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interview tips for applicants

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Hello everybody!

I recently was a part of a panel that talked to a group of pre-health students about interviewing in health professional programs.  I am a 1st year PA student, had pretty good success with interviewing, and made a little write up based on my experiences with interviewing for PA school (disclaimer - these are my personal opinions, though they were reviewed by the medical director of our program).  I figured I'd share the handout with you all as well, so here it is copy and pasted below.  I hope it helps!



Applying to Health Professional Schools


General layout for the discussion:

QUESTION that is typically seen in interviews.  (Why the program asks this)

-AVOID common mistakes people make that reflect poorly on themselves.

-WHAT TO FOCUS ON in general as you reflect and come up with your own unique answers.



QUESTION 1 – Why do you want to be a (PA, NP, MD, RN, etc)?   (Are these motivations enough to fuel the applicant through the rigors of schooling and the challenges of the profession?)

-AVOID putting other professions down as you say why you think your profession is the best for you. 

-FOCUS ON the many different parts that make up this question.  First, why do you want to enter the general field of medicine?  Within this field, why have you chosen PA vs MD vs NP etc?  Do your research! You need to know the unique aspects of each profession.


QUESTION 2 – What are the trends and directions of healthcare in our country? (Has the applicant done the research and figured out what he/she will be facing in his/her career?)

-AVOID sharing political opinions. 

-FOCUS ON understanding and sharing a brief synopsis of the negative aspects of our healthcare system that led to implementation of the affordable care act.  Understand what the overarching goals of the ACA are, and how generally speaking it plans on meeting those goals.  Think about how your profession will be affected by it. 


QUESTION 3 – What are the difficulties/challenges that you’ll face when you work in your profession? (Has the applicant done the research and figured out the challenges?)

-AVOID saying things you “feel” must be difficult without doing the research to figure out what these difficulties really are.  Sit down and talk with people in the profession you are entering and see what they have to say. 

-FOCUS ON succinctly outlying the most common complaints put forth, validate them as serious issues, and explain why despite them you still can’t see yourself anywhere else. 


QUESTION 4 – Tell us about yourself.  (Less than one-minute synopsis about who you are, where you come from, where you are going, and where medicine fits into this picture)

-AVOID memorizing every word of your “elevator speech”.

-FOCUS ON the main points you want to convey and practice expressing these in a succinct manner. 


QUESTION 5 – Tell me how you would handle ethical dilemma XYZ.  (How well can this candidate analyze a scenario and appreciate the different points of view to consider before making decisions?)

-AVOID answering with the first thing that comes to mind.  Take time to think about the issue at hand.

-FOCUS: Recognize that the question often represents a deeper ethical issue and spell out this fundamental issue. The point of these questions is to see your ability to appreciate the multiple points of view that surround the issue (ethical perspective, legal perspective, healthcare provider perspective, etc).


QUESTION 6 – Why do you want to go to school here?  (How much does this applicant know about our program and how good of a fit is he/she?)

-AVOID coming unprepared for this question, as it will be asked!  Do your research!

-FOCUS ON using a mixture of objective and subjective reasons for applying there. 



-Have questions prepared for the interviewers and for the students: What is their attrition rate? What is their policy for failing students?  Is there any support for struggling students? How long have the faculty been with the program?  What is the student-teacher ratio?  How available are the professors for meeting outside of class?  Is there a free clinic in or near campus where the students can use/practice their newly learned skills?


-More interview questions, should you want the extra practice:  Why do you think you can handle the academic challenges of our program?  How have your patient/clinical experiences moved you?  Tell me about a typical day in the life of a PA/MD/RN. (For those applying out of college) Why do you think you are A) mature enough to be a provider and B) why do you want to start so young?  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?





... I hope this helped!  I have more things I wrote up a while ago that I could share with you about the entire process of applying to PA school, so send me a PM if you'd want me to forward that on to you.  Good luck in the process~

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