Imagine that you are a physical therapy clinic director. You have worked hard to build an environment you love, with a cohesive and conscientious staff. Now you’re on the hunt for a new employee. You receive a stack of resumes and they’re all impressive. However, only a handful of them have thoughtful, sincere cover letters attached to them. Understanding how clinical directors and HR managers will look at a new grad's physical therapy cover letter is critical.
This article will tell you EXACTLY what to put in your cover letter to present yourself as a top candidate.
Imagine that you are a physical therapy clinic director. You have worked hard to build an environment you love, with a cohesive and conscientious staff. Now you’re on the hunt for a new employee. You receive a stack of resumes and they’re all impressive. However, only a handful of them have thoughtful, sincere cover letters.
If you’ve only got time to interview five candidates, who will you pick to interview?
Make an Impression:
A physical therapy cover letter is your first chance to make an impression on a potential employer, outside of your resume. As a new grad, your resume may be impressive, but you will probably have less experience than other candidates.
Your opportunity to stand out lies primarily in a cover letter that conveys your passion, work ethic, and potential to help grow the department in a positive way.
Your cover letter is also an opportunity to showcase your communication skills. Don't make rookie mistake's mistakes like confusing possessives with plurals!
Do your Homework:
Before you compose your letter, make sure to prepare and understand the company/clinic you'd like to join. Read as much as you can about the workplace, including the corporate mission and culture.
If you’re answering a simple Craigslist ad with minimal information, make note of what the ad does say. Is it a “busy outpatient clinic looking for an energetic team player”? If so, you may want to point out in your cover letter that you’re enthusiastic and passionate about maintaining quality care in high-volume settings.
If you’re applying to a large hospital system, read the mission statement and make note of the terminology they use. If the mission statement is “To heal, comfort, and promote health in the communities we serve”, consider mentioning that you like to provide comfortable and nurturing treatment sessions where the patient feels they are in healing hands.
Consider the Tone:
A good rule of thumb is to follow the ad to which you’re responding. If it’s a short, matter-of-fact ad, echo that tone (with some added friendliness) in your cover letter. If the ad is 2 pages long, with multiple lists of qualifications and certifications, take a little extra time to ensure you mention areas that you fit the bill.
Anatomy of a Cover Letter
Consider the clinic culture. If it’s a small clinic with a casual attitude, a simple “Hi!” or “Hello” may do. Western states are notoriously more casual than most, but don’t make the mistake of being too casual with a potential employer. It is always better to err on the side of being too formal, rather than too casual. Please avoid using a “Sup bro” intro, unless you are comfortable having your application sent straight to the trash! A large corporation may respond better to “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Rehab Manager.” While some folks like "To Whom it May Concern," we feel like that sounds a bit confrontational!
Generally, three body paragraphs will be plenty, so try to avoid going overboard. A good format includes the following elements, worked into the three body paragraphs as organically as possible:
1. What you like about the clinic
Be sure to mention something positive about the company. Did the hospital win awards for trauma or stroke care? Mention those awards! Is the clinic active in community outreach? Is it a women’s health leader in the community? This is the section where you offer your sincerest flattery, as that shows that you’ve done your homework and actually want this job. The last thing a busy clinic director wants to do is waste time on a disinterested candidate.
2. Why you want to work at that clinic
Do you like treating an underserved population? Are you passionate about vestibular physical therapy? Were you a patient at the same clinic years earlier? Do you like the small staff size? Be sure to mention specifically what it is about the clinic that attracted your interest.
3. Why you make an excellent candidate
What is it about you that makes you so special? Try to throw in a few things about your clinical experience. DO NOT BRAG. Please avoid rehashing the same information they can find in your resume. Instead, mention at least one key experience point from your time in the field that directly relates to the job position. For example, if you worked at Rancho Los Amigos in the gait lab, and you're applying for an outpatient neuro position, you can state something like,
"My passion for neuro rehab truly developed during my second clinical rotation, where I worked with stroke patients in the Rancho Los Amigos gait lab."
4. A few choice bits about yourself that connect well to that facility
You can always play up your personality traits, if you really don't have professional experience that matches the job description. Are you professional, punctual, easygoing, hard-working, friendly, caring or devoted? A little research can tell you if the employers value one-on-one time with patients or using cutting edge treatments.
Often, you can get clues from a company's website that tell you about their practice philosophies or how active they are in community service. Try to connect on those levels. If you truly can't find an area where you feel you can build a connection, make sure to mention a quality that will enhance their practice. For example, if you have been told that you always have a smile on your face, state that you're someone who will always arrive at the office with a smile.
Make sure to thank the person reading the letter for their time, reiterate your interest in the position, and provide several methods of contact. For example:
“If you agree that I would be a good fit for your team, please contact me anytime at (phone) or (email). Thank you very much, in advance, for your consideration. I hope to hear from you soon.”
How you sign your letter tells a lot about your attitude. “Sincerely” is a term often used by an older crowd, but I usually use that signature in my own letters, as it sets me apart (and is probably the only classy thing about me.) Avoid “Cheers,” “Best” or "Thanks", as they can be a bit casual. “Best Regards” is always a good bet for hospital systems, and “With Gratitude” might work for a yoga clinic.