Interview survival pearls

Let’s talk about interviews:

 So… you’ve been invited to an interview – fantastic!  Some do’s and don’ts to help you be successful.

Every program will host a different type of interview.  We attended some that only lasted a few hours in the morning and some others that had a reception Friday night with current students and then the formal interview on Saturday.  There will be different parts to the interview; a meet and greet with 1 or 2 single professors, a group interview, a group activity, a meet and greet with students.  Just be prepared to be “on and interested” for several hours and be exhausted once it’s all done.

Practice reciting your most common asked questions.  Be yourself, they really just want to get to know the real you in person and not the person on the paper. They want to know if you’ll be a fit for their program.  This is a good opportunity to think of it as you wanting to get to know if the program is a fit for you.

Top Questions you WILL be asked

  • Tell me about yourself – This needs to be a quick snippet about your personal life, where you’re from, what you enjoy doing aside from medicine, where you see yourself in one year and five years?
  • What is your “WHY” of why you want to attend their PA program?
    • Emily’s Advice: be truthful. The most common answer is “because I want to help people” and I think that’s ok.  If that’s truly why, then say it from your heart and whomever is interviewing you will believe you.  If your answer is “because I want to work in medicine and make more money than I’m currently working” I also think that is fine!  As long as its truthful and from the heart, it is the right answer.
  • What have you done to prepare yourself for a vigorous PA program?
  • Tell me about a challenging time in your career/life, how did you overcome this?
    • Tie this into how you are preparing for PA school
  • What is the difference between a PA and NP?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses in the work environment?
    • Of course, always make your negative into a positive
  • Research the school, know their mission statement, learn about each professor. They will ask “so why ___ university.” Coincide this answer with the mission of the program.

Top questions you NEED to ask:

  • What resources does the program have to support students (library, online resources, access to professors, etc?)
  • Do you have a cadaver lab associated with your anatomy class?
  • Where will clinical rotations take place? Will I have to travel or set up my own?
  • What does a typical week look like during didactic year? (difficult to answer as each day changes, but you’ll get some idea from the current students)

How to handle the group interview or project:  At Barry University, we were separated into groups with one faculty member assigned to watch us.  My groups topic was “rank the application criteria from least to most important (things like grades, LOR, personal statement, HCE).”  I personally hated/loved this at the same time.  The best way to shine in this aspect is to try get be one of the leaders and establish that very early on.  Grab your notepad and say “alright let’s start jotting down some ideas.” Naturally everyone will try to take this role, but really just try to get along with everyone, and speak up without being pushy.

Katie’s favorite interview prep book:  How to “Ace” the Physician Assistant School Interview by Andrew J. Rodican

What Katie wore to her interviews:  I purchased a nice light grey suit with very modest white stripes that you could barely see.  I wore flat shoes because I am not a fan of heels for long periods and knew I would be uncomfortable walking around all day.  Under my suit jacket I had a light pink button up and a pearl necklace.  I’m known for playing with my hair so I curled it and ended up wearing it in a low pony tail.  In my hand, I carried a portfolio with my CV, pen, and paper.  Lip gloss, a mint, and car keys were stuffed in my suit jacket.  Leave your purse in your car and bring the bare minimum.

What Emily wore to her interviews: I had a black suit set that came with slacks which I wore to one interview and a pencil skirt that I wore to another.  One top was a plain blue tank/blouse and another was a yellow cap sleeve blouse.  Everything I read about what to wear to interviews to succeed said to wear the color red because it’s a power color.  I don’t like red, but if you do, DO IT!  I wore business heels to both interviews.  One of the interviews I walked around an entire campus and regretted my decision.  I did see one girl carrying her purse and switched from her heels to flats for the walking tour, such a smart idea!  My hair was down how I usually wear it.  I also carried my portfolio, but I did carry a small purse for make-up touch ups, lip gloss, keys, etc.

Follow up with each program after you interview.  Send a written thank you letter to the school.

When will you hear back:

Emily heard back within 1 week of both of her interviews whether or not she was accepted.  Most schools will tell you when to expect a phone call, email or letter regarding your acceptance status.  ASK BEFORE YOU LEAVE IF THEY DO NOT TELL YOU THEMSELVES.

Katie had her first interview at NYIT on October 27th  2013 and heard back on Halloween that she was accepted.  I interviewed Jan 31st 2014 at Barry University (knowing it was for a spot on the waitlist).  From October – May I thought I was moving back to NYC for PA school.  I accepted off Barry U waitlist in May and started the program in August.  Note:  I applied late and do not recommend this!  CASPA was completed on August 26 2013 and PA schools received my application Sept 9th.  I also interviewed at Nova Ft. Myers, FL, Chatham in Pittsburgh, University of New England in Maine Oct/Nov/Dec.

Good luck!  We want to hear how your interviews went!  Comment below or send us an email. 

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