The Most Common Physician Assistant Interview Questions

June 4, 2024
Congratulations, you’ve landed a PA job interview! It’s exciting, but you may also find yourself wondering what to expect during it. Whether you’re applying for your first PA job out of school, transitioning specialties, or moving locations in your same specialty, there are some predictable questions you can expect. By reviewing them ahead of time, you can really set yourself up for success, crush the interview, and land that dream job!
Here are the physician assistant interview questions you need to be ready for. 

1. Tell me about yourself. 

Among all the possible physician assistant interview questions, I can almost guarantee you’ll hear this question or some close variation of it. So ensure you’re prepared with a well-crafted answer!

The best way to do this is to come up with a 60-second spiel that’s targeted to the position you’re applying for. While a majority of this should be about your education, job-related experience, and intentions with this position, I highly recommend adding a few nonclinical blurbs about yourself. Certainly highlight yourself as a clinician, but remember that you’re likely speaking to future coworkers and it’s important to add a bit of personality to the interview process.

2. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Most of the time, when you accept a position, you have an idea about how long you would stay there. Is this a “foot in the door” experience, or is this job the end-game for you?

Unsurprisingly, most organizations want someone who is in this for the long haul. And while life can be unpredictable, expressing your desire to grow with a company when asked this question will go a long way. This is especially true if you’re a new graduate, because an organization knows they’ll be investing time and resources into your training.

My advice is to use this question as a way to tell them you’re looking to grow in this position and hope to still be there after five years. Oftentimes, this could be a good segway to discuss leadership and growth opportunities within the organization. You can also throw in a professional goal related to the position. For example, when I was applying to my current position in cardiothoracic surgery, I said one of the things I saw myself doing in five years was excelling in endovascular harvesting for bypass surgery. 

This question is a great opportunity to show you’re serious about the position and have done your research on what it entails, and can be very useful for someone who may be switching PA specialties or just starting out as a practicing provider.

3. How do you manage a busy workload?

No matter where you are in your career, you’ve definitely been busy. This question is looking to ensure that you not only have experience with the stress of a busy work environment, but also that you’re equipped to thrive in that setting if necessary.

For those transitioning positions, think back to a day you were absolutely swamped. What tips or tricks did you apply to get through the day? Did you assist in delegating tasks to your team? Maybe you stayed late to ensure all the work was done? Did you chart review the day before to ensure preparedness on an impending busy day?

As a new graduate, you’re just finishing some of the busiest months of your life! From 40 hours per week during clinical rotations (or maybe even more), to studying for the PANCE throughout the evening, time management has been crucial. You should definitely be able to pull from experience when it comes to managing a busy workload.

If you have prior work experience, I would advise that you add examples from that as well. While healthcare-related experience is likely preferred, I remember bringing up waitressing on my first physician assistant job interview. 

This is definitely specific to you, but the key here is to showcase your ability to work hard and get the job done. Managing a busy workload is crucial because no matter where you work, you’ll likely have some busy days! Hard work under stress is a universal subject, therefore any experience you have to show from it is worth sharing. Employers want to know they can rely on you to handle that situation.

4. Describe a time when you disagreed about patient management. How did you handle this?

This question can be tricky, especially if this would be your first PA job. The good news is they have already seen your resume by the time you got to this point. Meaning, for the most part, they know your experience (or lack thereof).

If they’re asking you this question as a new graduate, that means they expect you to come up with something. Likely, these questions are a part of a standard template asked of everyone, regardless of prior experience.

If you’re an experienced provider, you’ll likely have an example of this, whether you disagreed with a colleague or supervising physician, or even if the example is a situation where a nurse disagreed with your patient management. The key here is to showcase how you respectfully worked to overcome the disagreement and act in the best interest of the patient.

As a new graduate, however, you may have less experience to pull from. I remember getting asked this when interviewing for my first job, and it definitely took me off guard. The experience you can discuss here will either be from your patient care experience prior to PA school or, more relevantly, from your clinical rotations.

Think back. Was there ever a time you suggested something, such as an additional lab test or differential diagnosis, to your preceptor that perhaps they didn’t think of? How did you approach the topic and make the suggestion? This is what they want to know when they ask this question. I would definitely come prepared with an example, as based on my experience it’s hard to think of one on the fly!

5. Last but not least: the dreaded personal strengths and weaknesses question. 

A lot of people feel stumped by the idea of expressing strengths and weaknesses. Strengths are one thing—many of you may already have them on your resume. But choosing a true weakness without poorly representing yourself can be a challenge.

My best advice is to really reflect on a professional weakness, and preferably one you have already been learning to correct. That way, when explaining your answer, you can state what you have been doing to overcome your weakness to this point. A few examples to consider include lack of ability to delegate tasks, or taking constructive criticism personally.

The most important thing here is honesty. Don’t lie about a weakness just because it sounds good. Always be sure to have a weakness on hand, as it can be hard to come up with one if you’re unprepared. Never deny having a weakness, because that’s unrealistic!

Final Thoughts on Physician Assistant Interview Questions 

You deserve the job of your dreams, and coming in with good answers to these five physician assistant interview questions will help you achieve just that. Best of luck, and be sure to reach out if you have questions!

Got the job and looking for help negotiating your contract? Check out our other post, How to Negotiate Your Contract as a Physician Assistant!

Rosh Review is the leading Qbank provider for PA programs across the United States. Whether you’re a pre-PA student or PA-C, Rosh Review has something for you along your PA journey. Start a free trial today!

By Olivia Graham, PA-C

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