The time has come. After much study, much time in the classroom and lab, and surviving your first time caring for a real client under your instructor’s eagle eye, you have graduated medical assistant training. Not only that, but you have also searched for open positions and applied for a job, and they scheduled you for an interview.
After the initial excitement and cheering are over, you may have panicked. Now what? How does one ace a medical assistant interview? Here is a step by step guide to acing your very first medical assistant interview. So take a deep breath, and let’s get started!
1. Research the Company
Find out what the company stands for. Check online for the mission and vision statement. Educate yourself about the various departments of the company, if they have more than one. Think about how medical assistants fit into the grand scheme of the company and how the work that you would do if hired would help the company achieve its mission. Remember that your goal is to convince the interviewer that you will be an asset to the company.
2. Research the Position
The job description is usually available on the company’s website, although it may take a little digging. Look under the HR tab for open positions, and try to find the job description for the position you are being interviewed for. Familiarize yourself with the tasks that are expected, and take a moment to evaluate yourself honestly. Are you good at the tasks required for the position?
It is okay if you are not skilled at all of them, but you want to be prepared to speak confidently about both your strengths and weaknesses. Think about times that you have performed those tasks. If there are some tasks that you have not done at all or are not an expert, you must be ready to say so and express your willingness to learn.
3. Make a List of Questions
Make a list of questions that you might be asked in the interview. Some of the most common questions are:
- Why do you think you are the right person for the job?
- How will you be an asset to the company?
- What are your strengths; give an example?
- What are your weaknesses; give an example?
- How do you respond to emergencies?
- How do you respond to seeing a coworker doing something dangerous, or against company policy?
- How would your former coworker or supervisor describe you?
Think about each of these questions and decide how you will answer them. Remember that honesty is always the best policy. Lying during an interview is an excellent way to get yourself fired later. However, you can be honest and still turn a negative into a positive. Do not make excuses for yourself, but do think about the positive aspect of potential negatives. For example, if a lack of assertiveness is a weakness, you may want to mention that this is a flip side of your strength, which is agreeableness.
4. Practice Interviews
Once you have this list of practice questions and have thought about your answers to these common questions, set up a practice interview. Various tech schools and career centers may offer practice job interviews for a small cost, or even free. Take advantage of that if it is available to you. If not, find a friend who is willing to practice with you. Set the practice run-up as nearly as possible like the real thing, and get them to ask you the questions you have developed.
5. Dress for Success
Once you have the job, you will be wearing comfortable pajama-like scrubs every day. However, you should wear something better for the interview, like business clothes. Shirt, tie, and dress pants for the guys and a nice blouse and skirt or dress pants for the ladies. Colors should be crisp but neutral. Please avoid bright tie-dye and any branded clothes, such as t-shirts with a trademark/name brand emblazoned on the front, or any clothes with a sports team logo. Keep things simple to avoid distracting the attention of the interviewer.
Also, keep jewelry to a minimum. Wedding rings and dressy earrings are okay, but leave the bracelets and gaudy earrings at home. If you have visible piercings other than in your earlobes, consider removing them for the interview. This includes other ear piercings that are not in the earlobes. Tattoos are a touchy subject for many. You may be required to cover tattoos for work, so it may be a good idea to demonstrate your willingness to do so in the interview as well.
6. Hygiene Tips
Have your hair freshly cut, brushed, styled, and whatever else needs to be done to look neatly groomed. Trim your nails and avoid bright colors of nail polish. Take a shower before you go, and make sure your socks and underwear are clean. Wear deodorant with antiperspirant as you are likely to sweat a bit more because of being nervous, and this is not the time to have a big sweat ring on your underarm, or body odor. Avoid cologne, though. You never know when an interviewer will be sensitive to scents, and anyway, cologne and other scents are usually not permitted on the job.
7. Managing Nervousness
Take a cue from the military and use ‘tactical breathing’. This simple technique has proven to be a powerful way to calm your nerves, steady your hands, and clear your brain in all kinds of situations. If it works on the battlefield, it can work before and during an interview too.
Simply breathe in through your nose for a count of four (one, two, three, four). Then hold your ‘full breath’ for a count of four. Breathe out through your mouth for another count of four. Finally, hold your ‘empty breath’ for a count of four. Repeat this four times. You may need to count slowly, or count to five, to get the maximum benefit. (Bonus: This breathing technique is beneficial to test anxiety too. If you are still in school, you can use it during the exams too.)
Other things that can help with managing nervousness are to keep your hands upturned, flat on your legs. This positioning sends a signal to your brain that you are in a safe place. As you begin to feel trust, that will come through in your voice and actions and make it more likely that your interviewer will trust you.
Some people find that chewing gum or hard candy helps them focus and stay calm. If this works for you, great. Just be aware of the tendency to chew hard or noisily when feeling stressed. Use other stress management techniques to stay calm enough that this won’t happen.
8. Your Body Speaks for You
Practice acting confident, sit up straight, and keep your hands turned upward when not occupied. Lean slightly forward to signal interest and attention and make good eye contact. Use some hand gestures (none can make you look like you are trying to hide something, while too many make you look nervous and unsure of yourself).
Shake hands, say hello, how are you, and good day. Use thank you when appropriate. Make eye contact. Basically, be polite and on your good behavior.
10. Interview Them Too
Remember that you are also trying to find out if the company is a good match for you. Ask questions about how long their employees typically stay and why they leave, and what makes them a great place to work. Also, find out what the most common complaints are.
11. After the interview
Say thank you as you leave. Be sure you know what the next steps will be. Will they contact you? How soon? Send a thank you note to the interviewer. I know that’s old fashioned, but it is still a good thing to do.
Best of luck and happy interviewing!