When you’re applying for a new job (or maybe your first job) in the healthcare field, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the intricacies of your healthcare resume - what size should the font be? Is it too colorful? Not colorful enough? Should you put your camp counselor job from 2009 on it?
Often, we neglect our cover letters and tend to type one generic plea for employment and change the address for each job listing for which we apply.
Your Healthcare Cover Letter
A cover letter is the first chance you have to let yourself shine. You want to show your personality and that you have done your homework. This is your opportunity to show why you would be a great fit for that particular job, whether it's clinical or non-clinical. It’s very important to customize your cover letter to the specific job you are targeting, especially if you send an unsolicited resume and cover letter to a company that is not actively hiring. (Besson n.d.)
A healthcare cover letter is a great tool for you because it can help you set the direction of the interview. You can always refer back to your cover letter to direct the interview in a way that lets you showcase your talents and how you can help the company meet its goals, which can be a helpful thing when you’re nervous, especially if you are new to interviewing for these type of positions. (Taylor, n.d.)
How to tailor your cover letter to each specific healthcare job
Do your research before you start writing.
Go to the company’s website and make note of their vision and mission statements, jot down buzzwords or topics of interest that stand out to you, and if there is a job posting, take note of what they are looking for in an ideal candidate. (Taylor n.d). Taking the extra step to relate this information to your experience, personality, or career goals in your cover letter lets an employer picture you in the job position. (Kehayas, n.d.)
Google the company and read everything that comes up. You may stumble across forums, blogs, or social media pages that give you some insight for writing a perfect cover letter. (Ryan, 2015). It’s also good to know the company’s ownership and how that aligns with your goals, especially if you have an interest in a management position in the future. (Taylor, n.d.)
Check out Glassdoor.com - this site is for people to review their employers. You can find some good feedback about what a company values and what they look for in an employee and then use that information to write a great cover letter.
It’s good to know from your previous research how your particular skillset can help the company meet its goals. Is the company looking to branch into pediatrics, and you just finished an amazing peds affiliation? Did the company lose a dry needler, and you just got your certification? (Taylor, n.d.)
Start writing your healthcare cover letter.
A good rule of thumb is to have the format of your cover letter match your resume. It helps convey that you are organized and detail-oriented. Using the same font is an easy way to ensure this. Keep your letter between ½ and ⅔ of a page. This is where being clear and concise can really come in handy. (Fung, 2015)
Look back at the notes you took on the company - did any of the phrases you wrote down give you information on the company? Then, take some of those adjectives and phrases and work them into your cover letter. This does double duty of letting your potential employer know you did your research and drawing upon the company’s buzzwords. Tailor the verbiage to the employer's needs/values.
It’s important to not exclusively fill your resume with what you think the employer wants to see. All employers want a good communicator and someone who can work cooperatively with others. Make sure that you convey this, as well. (Fung, 2015)
Don't reiterate your resume point for point.
Your boss will already read your resume, so it’s a waste of time and paper to repeat everything you’ve included on your resume. (The Muse, 2014)
What to Avoid When Tailoring a Cover Letter
All that being said, it is equally important to know what not to do.
If you are applying to be a staff physical therapist for a young tech firm, you probably can be a little more casual. If the job is a corporate environment, you don’t want to put your resume in Comic Sans or use emojis to drive a point home.
Don’t be that cautionary tale because, as you probably already know, the rehab community is small, and you don’t want to ruin you chances for employment in the area in which you want to work. I have heard horror stories of people using inappropriate language in a letter, and you never want to be remembered for that.
Here’s a good example of a cover letter I have written using the points listed above for a made-up job.
The structure of the letter is important, as well. As a general rule of thumb, paragraph 1 is basically why I’m writing the letter. Is it a job listing or have I heard about the company and want to work for them, even if I don’t know they’re actively hiring?
Paragraph 2 lists what would make me a good fit for the company. What are my skills, and what makes me marketable? Finally, my 3rd paragraph lists how I will follow up on sending my resume and cover letter (The Balance, n.d.).
Dr. Marie Armstrong, PT, DPT, CMTPT
123 Main Street
San Francisco, CA 94016
123 Main Street
San Francisco, CA 94016
September 1, 2017
Dr. Jim Smith, PT, DPT, OCS
200 South Street
San Francisco, CA, 94016
200 South Street
San Francisco, CA, 94016
Dear Dr. Smith,
I recently saw the listing for lead physical therapist of Smith Orthopedics advertised on APTA.com, and I am interested in applying for this position. I am currently the senior physical therapist at Bay Area Therapy, a position I have held for two years. The skills and experiences I have gained during my clinical practice make me an ideal candidate for this job. I have served as the team physical therapist for several local high schools, which would make me perfect for the community outreach your clinic appreciates.
As a senior therapist, I am used to supervising aides and PTAs. I am certified in FMS, so I will be an asset to your clinic by screening people to help prevent future re-injury. I frequently volunteer my services at local triathlons and athletic fairs, and would be proud to represent your company in that capacity. Much of my experience has been in working with talented high school, college-level, and semi-professional athletes. I also have begun pursuing my OCS certification, helping me continue to offer the elite level of care for which your clinic is known.
I am confident that my skill set would be a good fit for Smith Orthopedics. I have enclosed my resume and will follow up early next week to see if I would be a good candidate for this position. I look forward to meeting with you and discussing my qualifications in more detail.
Marie Armstrong, PT, DPT, CMTPT
The Tailored Cover Letter Content
You can see that I pay special attention to what Smith Orthopedics values - this is information I can typically find on social media or the clinic website. I also am concise and state what qualities I possess that would help the company reach its goals.
I would also generally be able to determine the company's atmosphere- in this case, it is a bit more formal. I would use different wording and phrasing if the company seemed to be more relaxed. I also work in a few “buzz words” that I would have picked up from their site, like “elite,” and honed in on their focus on treating athletes.
I’ve also listed a career goal- pursuing my OCS. I also have taken a company goal they have on their site and inserted it in my cover letter (increasing community outreach). I also allude to my experience in different athletic settings but don’t list each job I’ve ever had. That information is on your resume, and you’d be wasting a hiring manager’s precious time if you make the documents redundant and will likely find your resume and cover letter in a recycling bin.
The Healthcare Cover Letter Format
Concerning my format, I would take the time to make sure the font, size, and margins match my resume so they look cohesive. Also, take the time to jot down your signature to add a touch of personality. I also make sure my cover letter body is less than ⅔ of a page, so being short and sweet is important.
Stick with these tips and you’ll quickly learn how to tailor your cover letter to a particular job concisely. This skill will carry you far in your career, whether you stay in patient care or transition into a non-clinical role, and will help you hone your skills of being an effective communicator.