Interviews are stressful, especially when you have spent so much time, money, and energy in at least the past four years just to get to this point. It’s an exciting place to be, but it can also be incredibly nerve-wracking.
I hope that this post helps you through your interview process. Try to relax, remember to breathe, and you’ll be walking across the graduation stage before you know it!
- Be on time. Show up at least 10-15 minutes early. Set aside extra time if you have never been to the campus before.
- Be honest. Don’t exaggerate any stories or completely lie just to seem like a more competitive applicant. It is possible that the program could find out the truth.
- Avoid saying “Umm”. If you need to pause to think about what you will say next, it’s much better to say nothing than to fill in the silence with “Umm.”
- Reread your application. Know your application inside and out. The inteviewer may ask specifically about your application, so make sure you remember what you wrote.
- It’s okay to be nervous. Everyone has been nervous during interviews at some point in their lives, and it’s expected that you might be a little shaky. PT school is a big deal, so it’s understandable. It’s ok to start from the beginning to answer again or take a minute to gather your thoughts, just don’t let it hinder your interview too much.
- Make eye contact. Look at the interviewer when they are talking, and look at them when you respond. If there is more than one interviewer, make sure to look at all the interviewers when you respond. If you have a group interview, make eye contact with the other applicants.
- Answer the question. Be straightforward and make sure that you completely answer the question. If you don’t understand, just ask them to rephrase the question or repeat the question back in your own words and ask if that is what they are looking for.
- Try to stand out. Do you have a nontraditional major, is this your second career path, or do you come from a disadvantaged background? If you can come up with anything unique about yourself, it could make you more memorable to the interviewers.
- Be yourself. Don’t say what you think the interviewers want to hear. They want to get to know you, so say what you want to say.
- Be confident. I know it’s often easier said than done, but you have a killer application! Be proud of all your accomplishments and show the program how awesome you are. They just want to know you better, which is why you got an interview in the first place.
- Smile. Don’t be afraid to laugh and smile when it’s appropriate.
- Don’t be too wordy. You could probably take 5-10 minutes to answer each question if you wanted to, but try to keep your answers relatively short. This makes sure that you have enough time to answer all the questions.
- Be specific. Have some life experiences ready to back up your answers. For example, instead of just saying that you work well on teams, you can briefly describe a time in which you worked well with others.
- Don’t assume that your interviewer is a physical therapist. Other faculty members that are not PT’s may conduct interviews, but they should introduce themselves at the beginning of the interview. If not, just ask what their job at the program is, rather than assuming that they are a PT.
- Your interviewer might not know anything about you. They may know your GPA, GRE scores, and the details in your essay, but they might have never seen your application. Don’t make assumptions!
- The school is also selling themselves. They know that you are a competitive applicant and want you to choose their school. The interview is also an opportunity for them to tell you about their program and show you how awesome it is.
- Writing sample. Some programs include a short essay during the interview day, so be prepared to write well.
Do you have to choose your interview date?
It is most likely advantageous to accept the earliest interview date that is offered to you. The program has more spots to fill and might not have looked at all the applications yet, so you might have a better chance of acceptance if you interview early.
What should you do if you have conflicting interviews?
Call or email both schools and see which one is more flexible with changing the interview date. Hopefully one of the schools will reschedule the interview date so you can still attend both.
What should you wear?
Professional clothes can be expensive, but they are an investment that you will need to make at some point in your career. Most people recommend navy blue or charcoal gray over black suits, but it’s definitely not necessary to buy a new suit if you already own a black one. Your clothes should be clean and ironed, hair done nicely and out of your face, and minimal perfume or cologne.
Men: Navy blue or charcoal gray suit, button-up shirt, tie, and nice shoes. Shine your shoes.
Women: Navy blue or charcoal gray pant suit or skirt suit, professional looking blouse or button up shirt, minimal makeup and jewelry. If you choose to wear a dress, make sure that the straps are wide, no cleavage is visible, the length is almost to your knees or longer, and you wear a cardigan over it. Wear flats or low heels because many schools have long walking tours of the school.
What should you bring?
Ask if the school requires that you to bring anything with you. It can be helpful to bring a water bottle, a pen, and a small notepad. Some people recommend bringing a resume and references, but that is likely not necessary unless the program specifically asks for it.
Have you done your research?
Hopefully you already did research about the school. It’s helpful to browse the website before your interview. Read about the curicculum, financial aid, volunteer opportunities, clinical education, and the specific technology at the program.
Make sure to look up information on the faculty. If you know which faculty members are conducting interviews, learn about them so you can ask questions. If you don’t know anything about the interviewers beforehand, that’s ok! They will likely introduce themselves and tell you what they teach or what they specialize in. Take note so you can ask questions later.
While you are reading, try to come up with topics that you want to know more information about. The interview is the perfect time to ask the interviewer more about the program, so have your questions ready!
Do you know the current issues in Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy is your dream career, so you should know about the current issues. Not all interviewers will ask about current issues, but it can’t hurt to learn more about the profession. You can read about direct access, health insurance, Vision 2020, Obamacare, and reimbursement.
What should you ask your interviewer?
At the end of your interview, you should have time to ask the interviewer some questions. Always ask something, even if you’ve done plenty of research about the program. Feel free to ask about something that you already know, if you can’t come up with anything on the spot. I recommend coming up with a few questions before your interview, especially if you are having a group interview and someone else asks a similar question.
I would avoid asking questions that you can ask any physical therapist. These questions are “What is your favorite thing about being a physical therapist?”, “What future changes do you see in this profession?”, or “What is the greatest challenge of being a physical therapist?”. These are relevant questions, but they should have been asked during shadowing experiences. It’s better to ask questions about the specific school instead, since this is your time to learn if the program is a great fit for you.
Here are some example questions that you can ask:
- Is the school involved with any international programs?
- Does the program offer any scholarship opportunities?
- What sets this program apart from other programs?
- If the program has a large class size, how do they ensure that the quality of education is the same as a program with a smaller class size?
- Are there any new articles, achievements, or studies that faculty have published recently?
- What do you consider the greatest strength of this program?
- What makes a student successful in your program?
- Where do graduates of your program typically work?
- Are there any advocacy opportunities?
- Have any past students done any residencies?
- Are there any community service programs that students are involved in?
- What do you like about working at this program?
- What is something that you would have liked to have known going ito PT school that you know now?
- Why are you proud of this program? What keeps you here?
- What type of research is done by the professors and students?
- What changes are being made to improve the program?
- If you could personally change something about the program, what would it be?
Some programs have group interviews, which can be an intimidating experience. Not only might you already be nervous about what you will say, but you’re also trying to outshine the other applicants and not copy their answers.
If at all possible, volunteer to speak first. It shows initiative and can help you stand out. The interviewer may change the order in which they ask questions, so you may answer the question first, in the middle, or last. Everyone might be asked completely different questions. You won’t know until you’re in there, so just do your best to calm your nerves and be personable.
Make sure you completely answer the question and don’t talk for more than one minute, so everyone has a chance to talk. Listen to the other applicants, nod your head and smile. It’s okay if you have a similar answer to someone else, and chances are that it will happen.
It can help to set up a practice interview with a family member, friend, or a career center. They can ask you questions and provide feedback on how to improve your responses.
It is not necessary to practice interview questions. If you have a good understanding of the field of physical therapy, know why you want to pursue PT, and can explain that to another person, then you are well prepared. You obviously can’t predict which questions will be asked, so there’s only so much preparing you can do in the first place.
Whether you choose to practice with someone else, speak out loud by yourself, or write down some practice answers, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Don’t try to memorize answers for a bunch of questions. Instead, come up with a general idea for what you would like to say. It’s helpful to come up with situations from your life that could possibly answer a question – for example, a time when you dealt with diversity, worked on a project where one person did not contribute, or when a physical therapist behaved in a way that you disagreed with. These experiences can be difficult to come up with when you are nervous, so think about some specific examples before you’re on the spot.
You can also video record your practice interview using your smart phone. Check to see if you were clear, concise, said everything that you wanted to say without sounding like you memorized your response, avoided cliches, sounded confident, and used specific examples that related to the question.
Here are some sample questions that you may answer during your interview:
Should you send a Thank You note?
Thanking your interviewer is a professional courtesy. It won’t hurt your application if you don’t send one, and most likely will not help you get accepted into the program if you do send one.
You can send a short email or mail a letter to thank the interviewers for their time. Make sure to send it as soon as possible, use their professional title, and mention something personal that was discussed during the interview.
If you are curious about what the interview is like at a specific school, search on the SDN Pre-Physical Therapy Forum. Many people have talked about their experiences, so hopefully you can find more insight into what your interview might be like.
Here are the two interviews that I did:
Additional information that you may find helpful: