This article was written by Katerina Liapis PT, MPT, and has been vetted by the CovalentCareers team for inclusion in our resource library.
Introduction to Healthcare Job Interviews
You’ve completed years of rigorous study in your specific field of healthcare and you are ready to apply your knowledge. There’s just one thing you have to do before landing your dream job - get through the job interviews!
If you’ve ever been through an interview, you’ve experienced just how nerve-wracking it can be.
The best way to combat these nerves is by building your confidence and your interview skills. Whether you are going on your first interview or you have been through many, these tips will help you navigate the process successfully.
The Three Ps of Healthcare Job Interviews: Preparation, Professionalism and Presence
Do your research – it is important to demonstrate that you have taken the time to learn about the history of the organization for which you wish to work.
Do you share the vision of the company or a common passion (i.e. improving the well-being of children in a pediatrics practice, focusing on the rehabilitation of athletes in a sports medicine facility or advancing the function of patients with a specific diagnosis such as stroke or spinal cord injury in an inpatient rehabilitation setting?)
Exhibiting that you have made an effort to learn as much as possible about the organization before your interview not only helps clarify your goals, but also shows your commitment to its mission.
Never underestimate the importance of a first impression.
- Plan to arrive to your interview early. Ideally, you'll arrive between 5 and 10 minutes early, as arriving more than 15 minutes early can imply that you got the time wrong.
- Appear neatly groomed and dressed appropriately in business attire. Even if you anticipate wearing casual clothing in your day to day job, it is still imperative to dress properly for this occasion.
- Have a copy of your resume, healthcare license (if applicable), and references. Be sure to bring any other pertinent documents available in case you need to provide another copy to your interviewer.
- Always conduct yourself in a professional manner when speaking. Avoid using slang and never curse. This seems like common sense, but it is necessary to cover all of the bases here.
A candidate who follows these guidelines is more likely to be hired when compared to one who doesn’t.
Like it or not, looks matter.
If you have piercings or tattoos, it may be important to consider removing or concealing them, depending on the type of environment in which you will be working.
Different companies have different policies and procedures when it comes to dress code and personal appearance – the interview is no exception. Everyone is unique and it is important to showcase rather than stifle this, however the setting in which you choose to work will likely dictate your professional appearance to some degree (i.e. a hospital setting vs a private practice).
Your personal style of dress outside of work is not necessarily appropriate in a professional setting and it is important to understand this distinction. There is a time and place for everything!
During an interview, it is important to realize that your body language is a big factor in how you present yourself.
- Be aware of your posture. Note the position of your legs and where you place your hands. Avoid sitting with arms crossed as this may give off an unintended closed off impression - instead sit with your arms at your sides or your hands resting on your lap.
- Sit with upright posture. Face the interviewer and keep your feet firmly planted on the floor - feeling grounded may help you reduce feelings of nervousness during the interview.
- Maintain eye contact. This is one of the most important aspects of body language as it is an indicator that you are engaged in the conversation.
- Be aware of your tone of voice and the pace at which you speak. When nerves kick in, one may tend to speak too quickly, with an inappropriate tone or convey too much information at once.
- Think before you speak! This is not a skill with which we are all naturally blessed, however it is certainly one that we can learn. Communication is by far one of the most important aspects of any job, especially those in which you will have face to face contact with people.
- Find a "speech mentor." Is there someone in your personal or professional life whose communication style you admire? Spend some time with this person, observe and ask questions and educate yourself on how you can improve in this area.
- Consider taking a course to improve your communication. There are companies that offer online or in-person courses dedicated to this topic - taking such a course is a wise investment as effective communication is an invaluable skill in everyone’s lives, regardless of professional pursuits.
If you are lacking in this area or anticipate being extremely nervous in a one on one situation, consider hiring an interview coach if you have the means.
Learn to Listen and Answer Thoughtfully
Perhaps even more important than how you respond to questions is your ability to demonstrate good listening skills.
Learn to listen carefully to the questions you are being asked. Take a breath and pause before answering. Some questions may be unexpected or catch you off guard. It is completely acceptable to request a moment to reflect on a question as not all answers will come to you immediately - such is life!
In your daily practice, you will be called upon to answer many questions from patients and colleagues alike and you won’t always be able to offer thoughtful or complete answers immediately. Often overlooked is what questions might be posed by the interviewee.
Ask Your Own Questions
You SHOULD have questions as you embark on your job search. Not only does this show interest in the position and the company, it also demonstrates that you understand that finding a job is very much about finding the right fit on both sides of the table.
Here are a few questions to consider asking at a healthcare job interview:
- What is the company culture - does it promote a work-life balance?
- In what ways are employees fairly rewarded for their efforts and accomplishments?
- Are there opportunities for advancement?
- Are there any special skills required for the particular job for which you are interviewing and if so, what type of training would be provided?
- What are the overall expectations in terms of productivity should you be hired into the position?
Be mindful about asking questions regarding salary and benefits on a first interview. In some cases, it may be appropriate to discuss these terms, but it is usually advisable to wait until the position is offered to you before you ask specific questions about compensation.
However, if it is critical for you to know the parameters regarding compensation prior to accepting an interview, pose the inquiry respectfully.
For example, “I greatly appreciate the opportunity to be interviewed by your company, however it is important for me to be aware of the salary bracket or expected hourly wage for this job in order for me to determine if it is financially viable for me. I know that your time is very valuable and I appreciate your understanding of my need for this information prior to interviewing.”
Anticipate and Rehearse Accordingly
In essence, an interview is similar to an audition.
While you are not an actor or actress in the context of an interview, your goal is to present your best self by showcasing your talents. Any healthcare job will inevitably involve some degree of interaction with people, whether you plan to work in a direct patient care setting or outside the clinical setting, such as in research or administration.
It may be helpful to rehearse for your interview with a family member or friend who can play the role of the interviewer.
Anticipate some common questions such as:
- What are your greatest strengths and how can they be applied in this position
- What are your greatest weaknesses and how have you learned from them?
- Are you able to provide an example of a challenging situation when you facilitated or provided a resolution?
- In what areas are you seeking professional growth?
- What most excites you about your potential career with this organization?
- Why do you we need you on our staff – what are you able to offer that sets you apart from other candidates?
- What activities do you enjoy or what interests have you pursued outside the work setting that you feel makes you a desirable and well qualified employee?
All of these questions can indeed be overwhelming, whether it’s your first interview since graduating or whether you are a seasoned clinician pursuing a new job.
Pondering the answers to these types of questions ahead of time will help the interview process go more smoothly. Consider any previous work experience, healthcare related and otherwise, and how this has provided you with the skills to succeed in the venue in which you now wish to work.
Be proud of your accomplishments thus far and highlight them accordingly:
- For example, were you an RA in college and have become skilled in the art of conflict resolution?
- Are you seeking a second career in healthcare after having worked in another field?
- How might the skills you gained in other settings lend themselves to the type of job you are pursuing now?
- What aspects of those jobs (i.e. an executive assistance, a retail cashier, a customer service telephone operator) parallel some of the skills needed for the current job for which you are interviewing?
Realize that many skills are transferrable and also that most jobs will involve the need to build new skill sets:
- Are you a quick learner?
- Do you welcome challenges in a fast paced environment?
- Do you wish to work with in a teaching environment where you can further hone your clinical skills?
Regardless of the type of position for which you are applying, spend some time thinking about why you want the job in the first place, beyond just commanding a steady paycheck or working for a reputable facility. Your reflection on this before your interview will affect how you answer some of these questions and may make the difference in whether or not you get hired.
Employers are generally seeking motivated and self-directed individuals who are receptive to learning and in some cases, receptive to teaching their skills to others.
How will you highlight your best assets?
Alternative Interviewing Processes
There may be situations in which you are interviewing remotely for a position. This may involve a phone interview or one in which you are using a technological interface (i.e. Skype).
It would be fair to assume that during a phone interview, your body language and the way in which you are dressed doesn’t matter, right?
Consider your demeanor when you are alone in your house, dressed in your pajamas. Then consider how your body language and tone of voice might be affected by this. While there is no need to get dressed to the nines in a suit if you will be interviewed by phone, do not discount that how you look often affects how you feel.
You must always be attentive to how you present yourself. Interviewing via the computer is more similar to an in person interview, so the same preparations apply. Making eye contact, smiling and thinking before you speak are key!
A panel interview is not much different from a standard interview, other than the fact that you'll need to ensure you make eye contact with everyone and not appear nervous. Because you'll be in the "hot seat," nerves can get the best of you, so practice interviewing with a group of friends or family members, if you can. You might even want to film yourself, so you can see if you actually turn to face and speak naturally with the person with whom you're conversing, or if you direct all of your answers to a single person.
You have the skills, you have the knowledge, and now you have the tools to survive any healthcare job interview! Best wishes on your professional endeavors.