Congratulations! You have been invited to interview at one or more schools. You have reached the most critical stage of the applications process. You have worked hard and you deserve this opportunity. At this point in the process the competition is even fiercer than it has been up to this point.
The committee has narrowed their choices down to two or three candidates per available slot for the coming year. Make their choice easy, not only are you qualified to do the work, but you have a clear vision and path to success in the medical community. Now we just have to convey that we are the best choice in a high pressure situation.
As with anything we feel is important, preparation is key. Get a good night’s rest before your interview. Eat a good breakfast. Try to anticipate the types of questions you may be asked and rehearse your answers to the most obvious questions, so that your delivery is smooth.
Some questions to ponder as you prepare would be as follows; the most obvious of which is, why do you want to be a PA? Out of all the candidates we will interview over the next several days, what makes you the most qualified candidate? What are some examples you can provide of your leadership skills? Your teamwork skills? Your ability to work in a high pressure environment? Where do you see yourself in ten years?
How would you handle an uncooperative patient? How would you handle a disagreement with your supervising physician about a patient’s treatment plan? How do you feel about being on call? Are there disciplines within the field you are most interested in? Are there disciplines within the field you want no part of? The list of potential question is endless, but these are likely questions to which you should have a solid answer to in mind.
A sad fact of human nature is we assess people at a visceral level based on our first impression. This impression is more often than not formed before you even begin to speak and is based solely on your appearance. This is no time to go to excess in expressing your individuality.
Remember, the committee is looking for a serious candidate to work in the very conservative environments of hospitals and private practices and their reputation is at stake to pick the most highly qualified candidates with the greatest likelihood of success. Those being said, dress conservatively. Make sure your clothing is clean, pressed and reflects, not who you are, but whom you aspire to be. Clothing should be neither too tight nor too loose.
Wear comfortable, high quality shoes. Male candidates should wear a suit and conservative tie. Female candidates should wear closed toed shoes with a conservative heel. Female candidates will not be served well by overly trendy clothing and if possible you should wear a modest skirt that reaches your knees. While a pant suit is acceptable, a skirt conveys a better message about who you believe yourself to be.
Finally a word about tattoos and piercings, if you have them, now is not the time to put them on display. Remove all piercings and cover any tattoos, even if the tattoo is discrete and covered by your clothing it would not be a bad choice to cover them with make-up.
I realize this sounds overly conservative, but bear in mind just because many people have tattoos and piercings does not mean that the older individual will not perceive them as a negative expression.
Equally important to how you dress is how you carry yourself. Make sure your body language reflects confidence in yourself. Stand and sit up straight. When you walk into the interview introduce yourself and shake hands firmly with each person on the panel. Make solid, but not intimidating eye contact and most importantly smile. Be friendly, but not familiar in your demeanor.
Be sure to be mindful of how you speak, watch out for any slang words or hesitations. If you make a mistake recover yourself quickly, there will be time enough after the interview to assess yourself and worry over each minute detail of how it went. Be charming, but not overly solicitous.
Answer the questions clearly and concisely, don’t ramble on when answering questions, get right to the point. You may only have an hour for your interview and the panel will have many questions for you to answer in that time. Let them see you as a future professional, because that is what you are.
One final piece of advice as you prepare for your interview would be to believe you are the best candidate. Tell yourself over and over again that if you got the interview you are as good as in. If they were not interested in you as a viable candidate you would not have made it this far. So relax, trust yourself and your qualifications.