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5 Ways Physical Therapists Can Stand Out in a Saturated Job Market

by Lauren Hinton Kirk, PT, DPT



Are you feeling overwhelmed by a saturated job market?

How does a new graduate physical therapist compete for the same jobs alongside all the other new PTs out there, not to mention well-seasoned therapists?

I found myself in this exact situation, and I was not in the position to relocate to escape the saturated job market.

After graduation, I was bright-eyed and in no rush to start applying for jobs until after my board exam. Naively, I believed I was quickly going to land a job that fulfilled all my criteria:

  • Full-time
  • Ideal location
  • Great pay
  • Choice specialty
  • Benefits, etc.

Having come from a physical therapy school that graduates three classes a year, I felt the stress of all the students trying to find employment in the same area.

After I passed the NPTE, I applied to many physical therapy jobs online – too many to count. No dice. I realized that If I was going to land a job, I needed to stop surfing the internet and become creative.

If you are tired of scanning the same job postings on and, then read below for five ways to stand out from the students who graduated in your class.

1. Deliver your resume in person.

Provide your resume to the physical therapy clinical director in person. The clinical director and staff in the office will be able to put a face with the name and see your awesomeness!

From an employer's point of view, knowing if a candidate is appropriate for a position is difficult. Going to the office gives the clinical director an opportunity to determine whether your personality works within the office’s dynamic.

I recommend calling ahead to ask for an appropriate time to stop by with your resume. If no one answers, stop by before or after lunch hours with the intention of leaving your resume with the administrative staff. Follow up with an e-mail or phone call to the clinical director.

What if they are not hiring?

Go to the office with your resume regardless if they are hiring or not. They will remember that you took the time to come in and meet the team.

When there is a job opening, you will be the first to be contacted.

2. Make an incredible first impression.

Now, you are getting ready to make a first impression when you visit the clinic. According to Business Insider, you only have 7 seconds to leave a strong first impression.

Consider the following when preparing to visit a clinic:

  • Appearance: Carefully plan what you will wear. Professional dress sends a message that you are serious about landing a job. Dressing too casually can send a subliminal message that you “don’t care.” Even if the clinic where you're applying has a very casual or athletic dress code for employees, try to dress at least a "level or two above" what that code is. Even if you look over-dressed, you will be memorable in a good way - as a professional who is eager for the job.
  • Presentation: Print out your cover letter and resume on a high-quality resume paper. Your resume will stand out from other resumes because of the increased thickness, look, and feel of the paper. Appealing to the senses is another way to make a subtle positive impression.
    OK, maybe this is taking it a bit too far. No scented resumes, but you know what we mean!
  • Attitude: Your attitude will give clues to the employer whether you will “fit in” with the personality of the clinic. Don’t be afraid to make small talk with other staff members while you wait. The director will most likely ask for their opinion once you leave.

3. Find a true mentor.

A former employer of mine shared a resume and cover letter of an applicant for a PT position. The document was filled with bright colors and graphics, and it came with several candid photographs attached to the email.

To avoid a faux pas like this, I advise all students to find a true mentor who is someone to advise you in different areas such as constructing a resume or career path.

Where do you find a true mentor?

  • Investigate several different professionals from whom you can learn clinically, professionally or both.
  • Reach out to professors or local physical therapists whose achievements are similar to your goals. For example, while in school, scope out instructors that specialize in writing and career development to help improve your writing and interview skills. At the University of St. Augustine (Austin, TX), I joined a group of students guided by our professor and mentor. We dissected each other’s resumes, bounced career ideas off one another, and discussed current events in the world of physical therapy.
  • Social media has made connecting with physical therapists incredibly easy via podcasts, Facebook, and Twitter. Explore physical therapists on their social media accounts to learn if they are the right fit for you, and then reach out to them for mentorship. A mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be in the same field as you. We can learn a lot about business and marketing from someone who opened a successful business unrelated to the medical field.

4. Diversify yourself.

All physical therapists graduate with a doctorate, which is impressive, but it's also the standard these days. We cannot coast on a DPT to land a job; we must demonstrate our value as job applicants.

Ask yourself what makes you a better fit for the position compared to the other applicants. Portray all aspects of yourself that will bring value to the company. Show how you can grow within the organization.

In the interview, explain interests in areas other than treating patients, such as wellness programs and marketing.

If you do not have an experience that stands out, use your physical therapy cover letter to illustrate what unique areas you are interested in that expound your interests within physical therapy and in other sectors outside of physical therapy.

5. Demonstrate your ability - and willingness - to market

Demonstrate your marketability to the public and various healthcare providers.

There are many platforms that you use to showcase your skills:

  • Social media. Make sure to have a professional LinkedIn and Facebook page, where you post periodically or share relevant articles about your areas of interest/expertise.
  • Public speaking. Pick up any and all opportunities you can where you can speak. Offer to give talks at local PT schools. Present to high schoolers who are considering careers in PT. If you can demonstrate speaking experience, you are a much more appealing candidate from a marketing standpoint.
  • Healthcare provider meetings. Local APTA chapter meetings are just the start. Consider attending multidisciplinary meetups or conferences in your area. Network with other practitioners and hand out business cards.
  • Attend community educational workshops. Don't be shy about reaching out to community leaders and putting your name out there.
  • Write. You can write a column in the neighborhood newsletter. Start a blog. However you choose to get your material in front of people, you're putting your name out there. Ensure that this conveys on both your cover letter and your resume, as writing skills can help you land a job at a clinic that needs a blog.

To market yourself, think outside the box, and create an online presence to display information about yourself for potential clients.

Feeling discouraged and hopeless is very easy when you're dealing with a saturated job market. But do not let job searching consume your life and make you feel inadequate.

Instead, take action. Designate 2-3 hours a day to apply and drop off resumes. Then don’t think about it!

Job searching is like dating; if you try too hard, and focus on it too much, it feels like the right match will never come.

If you do not focus on it, your phone and email will be flooding with interviews and offers before you know it. Overall, present yourself with confidence, show your worth to the potential employer, and don’t be afraid to take a different approach to start your career.

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