The Physical Therapy Interview Process

by | April 01, 2009

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The kind of interview a person may have depends less on the setting (acute care, sports, etc.) than it does on the size of the institution. A larger institution may require a longer interview process as the applicant meets with one than one level of management hierarchy.

The interview process usually consists of at least two interviews, with the persons who will be your supervisors, as well as with an HR person. Also, ideally, you would want to see the facility, program or area where you will work, to get a sense of how you would feel working in that location.

General interview questions

Generally, the interview questions generally are posed to determine whether you've done your own research about the institution/center that you're applying to; whether you're able to self-reflect and recognize areas of strength and areas for personal improvement; and whether you feel confident enough with background information and content of the educational program to begin entry-level work. The interview may also include a request for the applicant to do a PowerPoint presentation on an aspect of physical therapy they are interested in.

Interview questions can also vary depending on the site for potential employment. If an applicant seeks work at a skilled nursing facility (nursing home), questions may include "What is your reason for wanting to work with older adults?" An applicant who states that she is primarily interested in working with orthopedic problems throughout the age-span may be asked how her specific interest in orthopedics evolved. If you're looking for your first job as a physical therapist, you will want to convey to potential employers your interest first in gaining experience as a generalist (treating all patient populations) and later specifically concentrating on one patient population group.

A physical therapy interview often starts like any other interview, with general questions. Here are some possible opening questions:

"Tell me about yourself" is often asked. This is an opportunity to state where you went to school, a brief description of your internship or experience, and why you want to work for the company. Do not go into too much detail.

"Why do you want to work here?" This is an opportunity to explain what you know about the company and the position, and why you feel you are the best candidate for this position.

"What are your strengths/what are your weaknesses?" List at least three positive qualities (for example, you are organized, dedicated, hard-working) and for the weakness, list one quality that can be considered a positive attribute (for example, "I am a perfectionist," and explain how this is so).

"Where do you see yourself in five years?" The interviewer wants to find out how long you will stay with the company. You can decide how you want to express this, but essentially the goal is to say something that shows you do not plan to quit six months from now. Show that your goals fit in with those of the company. For example, if the company has room for advancement, you can state that you hope to see yourself in a supervisory position. Some interviewers may ask prospective employees what their long- and short-term goals are. To answer with the right amount of self-reflection and accuracy, know the hierarchy of the company, the opportunity for continuing education within the company and funding for internal and external coursework, and realistically assess your own expectations. Depending on their own strengths and desires, physical therapists may decide to conduct research and try to publish clinical studies, they may decide to become a board-certified clinical specialist, they may decide that they want to go into teaching. All answers indicate a physical therapist who is a life-long learner, which is a quality valued by the profession as a whole. A physical therapist who wants to project herself as a team member may state that after 10 years of clinical work as a physical therapist, she would like to manage an interdisciplinary department of rehabilitation specialists.

Case examples

You will almost always be asked about a case example. Be prepared to describe specific client cases in detail. You will often be asked about how you managed a difficult case, to illustrate how you work under pressure or handle difficult situations. Explain how you managed the difficulty, showing your teamwork or communication skills. Always present this issue in the most positive light. Never say anything to make yourself seem as though you cannot get along with others. You want to present yourself as someone who works well with others.

Filed Under: Interviewing

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