We collected some of the most common physical therapy interview questions to help you prepare. The following insights from Tim Fraticelli, DPT, MBA, CFP, from a series on PTProgress.com, give you a good idea of what to expect in an interview.
5 Types of Questions You’ll Encounter in Any PT Interview
In school and job interviews, you’ll field similar questions. They fall into five categories:
- Biographical: Interviewers will ask about your personal, educational, and professional histories. Some examples are:
- Why do you want to be a PT?
- What would you consider to be some of your strengths and weaknesses as a PT?
- Critical Thinking & Behavioral: These questions highlight how you would handle difficult situations. Some examples are:
- How would you handle a patient who struggles with following directions?
- How would you handle an emergency if it occurred while you were assisting another patient?
- Cultural Fit: Knowing whether you’ll be a good fit is critical for any position. Some examples are:
- Why do you want to be part of our program/our facility?
- What skills will you bring to our program/our facility?
- Ethical: Interviewers need a good sense of your thoughts on ethical situations and how you’ll handle them. Some examples are:
- A surgeon clearly wants a gift in return for referring clients to you. What do you do?
- Is it OK for a grateful patient to give you an expensive gift after a long journey through rehabilitation?
- Projective: Showing ambition can make you an attractive candidate. Use the answers to these questions to highlight your plans. Some examples are:
- Where do you see yourself in 5–10 years?
- What lasting impacts do you want to make on the profession?
The STAR Method: The Best Strategy for Answering Interview Questions
The STAR interview technique is considered to be the most effective response method to those difficult “Give me an example…” questions. Career coach Michael Higgins outlines the following three goals of using the STAR method:
- Be specific: this will help engage and convince your interviewers.
- Be concise: this should hold their attention for every question.
- Finish on a positive note: this helps to leave with a strong impression.
Here’s how to apply this expert way of answering interview questions to your physical therapy interview.
S (Situation): Set the scene for the physical therapy situation being discussed. Offer important details about your patients or managers.
T (Task): Detail your responsibilities and what you specifically had to do.
A (Action): Explain what you did to create any improvements or changes.
R (Results): Outline your impact — did patient conditions improve, or did you create a better workflow?
Coming up with these answers on the spot is difficult. Think about them beforehand and be ready to discuss three to four situations (and practice describing them outloud).
Common PT Job Interview Questions & Answers
What are the first steps you take when evaluating a new patient? Share your thoughts about the importance of a thorough patient history, including symptoms and conditions. Explain how you use this information to personalize assessments of the patient’s strength, coordination, flexibility, balance, and posture.
Why should we hire you as a PT? Detail your skills and how they can add to the facility’s services.
What qualities make a good PT? Outline the skills you think a PT needs to effectively treat a patient’s physical needs and discuss the importance of collaborating with the other providers. Discuss how you see the PT as part of the larger patient - care group.
Why do you want this job? Make this a personal answer too. Why do you find the facility attractive? Why would the position be a good fit? Explain how the role could help you build your success, as well as where you can contribute positively. Point out why you think you’re a good fit with the facility’s culture.
How do you motivate patients? Share a story about a patient who was reluctant to try an exercise you recommended. How did you uncover what made them uncomfortable? What interpersonal skills helped you reach them to alleviate their fears or inspire them to try? Share the results.
Where do you see yourself in 5–10 years? Be ready to discuss a handful of goals or potential accomplishments, as well as the road map you’ve laid out for getting there.
What has been the most challenging case you’ve dealt with? All patients present unique challenges. Choose one or two experiences in which you’ve faced significant obstacles. Outline the issues, as well as the problem - solving skills you used to address these concerns and maximize the patient’s benefits.
How do you define and measure patient success? Outline how you work with patients to identify their goals, focusing on both physical and mental/emotional successes. Highlight your personal investment in helping patients — how valuable their accomplishments are to you.
Tell me about yourself. Share details about yourself. Include extracurricular information. Tie it all back to why you’ve chosen to be a PT.
What are some of your strengths and weaknesses? Just like in a school interview, you should be ready to share details about your skills that bring added value. Discuss your knowledge, outline your communication skills, talk about your collaborative nature — paint a picture of how you will augment the team. Just don’t exaggerate, and be objective. Share a weakness or two.
How do you set or manage expectations and provide status updates to patients and family members? Walk the interviewer through how you discuss therapies and possible results with your patients. Explain how you describe expectations of therapy and why you do it that way, as well as how frequently you discuss progress with patients. This shows the interviewer what it’s like to be your patient.
What would you do if a patient accused you of poor service? Acknowledge you’re human and know you’ll make mistakes. Assure the interviewer you consider all patient feedback about your performance. Share how you would talk with the patient about the problem and detail how you would ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Have you ever worked with a patient who had a diagnosis you were unfamiliar with? What did you do? Describe your efforts to learn about the condition. What resources did you consult? Did you talk to other PTs? Did you talk to the patient’s referring physician? Your efforts will highlight your critical thinking and problem - solving skills.
What are some of the key considerations in dealing with movement disorders? Share your movement disorders knowledge, discussing how they impact the body and manifest in individual ways. Outline your strategies for working with patients struggling with these conditions.
How do you structure a session with a patient to ensure you’ve maximized their experience? Outline how you talk with the patient about their needs and goals, as well as how you collaborate with their referring provider. Share how you use that information to design sessions that work toward short - term and long - term goals.
What conditions have you successfully treated to date? Showcase the range of conditions you’ve encountered in your career, especially interesting or challenging ones. If you’re early career, that’s fine. Still share your knowledge of and enthusiasm for potentially treating a variety of conditions.
Describe a time when you exceeded service requirements with a patient. Have a few instances ready of when you worked with a patient to go beyond your planned goals. What was that patient collaboration like? What specifically made the extra effort and success possible?
Where do you see the PT profession heading in the coming years? Discuss some challenges, trends, and opportunities you see in the profession today. How do these factors affect the profession? Share the positives and the possible negatives, and discuss the role you can play.
How do you comfort patients who are fearful? Detail how you’ve identified a patient’s fear and encouraged them to tell you what was wrong. Explain how you’ve discussed their fears, explained how the therapies worked, detailed what they could anticipate, and outlined the potential results. Showcase your empathetic side to highlight your patient - care skills.
What are your salary expectations? Do your own research on the facility’s pay ranges prior to the interview. Decide on a range that works for you but talk about the responsibilities and benefits of the job first.
What Questions Should I Ask at a PT Interview?
Your interview isn’t just an opportunity for a program or workplace to analyze you. It’s also your opportunity to quiz interviewers to figure out whether you like the program or facility. Asking your own questions is the best way to do that. Consider these:
Physical Therapist Job Interview Questions: What PT Candidates Should Ask During a Job Interview
- What are the goals of the clinic this year?
- How many patients will I see daily?
- How long is each patient slot?
- Do you offer mentorship?
- Do you use PT aides?
- What is the size/organizational structure of the unit?
- How would you explain the organization’s management style?
- How will my performance be measured and how often?
- Can you walk me through a typical day for your therapists?
- What is teamwork or collaboration like with other providers?
- How is communication between team members handled?
- Why is this position open?
- What are the interactions with other healthcare team members like?
- Who are the most frequent referring physicians?
- What is onboarding like?
- What factors into productivity, and how do you track it?
- What is a typical schedule?
- What value and expectations do you place on continuing education?
- How long have you and your colleagues been in this department or clinic?
- What opportunities or challenges is the clinic facing?
- Describe the work - life balance.
- What is the office culture like?
- Are there any research opportunities?
- What are the top qualities that make a PT successful here?
- What can you tell me about the patient population?
- What do your employees like most about their jobs? What are their challenges?
- Does this role have a probationary period, and what does that entail?
- Do you offer ongoing training?
Physical Therapy Student Interview Prep: Common PT School Interview Questions & Answers
Although each PT program is different, interviewers are likely to ask certain questions in every interview. Remember, the interviewer is assessing your level of interest in the field — and in the school’s specific program. The interviewer is also evaluating the type of student you are.
Why do you want to be a PT? Make your answer personal. Were you ever in PT? Did you have a parent who was a therapist? Plan the organized way you will explain why you’re choosing physical therapy as your career path.
Why did you apply to this program? Talk about the part of the program you like. Maybe it’s the curriculum, mentoring, or shadowing. Link how the program is aligned to the profession’s future.
Why have you chosen PT over nursing or medical school? Discuss where you see PTs fitting into healthcare. What do you see as their role in providing the best care possible?
What is your understanding of what PTs do? Talk about your view of PTs and offer specifics about strategies that help patients with various limitations or injuries.
How have you prepared yourself to be a PT? Share your clinical, volunteer, or shadow experiences. Detail what they taught you.
Tell me about yourself. This is likely to be how someone starts the conversation. The question opens up a chance for you to brag on yourself a bit. Share some chronological details and accomplishments, including extracurricular information. Tie it all back to why you’ve chosen to be a PT.
What role do PTs play in healthcare? PTs are one part of a team. Point out their role in helping patients rebuild strength and range of motion. Link PTs’ input to that of other healthcare providers, explicitly outlining how PTs maximize patient care.
What are some of your strengths and weaknesses? Talk about the plethora of knowledge-based, transferable, and personal skills you’ll bring to the table. Mention aspects of your personality that spotlight your work ethic. Don’t embellish. Have a weakness example to share. Don’t be overly critical of yourself, however, and don’t blame others.
How do you handle interacting with difficult people? It can be a patient, colleague, or fellow student. Explain a time when you encountered a difficult person and highlight how you navigated the situation positively.
What would you do if a fellow student or colleague lied about treating a patient? Share what you know about how laws address these situations, as well as how you would report the incident. Explain why you would choose a particular course of action.
What are you most looking forward to as a PT? Be specific in your responses. Is it the patient interaction? The improvements patients will see in their abilities? Focus on several ways PTs help patients and providers to enhance healthcare.
Where do you see yourself in 5–10 years? You don’t need an exhaustive list. Share a few long - term goals or a handful of things you want to accomplish.
Tell me about your experiences working with diverse groups of people. PTs work with people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and identities. Discuss how you would meet patient needs in a culturally competent way.
What has been your most stressful academic situation? Discuss a particular time when you juggled a lot. Share what tactics you used to manage this challenge successfully.
If you could craft a law that would help the PT profession, what would it be? Share your solution for alleviating a problem facing PT, such as cleanliness or in - home therapy during the pandemic.
How would you handle disagreeing with an instructor or supervisor over how to best treat a patient? Explain how you would navigate this situation, highlighting the ways you would still be respectful.
Do you plan on specializing in any particular PT area? Share why you gravitate to a particular specialization, such as older patients or children.
What personal stresses do you anticipate in being a part of our program? Everyone faces obstacles. Be honest about how the program will affect you and discuss how you would proactively face hurdles.
What contributions will you bring to our program? Highlight two or three examples of how your skill set will enhance the program. Maybe you have extensive experience working with certain age groups or types of athletes.
What volunteer or shadowing experiences have you had? Discuss when and where you donated your time or followed another PT. Offer details of what you learned and how you contributed.
Physical Therapist School Interview Questions: What PT Students Should Ask When Applying to PT Schools
- What is the teaching style here?
- What are the student/professor interactions and relationships like?
- What resources are available for research or clinical experience?
- What activities do students enjoy outside of school?
- What organizations do students get involved with?
- Does the school offer interprofessional opportunities?
- What are the job prospects in the surrounding area?
- How many students find jobs after graduation?
- Does the school offer outings for fun or to destress?
- What makes this program different from others?
- What do you think are the biggest challenges facing PTs in the next decade?
- What feedback do students provide about what they like and don’t like?
- Does the school participate in a pro - bono clinic?
- What resources are available to help struggling students?
- Is a mentor/mentee program available?
- What makes a student successful in this program?
- What experience will I gain during the clinical year?
- Have students ever published their research?
- What do you enjoy most about being a faculty member here?
- What made you choose being a PT over another medical career?
Other FAQs About PT Interviews
Answering questions and asking thought - provoking ones is likely your biggest concern about the PT interview. However, there are still a few more questions you should consider.
How do I prepare for a PT interview?
Some steps are a good idea to take no matter what type of interview you’re facing:
- Do some research on the program or facility you’ll be interviewing with.
- Review their social media accounts to identify their priorities.
- Come up with a few questions that demonstrate your commitment to quality care.
The prep work is slightly different if you’re a student or job candidate.
- Identify things you want to share about yourself.
- Research trends in PT.
“The best way to prepare for an interview is to rehearse what you plan on saying. Even if you don’t get the questions you practice, you’ll be rehearsing ways to organize your thoughts and real - life examples as you speak out your answers,” Fraticelli explains on PTProgress.com. “You can’t practice enough! When you feel like you can answer questions well, try answering in front of someone.”
For job seekers:
- Research the facility and the position.
- Talk to people who work there.
- Reach out to colleagues in similar settings.
What should I bring to a PT interview?
Come prepared with several examples of your professional successes, as well as three to five thoughtful questions pertaining specifically to the program or facility.
How do I ace a PT interview?
- Be able to discuss your resume in detail without referring to it.
- Dress appropriately.
- Arrive early.
- Have polished answers to common questions.
- Prepare stories highlighting your successes.
- Pay attention and ask questions.
- Send thank - you notes after the interview.
What should I wear to a PT interview?
A suit and tie or suit and blouse are generally expected in a PT interview. Most interview candidates will opt for black or blue suits/blazers/skirts with light - colored shirts. Almost any color is acceptable, though, as long as it isn’t too bold or doesn’t hurt the interviewer’s eyes. Feel free to show some personality in your attire, but you also don’t want to have your flair stand out so much that it’s the only thing the interviewer focuses on!
Whether you’re interviewing for school or work, preparation is key to your success. Before your interview, carefully consider all the questions above and outline the main points you want the interviewer to know about you. Put in the extra time and effort practicing, and you’ll be in a good position for a second interview.
Image courtesy of istock.com/KatlehoSeisa