Job interview tips for physician assistants and nurse practitioners

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Business suit. Check. Resume. Check. Confidence. Check.

The first job interview may seem daunting to clinicians fresh out of school, but brushing up on interview skills can help transform the experience into a stepping-stone.

“The interviewing process is completely different than it was 10 years ago, or five years ago or even one year ago,” said Mike Erwin, senior career advisor for CareerBuilder.com. The interviewee needs to be aware that competition is fierce. So how do you rise above the rest?

For many candidates, the first step in the interview process may be a telephone interview. Sharon Juillet, manager of nurse recruitment at Detroit Medical Center in Mich., said that she conducts telephone interviews to screen candidates, but does not making hiring decisions based on this alone.

Karen Bryer, director of human resources at Ohio State University Medical Center agreed. “Only a few candidates are brought in to interview in person,” she said.

Many job seekers make the mistake of taking a more casual approach to telephone interviews, but this is a mistake, according to Erwin. “The telephone interview is difficult because you're not getting the feedback from the face-to-face interview,” he said.

He suggested dressing up for the telephone interview the way you would for an in-person interview, and to take the phone call standing up. “You're going to sound better.”

All three human resource experts also emphasized the importance of listening carefully to the interviewer and having questions prepared, and warned that talking too much could be a fault.

“It's okay if there's quiet time because [the interviewer is] going to be writing things down,” Erwin said. “You don't have to fill the silence.”

If you make it past the initial telephone screening and are asked to come into the office, do not get lazy. “Five years ago there was an assumption that if you came in for an interview, you got the job,” Juillet said. She emphasized that preparing for potential interview questions beforehand is the best thing a candidate can do.

Be sure to be ready to answer questions about your schoolwork, what you did and how you did it, Erwin said. A great way to prepare is to do a mock interview with someone already working in the industry.

“One of the questions we normally ask that tells us a lot about a person is, “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” Julliett shared.

Be prepared to show passion for the field and the position. All three experts agreed that researching the company before the interview shows interest. Also, be prepared to turn the table and ask questions of the interviewers.“This shows that you've taken the initiative and done your research beforehand,” Erwin said.

When it comes to dressing, remember that a business suit is still the standard. Also be prepared with multiple copies of your resume, as more than one person may be conducting the interview. Don't forget to bring a pen and paper, so that you are prepared to fill out any necessary paperwork or make notes about the position and company.

Stacey M. Kess is a registered nurse and a freelance health and news reporter based out of Columbus, Ohio.

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