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How to Ace Your First Occupational Therapy Job Interview – Part 1

Want to ace your first occupational therapy job interview?

When preparing for your first occupational therapy interview, you must think of the interview as a chance to determine whether you’re the right fit for a particular organization. They’re interviewing you, and you’re interviewing them.

Today’s article will cover some sample questions you may be asked, as well as some other strategies to ensure preparedness for your interview.

Thoroughly prepare for interview questions

It’s always good to know the types of questions you might encounter during an interview. Interview questions vary widely within the OT field, so you’ll want to research your facility before heading in for the interview.

A mental health OT interview will differ significantly from one in a pediatric clinic or neuro rehab gym.

If you’re able to talk to therapists who work at similar facilities to the ones where you’ll be interviewing, that is ideal. Pick their brains to discover what qualities and skills are most valued in those settings.

Regardless of whether you have connections, though, make sure you learn everything you can about the treatment philosophy, clientele, documentation system and staff of the facility before you go in for the interview.

Much of that can be taken care of with some savvy online sleuthing!

Obviously, you can expect the typical “What are your strengths and weakness?” questions at any interview, but let’s be serious: What are the real questions that might be asked? The NGOT writers asked some new grad OTs what questions they were asked while on their first occupational therapy interviews.

1.) “Can you provide a documentation sample?”

Wow, we didn’t see that one coming!

This question was asked at a pediatric facility, and we can see why.

Pediatric facilities are notorious for requiring extensive documentation since pediatric OT funding is often provided by the state. We all know how governments require A LOT of documentation. You have two options here.

You could simply arrive with a sample of your documentation from a fieldwork case (make sure it’s HIPAA compliant!), or you could plan to write something on the spot.

Obviously, writing something on the spot will be much more impressive to the facility, since that reflects your ability to think on the fly. If you plan to do produce documentation samples during the interview, make sure to have a sample case in mind, or be prepared for a sample case.

Remember to include your SOAP format if they ask for a daily note, and if you’re writing up an evaluation, present the case to highlight the child’s baseline, goals and needs, as well as your plan for interventions.

Pay attention to your grammar and spelling. The way you write is a direct reflection of your employer’s facility/clinic, and if you can’t write a coherent sentence, you will have difficulty convincing the team to hire you.

If you have zero experience in pediatrics and they ask for documentation, just give it your best shot and tell them that you realize that you will likely need to adapt your style to their facility and that you are happy to learn how to do so if they hire you.

One of the best traits in a new hire is your willingness to learn.

Chances are, that’s why they are considering a new grad.

2.) “What types of treatment have you previously provided?”

This is your interviewer’s way to determine whether you have the experience needed to address the specific population of the facility.

The facility is ensuring that they are going to be hiring an occupational therapist with the appropriate skills to provide to their clients with the best possible care.

This is also a very easy question for which you can prepare in advance.

If you’re interviewing at an acute care hospital and you did an acute care fieldwork affiliation, make sure to mention all of the exposure you had on various floors, and include training on things like lymphedema (even if you only shadowed a therapist one day, it still counts).

If you’re interviewing for a mental health facility, make sure to mention any instances in which you have worked with that particular population.

As a new grad, you may have no experience in that area. If that is the case, your interviewer realizes that and still brought you in for an interview.

Just be honest and say, “While I have not worked with a mentally ill population, I have worked with a variety of patients during my fieldwork, and feel confident that I can adapt my treatment plans to address a variety of mental disorders. I am excited to work with a new population and would be grateful for the opportunity to learn.”

3.) “With what types of evaluations are you familiar?”

The art of occupational therapy lies primarily in our assessment skills.

We assess patients by utilizing a variety of evaluations.

Part of learning to be an awesome OT involves learning how to select the most appropriate evaluation for the client being treated.

Your interviewer wants to see that you have the critical thinking skills needed to make these decisions, and wants to know that you have experience with more than just a few types of evaluations.

If you were unlucky with fieldwork, you may not have that much experience, but you can still review your school coursework and be prepared for the interview questions, demonstrating the fact that you understand the tools in general.

Remember that it’s always important to specify whether you have used the evaluations formally or not. There are times that one facility may use a specific evaluation as a clinical screen, rather than a formal evaluation.

Many outpatient and hand therapy facilities use the Touch-Test Sensory Evaluator (a.k.a. Semmes-Weinstein Monofilaments.) Facilities will often use this as an informal screening because of the amount of time required to perform a formal evaluation.

4.) “Please provide a detailed account of each of your Level II fieldwork assignments.”

When a facility wants to know the ins and outs of each of your previous Level II fieldwork assignments, they really want to know:

  • Where you were a student and how you view your learning experience during the fieldwork
  • The type of population you were treating
  • The types of treatments used
  • The volume of patients you saw daily, and how independent you were with treatments
  • The type and amount of experience you have with patients, documentations, assessment, evaluations, and/or working on an interdisciplinary team

5.) “Where do you see yourself in the future?”

The majority of facilities want to ensure that they are hiring an occupational therapist who won’t be a flight risk.

They are specifically seeking a new grad because they think hope you will grow roots in their facility and flourish as a therapist underneath their roof. It takes time and money for a facility to train a new employee, and they want to make sure it’s worth their investment.

Make sure that you are honest with the facility. If you would love to be a director of rehab, let them know that!

If you aspire to get married and eventually work part time or per diem while raising kids, it’s fair to say that you’d like to start a family. If you have to hide your personal goals from your interviewer, it may not be the right fit anyway.

Ask questions of your own

No interviewer wants to finish grilling you with questions, then ask you if you have any questions, and be met with a blank stare.

They want to know about you, your needs, and your own treatment philosophies.

We’re sure that you’re curious about whether you’ll get documentation time. We assume that you will want to know whether you will receive mentorship.

Hopefully you will want to know how many therapists are on staff and what the support staff’s roles are. If you’re done with the interview and they’ve covered most of your basic questions, here are a few to ask.

  1. Can you describe your ideal candidate for this position?
  2. What are the growth opportunities available within your facility?
  3. How long do most of your therapists stay at this facility?
  4. What documentation system do you use, and when are therapists expected to document?
  5. Do you provide mentorship for new graduates, and if so, is it a structured program?
Don’t ask about money or vacation time during your initial interview! Save those questions for the negotiation phase, once you already have a job offer. 

Practice interviewing

Don’t forget to practice asking questions, as well as answering them.

Writing and visualization are good ways to prep for an interview, but there is no substitute for actually practicing aloud.

Grab a friend and practice interviewing each other. When it comes time to open your mouth in the interview, you’ll sound more polished and confident.

We at NGOT hope that the Part I of this series has been helpful and has begun to prepare you for your future interview! Don’t forget to check back soon for Part II!

If you’re interested in more information regarding career development, sign up for the NewGradOT newsletter for updates.

About Matthew Alpert, OTR/L

Matthew Alpert, OTR/L
Graduate of Touro College currently practicing as an Occupational therapist at C.J. Allen Upper Extremity & Hand Therapy and educating young minds as Adjunct faculty at Nassau Community College.

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