So you’ve got an interview scheduled for a Physical Therapy job, or you’re still searching but you’re coming close? Congratulations! The chances are you won’t be the only candidate, so you need something to set you apart. Just follow these 10 Tips For Nailing A Physical Therapy Job Interview and you’ll have a great advantage over your competitors who won’t be as prepared as you are.
1. Get your sales pitch ready.
Do you think you’re not a “salesperson?” You are when you’re on a job interview. Your job is to sell the interviewer into thinking that you are the best Physical Therapist that he or she could ever hire. So, in order to do that, plan on being able to talk for about 5 minutes about your background, education, experience and why you’re the best candidate for the job. A five minute monologue is around 50 sentences. Prepare those 50 sentences in advance and practice, practice, practice.
2. Arrive 15 minutes early for the interview.
That way you’ll have time to compose yourself, review your notes, and fill out any paperwork that may be required before your interview. Take advantage of the extra time to go to the restroom and check your appearance in the mirror. Don’t forget to check your teeth for bits of leftover lunch. Pack a toothbrush and toothpaste and give your teeth a quick brushing to freshen your breath.
3. Listen carefully to each question that you are asked and then answer those questions thoroughly.
Watch out for stumbling words like “um’s” and “ah’s” and conversational slang that doesn’t belong in a business conversation when you give your answers. Be sure that you sound confident when you reply. PT Managers look for people who know what they are talking about and have the confidence to answer questions thoroughly. Don’t ramble and don’t wander off track. Answer the question and then wait for the interviewer’s response.
4. What the question “tell me a little bit about you?” really means.
The answer doesn’t start with “I like long walks on the beach and quiet evenings at home.” The interviewer is looking for personality traits and background information that establishes your qualifications for the position. Tell him or her about your work ethic, your love for the PT profession and your desire for ongoing education to stay current in the field.
5. What the question “tell me about your strengths and weaknesses?” really means.
This isn’t the time to do a character assassination on yourself by telling the interviewer how hard it is for you to get up in the morning and that you and Chocolate Martinis are well acquainted. You probably will have no problem responding with 3-4 positive things about yourself, but how do you answer the weakness question? Mention a quality or two that is really a quasi-strength in disguise. For example, “I tend to spend more hours at work than most of my co-workers because I don’t feel comfortable going home until I have wrapped up all my paperwork for the day.”
6. What the question “what do you see yourself doing in 5 years?” really means.
This is a probing question designed to determine how long you might stick around. While honesty is usually the best policy, there’s no law that says you have to work in the same place forever. If your goal is to attend college at night so you can switch careers and become a lawyer in 5 years, don’t bring it up. State goals that are in line with your PT career and that show you are a good candidate for long-term employment. Something like “I’d like to be your Senior Therapist,” is a good response.
7. Have specific examples of work successes ready.
You can expect to be asked questions about your current position. Interviewers love to find out how you faced a particular challenge and to get insight into your day-to-day work experiences. Be ready with some specific examples of your more challenging cases. Also, provide some examples of how you were able to get a particular task accomplished under unusual pressure, or a short deadline, if you have those types of examples. Don’t make anything up though. It’s also a good idea to provide examples of your teamwork skills and how well you communicate ideas with co-workers and supervisors.
8. Show Enthusiasm, Friendliness and PMA.
PMA means Positive Mental Attitude, and you want to bring plenty of it to the interview. You send subliminal signals to the interviewer with your body language, tone of voice and attitude. Make sure that all of those signals are positive by acting bright, energetic and cheerful. Pay attention to your body language. Sit up straight, don’t tap your feet or drum your fingers. Make sincere eye contact with the interviewer. If it comes down to a tie between you and another candidate with equal experience and skills, your enthusiasm could swing the job your way.
9. Don’t be shocked by a confrontational interview.
Some interviews use a measured confrontational approach to weed out candidates who do not react well to pressure or confrontation. Don’t be drawn in. Maintain your professional demeanor and act as if your interviewer is doing nothing unusual. Remember, you’re not always going to be treating clients who are happy to see you, and some that are in intense pain may not be the friendliest people you’ll ever encounter. Your interviewer knows this, and he or she is just trying to find out how you will be treating the clients when those situations arise.
10. Make sure that you ask for the job twice.
Don’t assume that the interviewer knows that you want the PT job just because you showed up for the interview. Ask for it at the end of the interview by saying something like “I enjoyed meeting with you today, and I would enjoy working here very much. Can we take this to the next step? It might sound a bit assertive, but at least you’re letting the interviewer know that he or she has a hot prospect on their hands. If you don’t get a PT job offer on the spot, follow up with a short Thank-You note and ask for the job again. Don’t use e-mail. Handwrite a note on a generic Thank-You card and drop it into the mail. Trust me, hardly anyone does that anymore. You will stand out from the crowd.
There’s a lot of competition in the Physical Therapy job market today. It’s important that you handle yourself professionally and that you give the interviewer the ability to judge how you are going to perform once the clinic extends you a job offer.
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