In all the literature that you have likely read about becoming a medical assistant, you have probably learned more than enough about income expectations, what to expect from your courses and how great your career will be upon graduation. You have likely also learned about the stress that comes from an education and the steps you should take to ensure you are a desirable candidate in the job market. What you have likely not read about is the stress and excitement that comes from landing interviews and how to be successful when speaking with a potential employer. This article will cover the tips, common questions and common mistakes that will help you make the most of your time with an interviewer.
First things First
Before you sit down for an interview, there are plenty of things your potential employer will notice.
- Dress appropriately for the interview. This doesn’t mean you need to wear a tux or a suit or a high end dress, it simply means you should dress for comfort, but also in a business professional manner.
- Punctuality is key. A great way to look at it is this; “If you are early, you are on time, if you are on time, you are late, if you are late… well… you know.” Keep this in mind. Showing up an hour early is overkill, but showing up 15 to 20 minutes early is a great way to make sure you get to the right area and give the interviewer a heads up that you are there and ready.
- Don’t overthink things. You are doing some preparation work, and that is great, but don’t put yourself into a more stressful mood by overthinking everything that can come from this interview. Show up prepared and confident and you will handle things just fine.
Once you are called for the interview, greet the interviewer with a smile, your first and last name, and a firm handshake. Obviously, they already know who you are, but you should introduce yourself in a polite manner anyways. Don’t let yourself get into that awkward phase of trying to carry on conversation to overcome silence, wait to be spoken to and reply in kind. Above all, be yourself, let your personality shine, and don’t be afraid to show emotions, especially joy and laughter; employers like happy employees.
Once the questions start flying, you need to be prepared for some of the harder ones to deal with. A few will be covered here, along with some basic advice on how to best answer these questions. Make sure you answer everything honestly and give examples where appropriate, but keep your replies short and to the point.
- How would your previous employer describe you?
Honestly, they have either already spoken with your former employer, or that plan to depending on the results of the interview. Don’t sugar coat anything, but make sure that you speak with a confident tone about the positives that your employer will share. If you had a bad falling out, take their side and be cordial towards the previous employer. Don’t badmouth them at all. Be specific with your answers and give some examples of actions you took during your time with them and how they congratulated you on a job well done.
- Tell me about a difficult time you had with a patient or customer in a previous job.
Come at this question prepared. Sitting and thinking for too long will not project the image you are going for with your interviewer. Think of an example beforehand that you handled well, that put the difficult patient or customer in an understandable position, and how you overcame it through empathy and capabilities in your job.
- How will you work to become a better medical assistant?
This question should not be too difficult, but you should cover as much information, quickly, as possible. If you plan to continue your education, explain your goals. If you plan on earning a certification, give them a time frame that you hope to reach that goal. Explain that you are always looking for ways to improve in your job, but give honest answers. Put yourself in a position working for the company and explain how you plan to become more adept over your career with them.
- What are some of your weaknesses?
This is the dreaded question that is coming up less and less often in interviews. There isn’t a correct answer, or even a good one, but being ready for it is important. Every answer won’t be covered in this article (there are entire websites dedicated to this one specific question), but the basics are as follows:
- Give a solid example of a real weakness but discuss how you have overcome it or the steps you are taking to overcome it. For example, if you spend too long on specific tasks, because you are more concerned about accuracy than you should be, explain that you are a perfectionist and want to ensure everything is 100% accurate, but you have studied and learned new ways to more effectively produce the same results in a timely manner.
- Don’t give false positives as an answer. Something like, “I’m a workaholic” seems insincere. Instead provide an answer that is related to the job, but is no longer an issue. If you had issues with attendance in the past because of your family or children, explain that in the past you had a child that was sick often and had no backup plan. Now your child is older, and you have multiple avenues of care in the case of sickness.
There is no way to cover every question that may be asked during an interview. These final tips will ensure that you are as prepared as possible and come out of your interview leaving a solid impression.
- Ask about the company and the company’s goals when the interviewer asks if you have questions.
- Be confident, but not cocky.
- Be personable, but not a joker.
- If you are new to the career, be honest about that and tell the employer that while you learned a great deal in school, you are excited to learn more over the course of your career from the company.
Interviews can be stressful, but you are entering a career field that is in desperate need of talented individuals. As long as you exude an air of confidence, and a willingness to learn, an interviewer will take notice. Remember this rule; the less you speak, the less you can mess up. Don’t keep your answers too short, but make sure that you are being specific and concise with your answers. Good luck on your interviews, with a little preparation you will come out successful from every one.