PT Month: How to Stand Out in a Physical Therapy Job Interview
After submitting your impressive resume and crafting a compelling cover letter, a job interview gives you one more chance to stand out from other applicants. But with so many new PTs flooding the workplace, standing out among the crowd has become easier said than done.
Whether it’s for a travel therapy assignment or a permanent position on staff, these tips will help you make a good impression in every interview.
5 Tips to Ace Your PT Interview
Do your research, part 1: know your resume
You already know plenty about the body; in fact, as a PT you’re a veritable movement expert. But that expertise will fall flat if you show up not knowing what’s on your own resume.
Familiarity with your own resume can facilitate an efficient, informative conversation for the interviewer. By remembering what it lists—and what it doesn’t—you can use your time in the interview to expound on your bullet points instead of reiterating them.
Another great way to prepare for your interview is to have a friend look over your resume—not to edit it but to put it through the wringer. Have them ask you pointed questions about your resume, such as particular work experiences, special projects, or any holes in your employment timeline.
That second pair of eyes will help you identify what will stand out to your interviewers—and in effect, help you stand out yourself.
Do your research, part 2: know their resume
Granted, you might not be able to learn much about your interviewer before the big day (although basics such as name and position go a long way!). But what you should research is the company or clinic: its mission, recent developments, work culture, and—last but not least—location.
Internet research comes naturally to a lot of people, but if you don’t know where to start, begin by thoroughly reading the company website. Identify keywords in their About and Mission blurbs; you can use them later to demonstrate how your priorities or work style match the company’s values.
To learn about major news—such as a merger, a new specialty or clinic opening, or important partnerships—look for recent news releases or PR articles. This preparation will show in your interview, even if you don’t expressly bring up what you find.
You can learn more about company culture by browsing employee ratings and reviews on websites such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor. With their PR gloves off, these reviews from current and former employees will give you valuable insight into the good, bad, and ugly aspects of working for the company. You’ll also gain a few grains of salt for interpreting the sunny reports you read on the company website. Better yet, talk to a current employee, if you know any, to get their full scoop.
Finally, if your interview is in person, take time the day before to check out the location. Ideally, travel there at the same time of day you would need to for the meeting so you can adequately plan for traffic, transit or parking.
Prepare good answers to tough questions
Interviews follow a format that hasn’t changed much in several decades. To begin, your interviewer will likely ask you to tell them about yourself, which is your opportunity to relay a brief, elevator-pitch bio. Keep the focus on your career path, including education and initial work experience, but feel free to mention your upbringing and any hobbies or interests to round it out.
You might then be asked a few softball questions, such as what strengths and skills you’d bring to the team, as well as why you’d want to work there. These questions are easy to prepare for, especially if you’ve done your research because they let you show how your personality and skills can both benefit the company and advance your career.
Interview questions become harder with behavioral questions—what I call the “Tell me about a time…” questions. A few examples include: “Tell me about a time when you handled a stressful situation,” or “Tell me about a time when you faced competing priorities.”
The point of these questions is to examine how your soft skills—customer service, conflict resolution, integrity, etc.—perform in real work environments. Don’t try to wing a behavioral question; that’ll make you stand out in a bad way. But with some preparation, you can ace these behavioral questions.
You’ll first need to practice reframing a stressful experience from a negative encounter to a valuable lesson learned. Next, you’ll order the relevant events into a sensible, clear storyline using the STAR method.
Be a STAR with your Behavioral Questions
The STAR method is a widely used technique for answering behavioral interview questions with focus, clarity, and impact. This simple acronym stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.
Situation: first describe the setting, event, and any pertinent details
Task: explain the task or challenge you were given in this situation
Action: recount the steps you took to complete your task
Result: share the impact or result your actions had on the situation
Ultimately, you’ll have to use your own communication skills to apply the story to the behavioral question your interviewer asks. But by keeping your answer in the STAR format, you’ll stay on track and share all the relevant information—and nothing more.
On a related note, what the STAR method intentionally leaves out is any complaints or finger-pointing you may be tempted to include in your story. Instead, keep your words neutral so that the overall impression of the experience is constructive and positive. By not blaming others in your story, you can focus more on what you learned and how the situation was ultimately resolved.
Other ways to ace those behavioral questions
How you answer behavioral questions can help the interviewer determine if you’re a stand-out candidate. Therefore, it’s worth your time to prepare answers for several common scenarios, such as the following:
- Conflicts and complaints
- Difficulties and frustrations
- Performance pressure or deadlines
- Time management
In many cases, one story can address a couple of these scenarios, so you may only need to come up with 3 or 4 stories to feel fully prepared.
Once you’ve identified your story, memorize it. Practice answering the question over and over—up to 20 times, to yourself or to a friend. It’s one thing to know an outline of what you’ll say or a written version of your answer, but it’s quite another to recall your points out loud in a natural, conversational way. That kind of preparation will perfect your answers, boost your confidence, and help you stand out from everyone else.
Prepare good questions to ask your interviewer
Too often when preparing for an interview we focus solely on the interviewer’s questions, but the questions you ask your interviewer are arguably just as important. Don’t let their closing invitation “Any questions for me?” draw a blank and fumbled reply.
So what do you ask an interviewer? That depends on what you’re genuinely interested to know, though questions about compensation, promotion, and benefits should be tabled for a later conversation. You can ask about the immediate need, the position, the people you’d be working with, or any challenges facing the area and region. As a PT, you might be especially intrigued to learn the company’s productivity standards and what type of EMR system they use.
Asking questions will tell the interviewer you’re more than passively interested in the job and that you have expectations of your own for your workplace. Even if you’re desperate and willing to take the job blindly, you don’t want that sentiment to come across. Besides, by asking the right questions, you can learn valuable insight that may change your mind about working there.
Interviews get easier with time, but these tips can help you stand out on your first try. To make a lasting impression, be sure to thank your interviewer afterward. It’s not too old-fashioned to send a handwritten thank-you or personalized email the next day, regardless of if they’ve made you an offer. That might be all they need to recall your standout interview and consider the favorable impression you made.
Want to connect with a recruitment expert for job search and interview support? Fill out the form on this page or learn more about a PT career with Club Staffing.
Tim Fraticelli is a Physical Therapist, Certified Financial Planner™, and founder of PTProgress.com. He loves to teach PTs and OTs ways to save time and money in and out of the clinic, especially when it comes to therapy documentation or continuing education. Follow him on MedBridge Education for course reviews and ways to improve your financial health.