I think this is one of the biggest things that applicants ask about as they’re getting ready to apply – what should I expect from the interview? And as much as I wish there was a simple, catch-all answer, there’s not. Every interview is going to be different, even if it is the same interview type. The main reason is because schools are all looking for unique things when it comes to who they want to be a part of their class. And they have different avenues of finding / obtaining those qualitites.
But I figured it would be helpful to spend some time going through the general interview styles you could come across during the process of getting in to a PA school. I’m going give a brief synopsis of each, as well as some tips on how to prepare and do well.
This is one of the most classic interview styles that you may face, and a good portion of your interviews are likely to be this format. Which great for you, because this style is probably the easiest to practice for and has the most advice out there. However, I also think it is very easy to get over confident / prepare too much for this interview style.
- Chances are that if you’ve ever had any sort of interview before it was probably this style. Its one of the most common methods of interviewing individuals.
- You can prepare pretty easily for the typical questions asked – there is tons of lists online on sample questions for you to review beforehand
- Its a little more intimate which makes it a little easier to answer those sensitive questions. One or two is bound to come up in your interview (like “tell me about your most influential patient” or “how do you explain xyz poor grade”)
- There is only one interviewer, which means you only get one shot to make a good impression. If you screw up, you don’t have a second person like in the one-on-two who could have a different view on how you spoke / acted or your content.
**Good news is that this is not always a total negative, because you’ll often have 2 or 3 one-on-one interviews to help prevent this.
- There is such a thing as too prepared for the interview. Don’t memorize your answers and sound rehearsed. It can be SO tempting to be overly prepared, but it comes across in a negative light. You seem stiff and not organic, and if you forget your script part of the way through, you end up getting frazzled and that is difficult to come back from.
- Do your research online. Look up tips on eye contact, using your hands while you talk, etc. Consider watching some YouTube videos on sample interviews
- Look up practice questions. Think about the main points you want to hit and how you can remember to hit those main points. but, DO NOT MEMORIZE A SCRIPTED ANSWER
- Instead, make a bullet point list using a maximum of 2-3 words to mark down the important things you want to hit.
- Practice! Yes, there are a ton of great services out there that you can pay for, but there are also a lot of free ways to practice. Look into your undergraduate university and see if they offer a free mock interview service for students. reach out to friends and family and ask them to help you practice
- Make sure to think about your facial expressions as well. This is one of the biggest things that can stand out in a negative manner — try not to look confused or stressed during the interview.
This is another “standard” interview that you could face. Basically you are the “one” and there are two interviewers. The two interviewers could both be asking you questions, or one could ask questions and the other be the scribe. Its a little different at every school. It can be pretty daunting to walk into a room and realize that you’re facing two people sitting across a desk from you, so try not to get too fazed by this.
- These tend to ask the more standard interview questions like those asked in a one-on-one interview – so you can easily prepare for them!
- Two people interviewing you means two people who will back you up and want you in their program.
- It also means that if something goes wrong with one of the interviewers, you still have a second person who could vouch for you.
- It can be a little difficult knowing who to talk to, especially when one is the interviewer and the other one is acting as a scribe. I think half the battle is figuring out who to make eye contact with.
- You can feel teamed up on, which might make you get more defensive than if you only had one interviewer.
- If you offend both of them somehow, you probably can’t come back from that. Typically if you have a two-on-one interview, it means there is only one interview to be completed.
- Practice alternating eye contact and speaking to two people at once. Make sure you’re not only talking to one person and ignoring the other.
- Practice engaging conversation with two people at once and having a dynamic flow. This is hard to a lot of people (someone tends to end up being a third wheel), so its good to practice.
- Practice those stereotypical interview questions just like you would for a traditional one-on-one interview, and all of the above tips
This is by far my LEAST favorite style. First off, its just plain awkward. Secondly, its hard to tell were you stand during the interview. And it can be really hard to showcase your personality without overpowering others and coming off wrong.
Basically what happens is it is a group of interviewees and maybe one or two interviewers. You all sit in a circle and discuss different topics in a way thats “not supposed to feel like an interview”. I found it incredibly challenging, because I definitely want to listen to what other people are saying but I find it hard to jump in without speaking over someone.
- Its great for showcasing how you work in a group and interact with others.
- Its a little more “casual” and allows for the conversation to flow in a better dynamic than a maybe more stilted traditional interview
- I personally find it hard to make myself stand out in a good way here. Either I feel like I talk too much, or not enough.
- Its hard to make yourself sound as great as you are without making it sound like you’re bragging or showing off.
- Its sometimes hard to answer some of the typical questions in front of other people. For instance, it might be too personal of a story to what to share in front of a group as well as the interviewer.
- Get used to talking in groups. Practice listening to what others have to say and joining in the conversation in a meaningful way.
- Don’t try to make yourself in to something you’re not. If you don’t know something or don’t have any experience with it, say that. Have someone explain it to you. This shows that you can learn and that you don’t feel the need to pretend that you know everything.
- For you guys still in school, see if your career research center offers practice group interviews.
- If you have a couple of friends who all have the desire to be a PA, do a mock group interview with them, even if it is just another friend asking the questions.
- My biggest tip for the group interview is actually an improv technique. It’s called “yes and”. Essentially, it showcases active listening. So, you take what the person in front of you has said, validate it by rehashing what they said, and then add your own thoughts / feelings / approaches as the “and” portion.
The MMI or Multiple Mini Interview
This is by far my favorite type of interview, mainly because I think it is the easiest to succeed in. It is all about having an opinion, explaining that opinion, but also being able to understand the other side, and without seeing hesitant or wishy-washy. Your overall interview process might last an hour (this is all an example with made up numbers), but you’re going to have 6 “mini interviews” that each last 10 minutes. So not only is that very different than a traditional interview, but with each mini interview you’re going to have a different interviewer. These different “mini interviews” may ask the typically interview questions such as “Why do you want to be a PA”, or they might be scenarios that you have to come up with a solution for. An example for a scenario is:
You work as a pizza delivery man. You only have 30 minutes to deliver a pizza before the customer gets it for free. You know that if you go outside that 30 minute window again, you will get fired. But on your last delivery of the night, you find an unconscious person in the road. What do you do?
These scenarios are designed to give the interviewer a better idea of your personality, reasoning skills, opinions, and judgement. All of this is going to demonstrate what kind of provider you will be. Often times, there may not actually be a right answer, and instead it is more of a “gray zone”. The interviewer just wants to see that you can formulate an opinion quickly on your feet that is well thought out. At the same time, you also want to demonstrate that you are able to listen to and evaluate the other side.
- Each “mini interview” is a clean slate. The interviewer doesn’t know how you answered any previous answers so there is no bias formed based on your responses.
- You clearly get to show off your personality and opinions without worry you’re coming across “too strong”. The goal here is to see your opinion, so having a strong one won’t hurt you in the way it might during a traditional interview
- You get more than one chance to impress. You have a multiple number of this “mini interviews”. The more you do well on, the better you are. But most schools accept that you’re going to fumble on one or two
- I personally found it a lot less stressful than a normal interview because I felt less judged. There is no one simple right answers for a lot of these questions.
- It moves very quickly and its exhausting. You might only have just a couple of minutes to answer the question completely. So you need to think about what you want to say and answer as efficiently as possible. I literally went home and passed out after my interview that was this style. Its just a mental exhaustion from having to be so ready for anything.
- The interview is often “cold” – by that I mean that the interviewer has not seen your application and so doesn’t know anything about you! This can mean that you have to work in stuff about yourself while also answering the question.
- You can’t fully prepare for it. You have no idea what they could ask or what kind of scenarios it might be.
- There’s a bunch of examples of MMI scenarios out there on the internet. Read them over and think about your answer. Don’t read the sample response however (because these tend to all be very similar and you don’t want to start spitting out the sample responses during your interview).
- Practice at home or with someone. Your family or friends might be able to come up with some totally out there questions, so see if you can answer them. You also want to practice with as many people as possible!
- Believe in yourself and don’t get stressed out. This is a quick thing. Don’t try to overanalyze and beat a dead horse. Just go with your instinct and trust it.
- Also practice the “normal” questions. You very well can be asked those too, so don’t forget about them (and the tips I gave you for those)
The interview essay
This style is exactly what it sounds like: you get a prompt and have to write a response during your interview session. I’ve heard about it happening a lot more in recent years.
- Having to write an essay gives you the opportunity to think and plan more than if you were doing a monolog.
- You also have the ability to go back and change sentences! This isn’t possible during a speaking interview.
- Its hard to prepare for this. Sometimes the prompt is similar to a supplemental application prompt, and sometimes its asking you to explain something in anatomy.
- Most of us are not English majors and the only essay we had to write in college was for the GRE, so it can be very daunting
- Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed! Think back to those middle school and high school writing days and map out a response. Like with anything in an interview, you want to have an approach plan.
- Do your best on grammar and spelling, but remember that this isn’t what their testing! If anything, I’ve heard of some schools using this as a way to make sure people actually wrote their personal statements (and didn’t pay for someone to write it for them), but even then the school understands that your under a time constraint.
- Think of it as just another supplemental application essay and don’t let yourself get caught up in the fact its timed.
Hopefully this helps! I can’t recommend practicing interviews enough. There are a couple of options for this. You can check out your school to see if their resource center offers mock interviews, you can conscript friends and family into helping you, or you could pay for an interview service. Personally, I used my school’s resource center and forced my mom to help me. If I could go back in time, I would have practiced a lot more.
If you do decide to use an interview service, my favorite is the PA Platform. Savanna and her team do an amazing job and give some really good constructive criticism. You can use the code SPARKLE to get 10% off! You can also even book an interview with me if you would prefer!
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