Writing a resume or CV may seem about as fun and exciting as getting up early on a Saturday to prepare your taxes. While blindfolded. On a treadmill.
But writing your entry-level therapy resume is an excellent opportunity to clarify what sets you apart as a therapist, and how and why you can do a world of good for students.
At Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS), we’ve seen plenty of resumes over the last 20-plus years. We know what makes us want to nab candidates for our therapist network right away, and what makes us toss resumes aside without a second thought.
Here are some tips for crafting a CV to show off your strengths, accentuate your experience, and land you a great job helping kids.
How to Make Hiring Managers See Your Resume as a “Keeper”
Most resumes get only a few seconds to catch a hiring manager’s eye. Here are three tips on making yours attention-grabbing and easy to read:
Keep to the reverse chronological format.
We strongly recommend classic reverse chronological structure. Hiring managers like it because it shows whether you’ve shouldered increased responsibility over time. Plus, automated applicant tracking systems scan it easily, increasing the odds you’ll actually be considered.
List your relevant work experience starting with the most recent, then move backward. State your job title, where you worked, and when. Double check dates to ensure they’re correct and leave no gaps. (Explain any unavoidable gap in your cover letter, and be ready to address it in interviews). Highlight tasks and accomplishments for each position using bullet points.
Naturally, an entry-level therapy resume won’t list many full-time jobs in the field. Instead, include all your relevant clinical experience like part-time jobs, fieldwork, and internships. Mention all the main details of your education and training, including relevant certifications and honors.
Keep it streamlined and simple.
Amanda Rhoads, PTS’ Recruiting Coordinator, remembers her reaction to a five-page resume in her inbox: “No way!” Communicating information concisely is essential in therapy. An overly long resume, especially for an entry-level job, won’t inspire confidence you possess this skill.
So stick to one side of one page. Use formatting like boldface and underlining to facilitate your CV’s flow. Separate each section with adequate white space. And don’t forget correct contact information—physical address, phone number, email address—at the top. If you have a professional-looking online profile, consider linking to it.
Keep it relevant.
We’ve mentioned relevance more than once. Wasting a hiring manager’s time with what Amanda calls “fluff” is a sure way to knock yourself out of the running.
Generally, leave unrelated part-time jobs and side gigs out. If you’re entering this field after a career in another, only list those jobs if they helped you develop skills desirable in and readily transferable to pediatric therapy.
Writing a professional summary as the first section of your resume lets you showcase your degrees and credentials, strengths, and special experience in a short paragraph. Tailor your summary to the position so readers instantly see why you’re the right person to fill it.
Specific Tips for Entry-Level School-Based Therapy Resumes
Your entry-level pediatric therapy resume should also do the following:
Specify grade levels or age groups you’ve worked with, and in what settings.
Your resume should include clinical experience with students, or children and youth in some other setting. Spell out where you’ve gained your experience.
If you’re applying without pediatric experience, in your cover letter and interview explain how the skills you’ve learned could transfer to pediatric therapy. For example, skills honed while working with autistic adults could help you work with students on the spectrum.
Identify assessment tools with which you’re proficient.
Because evaluating students is a large part of working in related services, state which assessment tools you’re skilled in using.
If you’re writing an entry-level Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®) resume and have administered the Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS), point it out. Or if you’re drafting your entry-level Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) resume and are experienced with the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills–Revised (ABLLS-R®), say so!
When program administrators or agency recruiters see you’re already proficient in industry-standard assessment tools, they’ll feel confident in your ability to “hit the ground running.”
Highlight your specialty skills and experience.
Do you have a strong track record matching students with Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices? Are you fluent in American Sign Language (ASL)? Is your record of delivering services via teletherapy especially impressive? Point out any specific reasons you’re an especially appropriate match for the position you’re seeking.
Amanda recalls one applicant who specified her experience was with a university’s severe behavior clinic. “She showed she had experience some of our schools require with difficult behaviors,” says Amanda.
Showcase any supervisory and IEP experience.
School-based therapists often supervise other clinicians. Occupational Therapists (OTs) supervise Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTAs). Established SLPs supervise practitioners during their Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY). BCBAs supervise Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCABAs), who, like BCBAs, supervise Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs). Showing successful supervisory experience further establishes your value.
Similarly, if you’ve worked as part of Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams, describe it. Writing IEP goals, reviewing and implementing intervention plans, attending and participating in meetings—it’s all integral to school-based therapy. The more you can demonstrate you’ve done it and done it well, the better.
Detail diagnoses with which you’re most familiar.
Medical diagnoses don’t automatically qualify students for special education, but children diagnosed with specific disabilities and disorders are often found eligible for it.
List diagnoses you’ve encountered in your clinical experience so far, whether autism, cerebral palsy, specific behavioral or emotional disorders, or others. You’ll be showing you’re ready to work with populations who commonly receive related services.
Looking for More Advice on Landing a School-Based Therapy Job?
Do you want more strategies and tips on finding and getting a position where you can help students while launching your long and successful career? Claim your free downloadable copy of our eBook, A New Grad’s Guide to Landing the Right School-Based Therapy Job.