This is the third article of a five-part series, “The Doctor of Physical Therapy Interview”
Part 1: What to Expect
Part 4: Make the Most of the Campus Tour
By: Mathew Hilton, MS, SPT, ACLS, PALS
University of Delaware Physical Therapy Class of 2017
Now that you’ve gained a sense of the typical Doctor of Physical Therapy interview day and the different types of interview formats, it’s time to get down to preparing for the questions themselves. For each program, the interview questions will vary from a variety of topics that can include:
- Knowledge of the profession
- Current PT issues
- Past experiences
In order to prepare for a successful interview, I recommend that each candidate handle the process systematically:
1. Prepare for the Basics
For all interviews, you should be prepared for all of the generic interview questions that you can find through Google. Some of the very common first questions include:
“Why do you want to pursue physical therapy?”
“What influenced your decision to apply to this program?”
I definitely recommend that you develop a canned answer for these or at least write down a few key points that you want to address in the answer. By nailing these questions early on in an interview, you can build your confidence as you progress to more specific questions.
2. Review Your Application
Be ready to discuss all aspects of your application. I find it helpful to review your different experiences and anticipate how you will use them to answer questions. For example, maybe you can discuss how your volunteer experience in a hospital has sparked your interest in working in an acute care setting. Maybe you can discuss your experience as a physical therapy aide when answering a question about the importance of communication.
You can also do the reverse and develop a list of questions and make talking points for each question. By organizing your responses, you’ll find that you can better recall these experiences as answers while you’re in the stressful interview environment.
3. Know Your Weaknesses
In open book formats, you can definitely expect the interviewer to ask questions about perceived weaknesses, such as low grades and low GRE scores. The key is to own up to these weaknesses, address why they happened and how you’re working to improve upon them.
You should always try to reframe your perceived “weaknesses,” and indicate that you do not believe these scores to be inherent indicators of your intelligence, but rather indicators of individual performances. The bottom line is that you want to show that you can self-reflect as to why you did not perform well, discuss how you’re working to improve upon those specific reasons and reassure the interviewer that your ability to self-reflect and improve your habits will help you succeed as a student physical therapist.
4. Know Your Strengths
Beyond discussing weaknesses, you should also strive to identify your strengths to your interviewer. These include not only unique academic and extracurricular experiences, but also your demonstrations of strong character. Have you committed your time to community service or volunteering in non-physical therapy situations? These types of experiences highlight your character and even if the experiences do not relate to physical therapy, they demonstrate your altruism and social responsibility, which are APTA Core Values and traits that will benefit the DPT learning environment.
5. Review Current Physical Therapy Issues
This is where many interviewees typically stumble. They make it through the questions about themselves, their interests and their experiences and then they find themselves lost when asked,
“What is the most important issue in healthcare today?”
Before your interviews, your should take the time to explore the APTA website to gain an understanding of the different physical therapy issues that affect our profession and the healthcare system as a whole. One big example is the opioid epidemic and the #ChoosePT campaign that has been created to address it. For a strong answer, you should be able to articulate the problem and physical therapy’s role in helping to solve the problem.
Do you have any questions about preparing for the interview? Let me know in the comments below!
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