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5 Deep Dives for Employers, How to Impress NPs and PAs During a Job interview

Posted on February 24, 2020   |   by   |   Advanced Practice Structure, Employers, Interviews, Job Seekers, Recruitment, Retention

5 Deep Dives for Employers, How to Impress NPs and PAs During a  Job interview 

Author Cassandra Bunker, MSN, CPNP-PC
Editor Elizabeth Moran, MSN, RN, CPNP-PC

Hiring new employees can be stressful for everyone involved, including the employer. Interviewers typically have a basic set of questions, such as “tell me where you see yourself in 5/10/20 years,” and “why are you interested in this role or patient population?”  But just as a potential employee prepares to showcase his or her talents during the interview, the employer also should prepare to portray the best aspects of the organization to prove to the candidate why it is such a desirable job opportunity. Melnic is a recruitment company that partners with employers to help to navigate this process. In this article we’ll gear the conversation towards employers and discuss how to prepare for some of the more challenging aspects of the hiring and interviewing potential Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants.

What is the salary?

Foundational questions should be addressed first. These are usually the areas that employees want to know before delving deeper into the hiring process. Salary is table stakes when it comes to a candidate evaluating a new position, especially when considering a change that involves relocation. Employers should consider being upfront about the potential salary range before a potential candidate even interviews. 

Keep in mind that salary is just part of a compensation package. In general, benefits are worth as much as an additional 24-30% of the total compensation package from larger employers and about 12-18% at smaller clinics. Larger employer benefits calculation is based on the document,  “Employers Costs For Employee Compensation – September 2019.”(1) Larger employer benefits calculation takes into consideration retirement matches, healthcare insurance, continuing education funds, legally required benefits, and paid time off Benefits can also include license reimbursement, annual salary increases, sign-on bonuses, tuition reimbursement, funds for relocation, education reimbursement, and protected time. We always encourage job seekers to look at the whole compensation package when comparing different job offers. As an employer, we suggest you make all of this information very clear to candidates and provide a breakdown of the benefits from the start. If the interviewee is aware of all of the benefits, he or she will be better prepared to make a decision sooner if you make an offer. 

To access the Melnic Salary Survey as an Employer, email jill@melnic.com.  If you are an APRN or PA, fill out the Melnic Salary Survey and we will send you last year’s 2019 guide now and the new 2020 guide when it becomes available in 4-6 weeks.

What is the schedule?

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and Physician Assistants (PAs) [collectively referred to as Advanced Practice Providers (APPs)] are not traditional shift workersthey work until the work is completed. However, in an effort to quantify the number of days and the hours per day the APP is expected to work, schedules are still often referred to as “shifts.” Potential employees likely want to know if there are flexible schedule options or “flex time.” For example, APPs often prefer to work four 10 hours days instead of five 8 hour days. Or, inpatient APPs may want to know if shifts are 12 or 16 hours in length.  Other APPs, depending on their preferences and needs, may prefer having a shorter day and working an evening one day a week. 

It is important to communicate with potential employees how many total hours a week or shifts per pay period are expected. Being upfront with this information is important, as it has been shown that APPs who work 24/7 schedules are more likely to stay in positions where nights and weekends shifts are no greater than 25% – 30% of the shifts per pay period. In fact, many prefer the 24/7 schedules e which allows them to work 3-4 days or nights in a row and then have 3-4 days off. Most importantly, communication from the start is key as everyone’s preferences may be different.  

Self-scheduling has also been shown to provide greater job satisfaction. When this is not possible, a clear scheduling policy helps build the trust of employees. As employers create jobs that aim to build a sustainable workforce, it is important to think about the long term flexibility of the schedule. APPs who have flexibility and input into their schedule options are more likely to have their personal needs met and stay in a position that supports those needs. 

What is my role and who do I report to?

When interviewing prospective candidates, clearly communicating the role and expectations helps the APP to make an informed decision about whether or not the position is the right fit. Topics to be discussed with the candidate, in addition to the general role description and responsibilities, include protected time for administrative purposes such as charting, continuing education opportunities, workflow for communicating lab results to patients, etc. Protected time can also be given for professional advancements such as developing educational content, quality improvement projects, or research initiatives. Employers should also address workload and productivity expectations such that a potential employee understands how many patients the organization expects him or her to see or care for on a given day. Furthermore, it is also important to communicate the process for addressing any issues or concerns, should they arise, as well as other professional issues that may come up. For example, if the workload feels overwhelming for the employee, it is important to have a clear reporting structure to discuss such issues. 

In broader terms, it is important to clearly define the role, scope of practice, and reporting process for APPs during the interview. A common dissatisfaction among nurse practitioners and physician assistants is role confusion(2). The APP role should be clearly distinguished from that of other professional colleagues, such as registered nurses, residents, fellows, and physicians. Although APPs are encouraged to collaborate with physician colleagues when uncertainties arise, the organization should view APPs as a unique entity of licensed providers with strong professional responsibilityas opposed to interns, residents, or fellows who are still considered in training. Employers should ensure staff and patient education regarding the role of the APP which aids in optimizing patient experience and improves satisfaction scores. Furthermore, while it is appropriate to acknowledge that APPs have a different educational background than their physician peers, educational diversity and how it contributes to an all-around stronger structure should be viewed positively.  The interview is the right time to communicate the role, scope of practice, and support for the role, and prove to the APP candidate that their role is understood, supported, and respected within the organization. Moreover, to guide and standardize APP expectations, the organization should provide clear and consistent advanced practice leadership. 

During the interview, we suggest inviting potential employees to shadow or round with a provider on the team. In doing so, the candidate can meet the team he or she will work with, observe the relationships between team members (such as the physician-APP partnership), witness positive attributes of the team culture, and feel out if the role is the right fit for him or her.  The primary goal for all members is generally quality patient care, so view the shadowing time as an opportunity to demonstrate this message, as well as a positive culture and team dynamics.  

Can you tell me about the orientation?

A big selling message, especially for new grads, is a well thought out and structured orientation. We suggest setting up clear competencies and skills checklist, as well as a process for achieving them. It is important to have a process for providing feedback, evaluating personal goals, and assessing the completion of a competency list to demonstrate a clear path to independence. A new APP should be made aware of how long the organization will support them during their onboarding, which for a new graduate is typically at least 3-6 months of orientationdepending on the acuity of the specialty and the progression of the employee. It is also important to be clear and committed to a gradual patient load, with a general recommendation for a new APP to start at  10% of the normal patient load and progress accordingly. For example, in primary care where a provider may be expected to see 10 patients in a 4-hour session, consider starting the APP at just one to two in the first week, progressing to one patient per hour the next, and so forth. Productivity expectations during the employer’s first year should be tailored accordingly.  Employers should provide didactic training, skill development, and procedural training according to what is needed in the specific workplace setting. About 10% of professional time should be dedicated to studying, research, and didactic learning. Other important components of the orientation process to identify and make clear to the prospective employee include a dedicated mentor and preceptor(s),  introduction to available onsite resources, and opportunities for meeting and socializing with new peers to feel at home in the new role and organization.

Interview Tips

Timely communication with the prospective candidate and providing a travel itinerary are simple ways to make a good impression right from the start of the interview process. Make sure to include transportation, hotel, parking, and emergency contact information ahead of time. If the candidate is coming from out of town and considering relocating, dinner with the team and time to explore the area, perhaps even with a realtor, are an added bonus. At the end of the interview, be sure to let the candidate know when to expect to hear from you and always be sure to follow up, whether you plan to offer the job or not. Your reputation as an employer is communicated with every interviewregardless of whether you choose to move forward with a candidate.  

We wish you the best of luck in the hiring process! Although it can be lengthy and at times stressful, selecting the right candidate can make a big difference in terms of team and patient satisfaction. Melnic can help ensure that this is a seamless, highly successful process.  We are here to help at any point in the interview process, including if and when anything goes awry. Exceptional candidate and employer experience are always our top goals when it comes to helping you through your interview process.

If you would like to discuss hiring Nurse Practitioners or Physician Assistants, please contact Jill Gilliland, President, Melnic at jill@melnic.com.

Here are some additional resources


  1. “EMPLOYER COSTS FOR EMPLOYEE COMPENSATION – SEPTEMBER 2019.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 14 Feb. 2020, www.bls.gov/.
  2. Pasarón, R. (2013). Nurse practitioner job satisfaction: Looking for successful outcomes. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 22(17-18), 2593-2604.doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2012.04331.x

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