more. Below are some tips to kill your virtual interview.
Professional Attire- Although you will be in the comfort of your own home, it is still vital to dress wearing professional clothing, especially from the waist up. Although you can probably get away with wearing sweatpants, since only the upper half of your body will be filmed, it is still recommended you dress for the role completely. When you dress the part, you will think and act in the way that is characteristic of the role you are applying for.
Accessible Resume- Since you can’t bring in your resume, make sure that it is still readily available electronically. Even if your interviewer doesn’t mention, take the initiative and send it beforehand. It will show preparedness and organization.
Meeting Login Information – If you did not receive login information 24 hours before the interview, don’t be afraid to send the potential employer an email. Not only does this prevent stress, but your initiative will once again be looked at positively.
Video Set-Up –
Test it out.
Get familiar with the platform that your potential employer will utilize for the interview. There are a variety of live video and audio programs, such as Zoom, that often require downloads on your computer. Play around and familiarize yourself with the platform, prior to your interview.
Microphone and Audio
Before your interview, make sure your microphone and audio are working. You want to make sure that you feel completely focused on the interview, and not any technological issues. Of course, sometimes there are technical mishaps that are out of everyone’s control; however, do what you can to avoid preventable difficulties.
Make sure you have adequate lighting so that you are as visible as possible (tip: sit in front of a window, rather than behind it).
Just as it is important to not dress with loud colors, it is also important to not have a “busy” background. Make sure your background is not too distracting.
Be Punctual- Make sure to be as punctual as possible. Tips to make sure you are on time:
- Ensure your internet is connected
- Double check that you have received the meeting information
- Communicate with family members/friends in your household to let them know that you cannot be disturbed
Smile a lot and show off your personality- The drawback with virtual interviews is that body language cannot be communicated as easily as an in-person interview. Thus, it is important to smile as much as possible, when appropriate. Smiling is key to let your potential employer know that you will bring enthusiasm and positivity to the workforce. It is important that the potential employer sees your personality, so do your best to translate yourself through the screen. Ask questions and share aspects of yourself that you are proud of.
After the Interview
You did it! No matter the outcome, you did the best you could, and for that, pat yourself on the back. All interviewing experience is good – so even if you think you could’ve answered some questions better, remember that it also takes practice. Also, who knows, if you prepared, you probably did better than you think. We are always our own worst critics.
Within 24 hours of the interview, it is a good idea to send a follow-up email, thanking the interviewers again for their time and also conveying your interest in the job. Even if, for example, the employers don’t think you are the right fit for the job at this time (e.g., limited experience compared to another candidate), they will remember your courteousness, and your motivation, when you take the time to send an e-mail. Thus, they may call you for a future position that they feel is more adequate, or even better for you!
Below please find some more helpful resources that include commonly asked questions, and the best approaches to answer questions, to help you nail the position of your dreams!
List of commonly asked interview questions for both ST and OT can be found at this website:
If you are a speech-language pathologist, speech-language pathologist assistant, occupational therapist, occupational therapist assistant, or are simply passionate about helping children and getting experience in the therapy world (e.g., shadowing, volunteering), please give us a call at 786-717-5649 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are always excited to add team members to the EST Family, and will welcome you with open arms!