Landing a Great Job in the ‘High Tech-High
Touch’ RT Field
If only employers knew what an impact your skill set and experience
could make on their organization. They’d descend on you like newshounds
on a recluse celebrity and beg for an exclusive. Well, they’d really
want you on their team anyway.
In the real world, presenting yourself to employers with style and
confidence requires the right approach. According to Kevin Shrake,
chief operating officer of the AARC, the key to your approach is to
sell your potential as an asset to their team by highlighting your
experience in a way that communicates results.
So before you tackle that blank screen, take some advice from a pro
who knows the ropes from both sides of the human resources coin.
What are some essential skills and characteristics you look for in
an RT candidate?
Shrake: Respiratory care can be a life-or-death business, so a professional
image is key. It puts patients at ease to feel that they’re being cared
for by a professional who knows what they’re doing.
The most important thing I look for, though, is a sincere desire
to help people. I can train a person to use the equipment and perform
the necessary tasks of respiratory therapy, but I can’t train them
to love caring for people. You either have that or you don’t.
In terms of education, how much education must an applicant have
to be considered qualified?
Shrake: Obviously four years is best. I think people with four-year
degrees tend to have better knowledge and more maturity. But education
isn’t the only important indicator of how someone will perform on the
job. I’m a firm believer that I can train the right person if they
have the talent and aptitude for the work.
What’s the advantage of a four-year degree?
Shrake: The entry-level salary difference between four-year and two-year
degreed RTs initially is not much. The main difference is one of potential.
First of all, a Bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy is an excellent
stepping-stone for advancing to graduate-level degrees. This may lead
to opportunities as a physician, administrator, or other profession
to name a few. A four-year degree also allows you to advance more quickly
through the profession of respiratory care. It opens more doors in
less time in the long run.
What are some careers in which the skills built transfer well into
a career in respiratory care?
Shrake: It’s a field that’s what I like to call
“high tech/high touch.” So industries where one learns communication
skills and technical skills are best. I’ve seen a lot of great RTs
IT professions. A lot of their work involves communicating complex
technical information in plain English, and there’s a lot of that involved
in working as an RT. Restaurant workers also tend to make good RTs
because they become comfortable communicating with customers and anticipating
For the most part, any career where you learn communication and technical
skills—public relations, customer service, editorial, IT—are experiences
you’ll want to be sure to highlight on your resume and in interviews
when you apply for an RT position.
Speaking of resumes and interviews, what are some “do’s” for
Shrake: First, a resume should be two pages or less.
It should always be results-oriented—a brief summary of what you accomplished
you exceeded expectations, not a laundry list of your day-to-day tasks.
Remember, your resume should demonstrate your potential, not what you
used to do every day.
In an interview, it always pays to demonstrate your knowledge of
the employer. Visit their website or call an old friend who works for
Then prepare a list of questions that let the employer know that you
are looking to make a contribution to their organization, and you want
to know how you will fit in. Ask them about their management style,
their goals, the diversity of the team. You’ll not only impress the
employer by having done your homework and asking intelligent questions,
you’ll give yourself the opportunity to demonstrate good listening
Finally, you should always follow up within a week with a short note
thanking the employer for their time, and possibly asking a question
you’ve thought of since the interview. First of all, it’s common courtesy.
Second, it’s yet another chance to make a good impression.
What are some “don’ts”?
Shrake: Don’t give the interviewer the idea that
you only want to know what’s in it for you. Avoid asking questions
about salary or benefits
until you are certain you will have a job offer. Better yet, let the
employer broach that subject. Also, don’t arrive late or inappropriately
dressed. Give yourself plenty of time to find the building and the
office, and always wear a suit—ties for the guys.
These things seem obvious, and that’s precisely why they’re so important.
You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make sure that
what the employer remembers about you is how perfect you are for the
job, not the scuffed shoes you wore or the eloquent apology you made
for being late.
How can the AARC help you in your job search?
Shrake: Oh, there are so many ways, it’s mind-boggling!
The AARC is your best resource not only for RT job postings, which
are updated weekly, but also for networking and information on trends
in the field. When you join, you become a member of an online community
that links RTs with each other to answer questions, offer support and
share information—including the inside track on job openings. You
can also update or sharpen your skills with our online courses and
discounted educational materials. We even have videotapes of recent
seminars at special rates for members. Joining the AARC is the most
valuable move you can make in your career!
By focusing on how your past determines your potential tangible and
intangible worth to an organization, you’ll give employers confidence
in their decision to hire you.