Six Steps to a Successful PA or NP Job Interview

With a little preparation and research, you can become the leading candidate.

Young woman NP candidate meeting with two hiring managers
Did you know that preparing for an interview can improve your performance?

Being invited to a PA or NP job interview is a good sign. Many employers reserve a site visit for those candidates who come highly recommended or who have already passed an initial phone interview. Your qualifications as a physician assistant (PA) or nurse practitioner (NP) have made the employer take notice. Still, you’re likely one of several leading candidates. It’s time to hone your skills so that you can rise above the rest.

  1. Understand the Purpose for the Interview. The purpose of an in-person interview is two-fold: one, to prove you’re the right candidate for the job, and two, to gather information to help you decide if the job is right for you. Face-to-face interviews provide you with a perfect opportunity to evaluate your potential employer, explore the facility, and become familiar with members of the staff.
  2. Review the interview agenda. Before your interview, you will likely receive an agenda that includes the schedule (date, time, location) as well as the interviewers’ names and positions. Determine how many people will be present at the interview beforehand and how long the interview will take.
  3. Research Your Connections. For advanced practice roles, a panel interview with individuals from different areas of the organization is customary. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the names and roles of each interviewer. LinkedIn is a great source of professional information on certifications, education, and work roles. The organization’s website may also have leadership pages that feature prominent staff members and give information on research areas, hospital units, and specialized clinical areas. Take a personal interest in your interviewers, and you’ll show that you are serious about the position and eager to join the team.
  4. Know your qualifications, inside and out. If you haven’t already, take time to thoroughly read the job description, looking for areas where your skills and qualifications match. Note areas where you are especially well-qualified and also those areas where you may fall a little short. In those areas where you are well-qualified, make a list of strengths you want to highlight. Was there a specific career challenge that helped you grow? A clinical or job experience that was particularly rewarding and helped you decide your career path? Or maybe you had a success on the job that clearly demonstrated a key area of competency. Write these things down. You will also want to be able to address areas where you are not as well qualified. It’s important to do this in a positive, constructive way. Maybe leading a team is new for you and you’re still learning how to guide others. Find a way to highlight what you have done as a physician assistant or nurse practitioner and what you’ve learned from these experiences. This will focus the interviewers on your growth process and your ability to learn, and help them perceive you positively.
  5. Read Up on Different Interview Styles. Just as every person is different, each interviewer may have a different way of asking interview questions. Become adept at answering different types of questions, especially those that are behavioral in nature. Behavioral questions are those that focus on your past experiences to help paint a picture of your overall qualifications and skills for the future. To answer these kinds of questions you’ll want to be specific about the clinical, managerial, or patient challenges that you have faced and overcome. For more information, see our guide about behavioral interviews. It’s also a great idea to practice your responses to interview questions. Find a mentor or friend who will help run you through a Q&A session until you feel comfortable and positive about your answers. If you need help, you can also contact Melnic for a coaching session.
  6. Ask Educated Questions. Always prepare to ask questions in an interview, as this reflects your interest in the PA or NP job and your experience in the medical field. Avoid any questions that can be answered by visiting the company website. Instead, you can ask what skills are necessary to succeed, request details on the patient ratio, and what influence you could expect to have over patient care and treatment plans, if you were to be hired.

Little Details Add Up to a Big Impression. You’ve prepared yourself for the big questions, now make sure you’ve covered every small detail. Here are a few things to think about on the interview day.

  • Bring extra copies of your resume, your reference list, letters of recommendation, a notepad, and pen.
  • Present a conservative, polished appearance. Avoid trendy accessories, eye-catching makeup or distracting jewelry. When in doubt, it’s always best to err on the side of dressing more conservatively and professionally.
  • Arrive at the location 10-15 minutes early, but not sooner. You want to demonstrate interest, but you don’t want to throw off the interviewer’s schedule or catch them off guard.
  • Take your time when answering questions. Remember to breathe, and don’t hesitate to let your interviewer know that you need a few moments to think before responding to a question.
  • Show your passion for your career and specialty. Include any details or anecdotes from past PA or NP experiences that show your connection to the work. Employers are looking for passion and enthusiasm, so don’t be afraid to let it show that you love what you do for a living.
  • Treat everyone you encounter with professionalism and kindness. This is a reflection on your character and overall attitude, which have a significant impact on the hiring decision.

Extra Tip: Remember to Say “Thank You.” At the end of the interview, be sure to express your appreciation and continued interest. Also, highlight one or two reasons why you are the ideal physician assistant or nurse practitioner for the position. You can also politely ask how many other candidates are in consideration, and when the employer expects to make the final hiring decision. After you leave, write a thank you note to each interviewer and send it within two days of your meeting. This will help you make a lasting positive impression.

In the days that follow, set aside some time to reflect back on your interview experience. It may help to write out your thoughts and feelings. What stood out to you about the team, position, company culture, and work environment? Can you see yourself working there, if offered the job?

The goal is to walk out of an interview with as much confidence—or more—as you had when you walked in. You did what you set out to do. Anticipating that job offer? You may want to review our article: Know your Worth: Contract Negotiation for NPs.

The Melnic team is here to support you! For additional interview tips or career coaching, please contact us.