Beat the Behavioral Job Interview: Advice for NPs and PAs

Let us help you prepare for the open-ended questions that interviewers love to ask.

Guide to Behavioral Interviews
Walk the interviewer through your scenarios, step-by-step.

More and more employers turn to the PA and NP behavioral job interview as a way to assess candidates for advanced practice healthcare positions. This style focuses less on the details in your resume, and more on your career experiences as a physician assistant (PA) or nurse practitioner (NP). By asking questions that dig a little deeper, employers try to uncover how you handle typical workplace challenges.

Be prepared for open-ended questions. Your interviewer isn’t looking for a generic answer to a hypothetical situation. Instead, he or she wants to hear a story about a particular event, project or experience, how you dealt with the situation, and what the outcome was.

Three Keys to PA or NP Behavioral Job Interview Success

As a rule-of-thumb, in all behavioral answers, the interviewer is listening for these three things:

  1. A brief description of the problem, challenge, or situation
  2. What your action was and how you made the decision to act
  3. A brief description of the outcome and how this experience helped your professional development

No Easy Answers…

It can be difficult to prepare in advance for a PA or NP behavioral interview. There are no right or wrong answers. So, set aside time before the interview to reflect on your past successes and make a list of your accomplishments. As you do this, remember that interviewers are looking for honesty, sincerity, and candidness.

During the interview, the interviewer may try to sort out the details of your story to better understand your behaviors. Don’t be surprised by probing questions like, “what were you thinking at that point?” or “tell me more about what you discussed with that person.” If you’ve told a story that’s anything but totally honest, your response will not hold up through this questioning.

If this style of interview is new for you, practice with a friend. Use the list of questions below, and try to provide a detailed but concise answer. Encourage your friend to probe further. Be honest, yet positive. If your story has a negative outcome, talk about what you learned from the situation and how you approach things differently now.

Common PA and NP Behavioral Job Interview Questions

  • Describe a time when you took initiative.
  • Describe a situation where you motivated yourself to complete a task that you didn’t want to do.
  • Think about a difficult boss, professor, or colleague. What made that person difficult? How did you adapt your style of communication to maintain a positive relationship?
  • Think about a complex case or patient that you were assigned. How were you able to handle that assignment?
  • Describe an occasion that required you to work with others to finish a job. What difficulties did working in a group present and how did you address them?
  • Have you worked alongside a person who did things very differently from you? What was that like for you? Would you work with that person again if given the choice?
  • Describe your three greatest accomplishments.
  • When have you had to learn something new in a short time, how did you proceed?
  • Tell me about a complex problem that you solved. Describe your process to solve it.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split second decision.
  • What is a bad decision you’ve made, and what did you learn from that mistake?
  • When have you tried something that failed? What did you learn from that failure?
  • Is there a time you missed an obvious solution to a problem? What did you learn from that mistake?
  • When have you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done?
  • Tell me about one or two unpopular decisions you’ve made. What were the outcomes of those decisions?
  • What leadership positions have you held? Describe your leadership style. In what ways have you modified your approach to leadership after seeing results that were, or were not, effective?
  • When have you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem?
  • Summarize a situation where you successfully persuaded others to do something or to see your point of view. What presentation skills did you use to influence someone’s opinion?
  • When have you seen your persistence really pay off?
  • How have you constructively dealt with disappointment and used it as a learning experience? Please give me a specific example.
  • Describe a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  • Describe a situation in which you effectively devised a solution to a problem by combining different perspectives or approaches.

These questions may bring to mind a variety of experiences, both positive and negative. Steer clear of the pat answers that are not very realistic. For example, don’t try to portray yourself as a person who never makes mistakes, or as a person whose only failings are that you work too much, are too dedicated, or too loyal. Be honest about your mistakes, knowing that an experienced interviewer will be looking for progress and growth, not perfection. Give your response a positive spin by explaining what you learned from your mistake and how that experience has benefited you in the long run.

Despite the challenges they pose, a PA or NP behavioral job interview can give you a boost. When you provide good examples of your work style and habits, you have a chance to rise above the crowd.

Still have questions? The Melnic team is here to support you. If you’d like additional interview tips or career advice, please contact us.