Interviewing for a permanent or travel therapy job can be nerve-racking.  We have all been in interviews where we are asked about our strengths and weakness.  Has anyone actually come up with a good answer for those?  I have always wanted to tell them my strength is ascending steep pitches on my mountain bike and my weakness is remembering my girlfriend’s birthday, although I’ve never actually said that.  Therapists are commonly asked about their past therapy and non-therapy experience even though most of that information is on our cover letters and resumes, which are usually sitting right in front of the interviewer.

My favorite part of an interview is when the interviewer asks if I have any questions.  “Why, yes I do, as a matter of fact,” I tend to respond.  I proceed to interview them with my prepared questions written down on a yellow mini legal pad.  I enjoy asking the interviewer questions because, as a therapist, I’m not just looking for a paycheck; I am looking for the right situation to grow professionally and make a difference in people’s lives.

Below I have two examples of interviews that went well, but for different reasons. I will not name the organizations specifically but they are large health care networks that operate on the west coast.

Interview Example 1

Last fall I had correspondence with a hospital system and the hiring supervisor.  We agreed to speak over the phone for an initial interview.  The pleasantries went well and we discussed my previous work experience. The hiring supervisor and I discussed programs the hospital ran; such as pre-total joint program, out-patient clinics, and their acute care set up.  Then it came time for my questions:

  1. How many therapists do you have working on a given day?
  2. How often do you have PT/OT turnover?
  3. Why are you hiring for this position?  Did someone leave or are you expanding services?
  4. What are the opportunities to grow and advance in this organization?

The hiring supervisor answered all my questions fairly.  They were expanding services due to increased patient load and a few therapist resigned since schedules were being revamped to include more weekend days.  The answer to the last question was the surprising one.  She stated that there was no room for growth or advancement as she was the supervisor and not leaving anytime soon.  There was no tuition reimbursement for getting another degree and no incentives for getting specialist designations like OCS or GCSS.  The only movement was from outpatient to inpatient or vice versa and even that was rare.  Once these questions had been answered I expressed my concern over growth and the ability to move in the organization. The hiring supervisor acknowledged my concerns and hinted that she was just looking for a staff PT.  I decided right then and there this was not a good fit. However, for another therapist, this may have been good news, as a staff position might be exactly what they were looking for.

Interview Example 2

The year prior I had a completely opposite interview.  I was on a lunch break during an acute care travel assignment and I had set up an interview over the phone with another large hospital organization. I sat in my car and waited for the call.  It came and I immediately felt nervous as I was informed that I was going to be interviewed by the “hiring committee” which consisted of the hiring manager and 4 other therapists.  It went really well.  Then they asked me if I had any questions.  I asked the same three questions.

  1. How many therapists do you have working on a given day?
  2. How often do you have PT/OT turnover?
  3. Why are you hiring for this position? Did someone leave or are you expanding services?
  4. What are the opportunities to grow and advance in this organization?
READ  What Makes Your Therapy Job Worthwhile?

They answered all the questions and it turned out they had openings due to some maternity leaves.  With regards to the growth and opportunity for advancement, they stated that advancement is only limited by the therapist.  There was ample opportunity to work in different practice settings, move into management, conduct research. In fact, some of the therapists even taught at the local PT school. Even more, there was tuition reimbursement for getting another degree and that management encouraged certifications.  I was blown away and accepted the job when they offered it.

Your goal in any interview should be to gain a clear understanding of the organization and any growth opportunities that go along with the position.  My examples relate more to permanent positions than to travel assignments, although questions 1 and 2 could be used in the travel situation.   myPTsolutions offers a helpful list of questions to ask during a travel therapy interview. Basically, when you are nervous, you need a written list to help you remember what questions you want to ask. There are so many details in any job setting, it’s easy to forget to ask about things that may seem minor – like whether or not you’ll be on call for weekends. But these things may make a big difference once you’re on the job.

In summary, remember that you are interviewing an employer just as much as they are interviewing you. Come prepared with a written list of questions that you need to be answered, and don’t hesitate to ask the hard questions.

Justin JohnsonJustin Johnson is currently living and working in Bellingham, WA. Justin graduated from Central Michigan University with his DPT in 2008 and earned his GCS designation in 2011. Justin has worked for large trauma 1 and teaching hospitals along with diverse settings as a travel PT for many years.  During the winters Justin can be found sliding up and down mountains on his skis or at Mt. Baker where he is a volunteer ski patroller. During the months where there is no snow, he can be found on two wheels.  You can reach him at [email protected]

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