Following achieving a medical assistant certification or attending an online medical assistant training program you have all of the skills in place to take the next step. For many though, the interview process can seem just as, if not more daunting, than going through the training program.
Even for those who are fully prepared to enter the work force can feel intimidated by the interview process. The key to a successful interview though lies in the preparation – by analyzing the guide below and performing a bit of preliminary research you should be able to make through the interview process unscathed and get the ball rolling on your new career.
There are plenty of options open for people who want to enter into the medical field as an MA. While the majority of medical assistants take positions in physician’s offices, there are plenty of opportunities in other types of facilities. Medical assistants are used in hospitals, surgical centers, outpatient clinics, urgent care centers, specialist’s offices and more.
It is much easier to prepare for an interview when you know details about the specific company that you are trying to become a part of. Begin by narrowing your scope down to the types of facilities that you’d like to work in and then narrow that further to specific companies in that particular niche that you’d like to work for. Once you’ve secured an interview, do some research on the company or facility itself so you can be armed with answers to interview questions that directly tie in with the company’s mission statement.
A critical portion of the interview process is making a good first impression. How you look and how you present yourself to all of the company employees that you encounter prior to and during the interview process will likely play a factor in whether or not you get called back for a second interview.
Take pride in your appearance and dress professionally for the interview – even if they seem to be a company that allows semi-casual dress on the job. Once you’ve picked out your interview outfit, make sure that it is cleaned, pressed and wrinkle free so that you are prepared to make the best first impression possible.
Visualize your introduction with your prospective new employer. This actual step only takes a brief second but could have a powerful impact on the direction that the interview takes. When you meet your interviewer for the first time, speak clearly and with confidence and make eye contact during a firm handshake.
This fleeting moment will set the tone for the interview so you want to seem eager, confident and fully prepared to move forward with the process.
Study, Study, Study
In all likelihood you are the one that prepared the resume that ultimately got you this interview – and all of the details on that resume are honest and accurate. Unfortunately you won’t have those pages in front of you while you are in the process of the interview in order to help guide you to the best possible answer.
Interviews can be stressful, which can lead to you jumbling or forgetting facts at the worst possible time. Make sure that you take the time to thoroughly review your resume and work history prior to sitting down for the interview so you don’t forget critical pieces of information or dates that might be pertinent during your time with your prospective new boss.
Activities that you participated in during school, awards that you earned in training and volunteer work that directly relates to the company you are interviewing with or the position that you are interviewing for. Studying your resume will provide you with the majority of the answers that you’ll need to make it through your first interview successfully.
Know What You’re in For
When you schedule a convenient date and time, ask what type of interview you’ll be participating in. Will it be conducted by a member of the human resources department, by the entire management group or by the physician who owns the practice?
Knowing whether you’ll be fielding questions from and delivering answers to an individual or a group can help you better prepare for the scene. If you had thought you’d be meeting with an individual and you walk into a room with eight men in suits your nerves make get the better of you – and being nervous in an interview generally doesn’t yield the best results.
Take a Dry Run
Punctuality and reliability are two requirements when interviewing for a new career. Your new prospective boss won’t want to hear that you got lost in route to the interview or that you weren’t prepared for the traffic you encountered on the way.
Print out a set of directions to the interview location and drive there a few days prior to your appointment (if possible at approximately the same time as your interview). This will ensure that you know exactly where you are going and that you’ll be as prepared as possible for the normal traffic patterns. Being on time or early will help to solidify the good first impression that you are prepared to make with your new prospective employer.
Prepare for Specific Questions That May be Asked
Once you’ve made all of the general preparations to look good, sound confident and arrive on time it is time to prepare for specific questions that may arise during your interview for a medical assistant position. Here are a few common questions that you might encounter and some tips on how you can answer them to give yourself the best chance of securing a second interview.
What makes you a good candidate for this job?
While this question might not come first from your prospective new employer, it will come how you answer is likely critical to getting a call back. While you may not have any direct experience in the medical field, this would be the right time to bring up the training you’ve been through and any certifications you might have earned from online medical assistant training programs.
You also want to highlight any specific details from previous jobs that translate well to an MA position. Working in customer service, working in human resources or office management would all translate well to aspects of your new position. Describe any computer skills, training or certifications as well as data entry and coding may be a big part of your new position.
Describe a workplace conflict you were involved in and how you handled it?
As an MA you will be constantly dealing with coworkers, superiors and patients and your ability to mesh well with a wide array of personalities is critical to your success. You don’t want to approach this question as an opportunity to complain about a former boss, coworker or customer, but to highlight your ability to be a team player in even difficult situations.
What are your strengths?
You don’t have to impress the interview with how long your list of strengths happens to be in order to impress here. Describe your willingness to learn, your desire to grow and any special attributes you have that might directly relate to the position. Attention to detail, compassion and determination are all assets that could be brought up.
What are your Weaknesses?
Most people are afraid to bring up a weakness in front of a prospective employer for fear that it will put them out of contention. While this is understandable, you can’t tell your interviewer that you have no weaknesses at all or refuse to answer the question.
Highlight at least one area that you would like to improve on (typing speed, mastery of Excel, etc.) and describe your willingness or desire to get better. This way you can transform your weakness into a positive by highlighting your desire to improve yourself.
Why did you leave your last job?
While this might seem like the perfect opportunity to vent about a job that you didn’t enjoy or the poor economy, keep things positive. Talk about the opportunity and security in the medical field as your primary reason for making a move. Describe your desire to transition into a field where you will have the opportunity to help people and constantly learn and grow while you earn a solid and stable living.
Where do you see yourself in…?
It doesn’t matter if the interviewer finishes with two, five or ten years you would generally frame your answer in the same fashion. Instead of taking this opportunity to pre-crown yourself the next leader of the facility you should use this time to talk about your loyalty and your desire to grow within the company.
Talk about specific technical skills related to the medical assistant position that you’d like to pick up and you desire to move up within the company. Candidates who express an interest to learn and flourish within a company are much more attractive than those who only appear interested on quickly moving on to “bigger and better” things.
Why should we consider you over other potential candidates?
In all likelihood you don’t know who the other candidates are or what experiences or attributes they may have so this leaves you to focus on your own skills and attributes. Reiterate the training and knowledge you picked up from your online medical assistant training courses as well as your desire to grow in what you consider a very rewarding field.
This is also a time to reference details about the company that you learned during your preliminary research. Instead of simply stating why you want to work as a medical assistant, describe why you want to work for this particular facility as a medical assistant. So your prospective bosses that you have already invested time and effort into the company and make them aware that you’ll continue to put forth that same attention and effort should you move onto the next step.
Have you medically assisted with any office or hospital procedures?
Some variation of this question may arise that is meant to gauge what real-world experience you have in the field. As a current medical assistant applying for a new job or a student who has been placed as an intern before, you’ll have no difficulty in answering. As a new graduate with no prior practical experience, be honest and focus instead on classroom or laboratory simulations and your knowledge and comfort with protocols and action plans.
Do not venture into long and specific stories, but instead succinctly summarize the types of activities you engaged in and how you contributed to the solution or smooth progression of the procedure.
How do you protect your patient’s confidentiality?
Notice that this question requires an active answer, and isn’t a passive question of what not to do. Through forming your answer, the goal should be to assure your potential employer that you have a deep understanding of HIPAA regulations and that maintaining confidentiality is of the utmost importance.
How do you improve yourself as a medical assistant beyond employment and educational training?
This question is covertly asking whether you are truly passionate about your position and career. Ensure that you are by honestly answering that you consistently read professional journals and literature to stay current with new methods and concerns in the field. Preferably, you’ll have membership and involvement in professional organizations and are seeking to gain additional certifications and competencies in order to contribute more efficiently and thoroughly for your patients and coworkers.
What qualities are important when counseling and interacting with patients?
Emphasize that you do not become detached from the emotions of your patients. It is important to you that your patients do not begin to feel dehumanized while being treated. You allow patients the time to formulate questions and consider replies while listening intently for the meaning behind what they say and how they say it. Your responses to patients and their families are always accurately detailed but spoken in a manner that reveals your empathy for their situations.
Do you have any questions for us?
In closing an interviewer will often ask if there is anything that you haven’t learned about the position or the company that you would like to know. Don’t use this time to try to schedule future time off before you’ve even secured the position, but don’t be afraid to ask questions that weren’t answered during the interview. Feel free to ask how many people work in the department and the facility as a whole, inquire if there are set hours for the position or if there is expected overtime, or if there are multiple locations that the position will be performed from. You can also ask when the position is expected to be filled so you’ll have an idea of when you might be contacted if you’ve made the cut. Just be sure to keep your questions and any answers to follow up questions from the interviewer positive.
Embarking on a new career path can be an exciting and nerve wracking time. Taking the time to properly prepare for a first interview (and follow up interviews) can make the process much easier and can greatly improve your chances for success.
You’ve completed the training and you’ve got the necessary skills and the drive. Study your resume, prepare yourself physically and practice, practice, practice. Take the time to prepare answers to the most common medical assistant interview questions as well as general inquiries that might come up during the process.
Have a friend or family member conduct a practice interview with you so you can get comfortable confidently relating your responses in a social setting instead of just in your mind. Practice making eye contact and speaking clearly and confidently until the answers seem to come with ease. The first interview goes a long way to helping you secure your position as a medical assistant so be completely prepared, be confident in your abilities and your skills and be early to your scheduled appointment with your prospective new employer.