occupational therapist
Jan 5, 2024 — Carly Miller

10 Occupational Therapist Skills to Look For When Hiring

occupational therapist

When hiring, it’s essential to understand occupational therapist skills to select the right candidate.

Occupational therapists play an integral role in healthcare teams, helping patients recover, develop, and maintain the skills needed for daily living and working.

This post will delve into the top ten skills to look for in a potential candidate, encompassing everything from interpersonal skills to expertise in specific therapeutic techniques and everything beyond the postgraduate diploma.

We aim to ensure you have the right information to make an informed hiring choice, ensuring the perfect fit for your team. Let’s dive into the world of occupational therapist hiring.

Excellent Communication Skills

Every occupational therapist must possess excellent communication skills. They are typically involved in complex situations that require precise and concise interactions with patients, healthcare professionals, and family members. Their role involves explaining medical conditions, procedures, and therapeutic plans in a manner that non-medical individuals easily understand.

Strong social skills form the foundation for successful patient-therapist relationships, ultimately leading to effective treatment plans.

Strong Problem-Solving

Occupational therapists often face unique and complex cases, making strong problem-solving skills necessary. They are responsible for assessing patients’ conditions and capabilities, identifying challenges in their everyday lives, and devising solutions to overcome these obstacles.

This requires a lot of creativity, critical thinking, and the ability to think outside the box. In addition to individual case management, therapists may also need to address system-wide issues in healthcare settings, necessitating a broader understanding of organizational problem-solving and process improvement.

Compassion and Empathy

Working in an occupational therapy setting often involves interacting with patients with various physical, developmental, and emotional challenges. For this reason, a high degree of empathy and emotional intelligence is essential. They must be capable of understanding and sharing their patients’ feelings, validating their experiences, and providing emotional support.

Emotional intelligence also includes self-awareness and self-regulation, allowing occupational therapists to manage their emotions effectively, even in stressful situations. This can help to create a calm, positive, and supportive environment for patients in a clinical setting.

Active Listening

Active listening is a fundamental occupational therapy skill. It involves hearing what a patient is saying and genuinely understanding and processing their words, sentiments, and underlying concerns. This skill is critical in correctly assessing a patient’s condition and being able to implement treatment plans that work.

Active listening allows occupational therapists to connect with patients on a deeper level, fostering relationships built on trust and mutual respect. It also aids in collaborative decision-making, enabling patients to feel heard and involved in the occupational therapy process.


Occupational therapists must be adaptable and capable of adjusting their treatment plans to meet each patient’s unique needs and circumstances. This involves being flexible in their therapeutic approach, modifying physical strength exercises, and adjusting the therapy environment as needed. Their adaptability also extends to keeping up with advances in healthcare and therapeutic techniques.

This ability to adapt fosters a more personalized patient experience, enhancing the efficacy of therapy while promoting greater patient satisfaction. This dynamic skill set is crucial in a field that involves constant interactions with diverse patient populations and ever-evolving therapeutic practices.


Occupational therapists work within multidisciplinary healthcare teams, making collaboration a critical skill. They must coordinate with other medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, and other professionals, to ensure cohesive and comprehensive patient care. This involves sharing insights, discussing patient progress, and adjusting treatment plans based on shared decision-making.

A collaborative approach can lead to more effective treatment outcomes, improved patient satisfaction, and a more harmonious working environment for the entire healthcare team. This teamwork-oriented mindset is an essential trait for any potential occupational therapy candidate.

Patient Education

Patient education is a central aspect of the role of a potential occupational therapy candidate. This skill entails effectively imparting knowledge about conditions, treatments, and lifestyle adaptations to patients and their families. By simplifying complex medical jargon into understandable terms, occupational therapists can help patients make informed decisions about their treatment.

This also promotes adherence to therapy plans and encourages proactive engagement in their recovery process. Ultimately, patient education fosters a sense of empowerment and autonomy, contributing to improved overall treatment outcomes.

Clinical Reasoning

Sound clinical reasoning is vital for a successful occupational therapy candidate. This skill involves making informed decisions based on theoretical knowledge, practical experience, and understanding the patient’s condition and goals.

The framework guides the therapeutic process, from assessing and diagnosing the patient to planning and implementing effective treatment strategies. Strong clinical reasoning skills can increase therapy efficiency and improve patient outcomes.

Manual Dexterity

A high level of manual dexterity is crucial in occupational therapy. This involves skillfully using hands and fingers to manipulate tools and equipment. Since therapy often includes activities like guiding patients through exercises or demonstrating adaptive equipment, the therapist’s proficiency in hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills plays a significant role.

This skill can help provide effective hands-on treatment, ensure patient safety, and promote optimal rehabilitation outcomes.

Strong Research Skills

Strong research skills are another essential attribute for a potential occupational therapy candidate. Occupational therapists must stay updated with the latest research findings and therapeutic techniques to provide the best possible care to their patients.

This involves continually learning about new interventions, staying informed about evidence-based practices, and understanding how to apply this knowledge to their work. By maintaining a commitment to ongoing learning and professional development, occupational therapists can ensure treatment plans are based on the most recent and relevant information.

Technical Requirements for Occupational Therapists

occupational therapist

Occupational therapists rely on technical skills to effectively handle their everyday tasks. First and foremost, an occupational therapist must possess a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy, followed by a master’s degree or doctorate from an accredited program. After completing their degree, they must undergo supervised fieldwork to gain practical experience.

Regarding licensure, occupational therapists must pass the national examination conducted by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Once certified, occupational therapists are expected to engage in continuous professional development to stay up-to-date with the latest treatment approaches and therapeutic techniques.

Apart from the educational requirements, occupational therapists must be proficient in using various therapeutic equipment and assistive devices in daily tasks. This includes everything from wheelchairs and walkers to computer programs and mobile apps designed to improve patients’ mobility, communication, and daily living skills. They should also be familiar with electronic health record systems to document patient progress efficiently and effectively.

Lastly, occupational therapists must be well-versed in the latest research in the field, as evidence-based practice is vital in occupational therapy. This involves being comfortable with reading and interpreting research studies and applying this knowledge to their therapeutic practice.

Remember, these technical requirements are as important as the soft skills when hiring an occupational therapist. They ensure the therapist has the expertise and experience to provide excellent patient care.

How to Find Your Ideal Occupational Therapist Candidate

occupational therapist

Finding the ideal occupational therapist candidate might initially seem daunting. However, utilizing several strategies can simplify the recruitment process. Here are a few approaches you might consider:


Leverage professional networks, such as industry associations, conferences, and events. Many experienced therapists are part of these circles, making them a valuable resource for finding quality candidates.

Job Posting

Craft a detailed and attractive job advertisement, clearly stating the essential skills and qualifications. Post this in relevant online job portals, social media platforms, and your organization’s website.

Recruitment Agencies

Consider partnering with a recruitment agency specializing in healthcare. They have an extensive database of potential occupational therapist candidates and can help match your job specifications to the right professionals.

Educational Institutions

Reach out to universities and vocational schools offering occupational therapy programs. They can connect you with fresh graduates or even experienced alums looking for new opportunities.

Employee Referrals

Encourage your existing team to refer qualified candidates. Employees often understand the job requirements and can suggest potential candidates from their own networks.

Remember, finding the perfect candidate extends beyond simply identifying the right skills. Consider the candidate’s potential cultural fit within your team, their career aspirations, and their commitment to the profession. This holistic approach to hiring will increase the likelihood of finding an occupational therapist who fulfills the role’s requirements and contributes positively to your team’s dynamics and overall workplace environment.

Find Your Dream Candidates Today

Hiring an occupational therapist involves more than just checking off skills from a list. It requires careful assessment of the candidate’s alignment with your recruitment objectives and a deep understanding of the unique demands of your setting.

Get started today with AlliedTravelCareers to increase your placements and connect with the best occupational and physical therapists.

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