7 Ways to Stand Out During Your Physical Therapy Interview
Are you ready for your physical therapy interview?
I remember when I began the process of applying to physical therapy school. The whole experience stressed me out.
My questions were the same ones you have.
How should I prepare? What did I need to know? Who were the interviewers? What is physical therapy? What is the difference between physical therapists and other medical professionals? Is my resume good enough?
My research to answer these questions along with the advice from some great mentors provided me with a lot of ideas and answers that I successfully used to get into school.
The following article provides 7 ways to stand out during the interview and jump start your physical therapy career.
(If you have been accepted to several schools already, check out What is the best physical therapy school for you which provides my thoughts on ranking physical therapy schools.)
1. Experience, Experience, Experience, and more Experience
Getting into the clinic
There is a reason this is number one on the list of 7. Experience in the clinic will shore up deficiencies in other areas. So if you are looking at this because you are wondering if your GPA is too low to get in, here is the best way to strengthen the resume (besides retaking some of the classes that lowered your overall GPA). When I talked to my classmates, I noticed that the majority spent significant time in the clinic. I also asked others about the questions they received. The interviewers can ask anything they want so the there are a lot of different topics. The lessons learned in the clinic are essential to being able to answer the questions.
Beyond just preparing for the interview, however, getting to work with the patients really shows you if physical therapy is the right choice. When you know that and know strongly that the answer is yes, then this certainty will come through during the interview.
For example, can you answer these questions confidently?
Do you like to work with people?
Can you work with people in pain that are really pissed off? (That happens in the clinic quite a bit with the changes in healthcare and the necessity of decreased time with each patient to meet the economic demands of keeping businesses viable)
Do you know what to do if a person starts crying because of their pain and inability to make it stop? (If crying makes you uncomfortable, that's OK because experience in the clinic will help you to get over this fear and be a compassionate health care professional)
Can you deal with a busy schedule?
I could go on and on with the questions. My point is that physical therapy is not for everyone. Make sure it is right for you before you start this journey and the best way to know is to experience first hand what it is. To me 40 hours is not enough - which is minimum for some programs. Shoot for higher and you will be rewarded for the hard work.
2. Know Your Material - Impress the interviewers with your knowledge
Since you read this far down the post, I assume you are motivated to do everything possible to get into school. Here is the number one thing to do to separate yourself from everyone else; read everything you can related to physical therapy.
Do you know the current thought leaders in the field of physical therapy?
Do you know about the history of the profession (how or why it started?
Do you know certain areas that interest you?
I read these books before going into the interview and it gave me the confidence that I could talk for hours about the physical therapy profession. If you are willing to put in the time, I suggest getting this books.
AND when you get into school you will be that much farther ahead and ready for the rigors of classwork.
For example, I knew my interests and read quite a bit about it. I approached a faculty member about some ideas on the topic. My preparation allowed me to work on multiple research projects, lead a couple, and be first author on publications (not to mention the peripheral benefits of getting scholarships and recognition by your fellow peers as a person who is dedicated to the field of physical therapy)
DO NOT BUY NEW TEXT BOOKS
On the road to physical therapy, there are going to be many costs. If you know that orthopedics or manual or motor control or biomechanics is going to be a large part of your practice, then start now. If you are driven you will get into physical therapy school. You do not need to wait to start the process. That said, buy an older version and you will save A LOT. So unless you have money to burn, go for an earlier edition.
3. Learn About The Problems Facing Physical Therapy
What do I mean by problems? This may or may not have triggered anything for you, which is alright since I am not interviewing you right now. But if you get into the interview and have no clear answer, the interviewer will see this lack of knowledge as a sign that you have not researched the profession.
Here are some link to articles and papers that I think you should read:
Or you can listen to podcasts about physical therapy which will give a great deal of insight into clinical questions that are being explored:
You are only limited by the amount of effort you want to expend.
4. Research The School And The Faculty
This is one thing to give yourself a huge advantage in an interview, but at the same time is very valuable in helping you decide on the school you eventually select. I looked up the publications of the faculty at each school that I applied to. I read the abstracts and then read the full article of the ones I thought interesting.
Go to PTCAS for a list of schools and links to their university home page for the physical therapy program (If the school is not on PTCAS just look up the webpage in google). There you should find a list of names for the faculty. Some of the pages have a list of all of there publications, which could be considerable. If I were you, I would not look beyond the last 5 years.
Now go onto pubmed, and quickly read through some of the abstracts that you found from some of the faculty. With that effort, you will know more than 99% of students going in for the interview. You may even get lucky and read an article that was written by the person that interviews you.
5. Read Interesting Books
I cannot guarantee what questions an interviewer will ask. Preparing by learning about physical therapy is the best thing for getting into school (in my opinion).
The next best thing is to be interesting. I was asked about books I have read recently at every single interview. My wife (also a PT) was not which shows there is variety in the interviewing process. Read a book or you are missing a great opportunity to stand out.
Here are a list of interesting books that relate to health with applications to physical therapy. At the very least you will learn something useful while also helping you chances to get in. I love reading so if you have recommendations, mention them in the comments.
6. Explore Your Strengths And Weaknesses
Or they will be pointed out for you
Where are you strong?
Where are you weak?
The question I get asked the most is about GPA and GRE. If you are low in either of these, that means it will be more difficult for you to get past the initial culling phase of the selection process. Think about it. PTCAS (the centralized application center for many physical therapy schools) allows for huge numbers of applications to numerous schools. So it is not out of the norm for 50 spots in a physical therapy class to get 1000 applicants. That number has to be cut drastically because no school will interview that many people.
Is your GPA low. My advice is to retake a couple of the low scores at a community college. Its where I took some of mine and I did not feel like it has hindered me. Actually, if the problem originally was a lack of motivation or because you were lost in a huge freshman class with about 100 other people, then a smaller class at the community college is the answer.
Now for GRE you must get over the minimum. If you do not, the risk is not getting to the interview where you can showcase all the other strengths. If you do poorly, retake the test. If you are worried about it being too low, retake the test. You may think that this is stupid and does not relate to physical therapy. And you would be right. The reason schools require it is that it relates to ones ability to do well in graduate school. So view it as a hoop to be jumped through.
After taking care of these two, the strengths can be built by doing all of the the things listed previously. If you do not want to go back up and look at those previous sections, here is a quick rundown:
1. Get into the clinic
2. Know you material
3. Look at the problems facing physical therapy
4. Research the school and faculty
5. Read interesting books not directly related to PT
7. Things To Never, Ever Say Or DO - ....if you want to get into physical therapy school
These are critical and somewhat easy ways to prevent messing up your interview.
- I decided Medical School would be too hard or too long or anything similar (these people you are talking to have dedicated their lives to this profession so don't be an idiot. Say I want to be a PT more than any other profession, which should be true or else why are you there. Sounds logical but many people make this mistake.)
- I thought physical therapy school would be easy (Kind of a repeat of the previous one but it just reinforces the importance. Once again do not say things that will make the interviewer irritated at you. They are looking for the best and most dedicated - show them that's you.)
- Anything rude to the PT students helping out that day (they will tell the professors and interviewers about the interaction.)
- Act arrogant (Be humble about your accomplishments.)
- Ignore glaring weaknesses in your application (if you have low grades acknowledge this, and then emphasize strengths.)
- Forget why you there. (You are there to vie for a highly competitive seat. Appreciate the opportunity and do your best.)
- Be unsure of why you want to be a physical therapist. (If an interviewer asks why you want to be a PT, you should be able to answer with confidence why you are there.)
I wish you the best and I hope you become a member of the physical therapy community. If you have any questions leave a comment below.
You can also contact me HERE.