How to Totally Crush Your Next NP or PA Job Interview

The other evening, my husband and I were relaxing on the couch with our laptops. I leaned over to see what he was working on and noticed he was scrolling through resumes, quickly deleting most from his list of prospective employees.  I was amazed at the speed by which he was eliminating candidates and asked if there was a method to his madness.

“Well”, he responded, “first I go through and delete everyone who doesn’t have a Gmail e-mail address”.  I bet these job candidates have no idea they are being screened on such a small detail.  But, when applying for jobs small details have big implications.  They have the potential to make or break your employment offer so paying attention to detail is a must.  In my husband’s case, his business is technological so he weeds out candidates by identifying those with antiquated e-mail addresses, labeling them an automatic “No”.  Sorry AOL…

If you are applying for a nurse practitioner or physician assistant position, there are a few things you can do to make yourself stand out above other NPs and PAs, no matter your level of experience.  Here are a few tips so you can totally crush your next job interview.

1. Get Your Resume in Gear…Including Your E-Mail Address

Your resume may be the first thing an employer sees when considering you for a nurse practitioner or physician assistant position.  You absolutely can not cut corners when putting together your resume.  Make sure it is succinct, ideally one page, no more than two, and easy to read.  Double and triple check your resume for typos, grammatical errors and other mistakes.  Keep your resume tailored to the position to which you are applying.  You may still take pride in your high school sports accolades, but sorry, the time for flaunting your captain of the varsity baseball team status has passed.  Avoid personalizing your resume too much, it needs to look professional.  Save fun fonts, colors and formatting for art projects instead making your resume look polished.  Plain is not a bad thing here.

If your e-mail address is something along the lines of or even, create a new account for your job search.  Use your name, as closely as possible, as your e-mail address.  Create your new account in an updated e-mail server like Gmail.  Using e-mail addresses through sites like AOL, Hotmail and Comcast makes you seem like you can’t keep up technologically.

2. Dress to Impress

Working in healthcare, we as nurse practitioners and physician assistants we can be pretty casual (because of situations like this).  A regular scrub-wearer myself, I dread putting on pants with a waistline…and so do my love handles.  Regardless of your personal style and preference, you should wear a suit for your job interview.  Even if the clinic to which you are applying has a casual atmosphere, wearing a suit conveys you are serious about the job.  It gives off a professional appearance presenting you as a competent, put together individual.  Your outfit is the first thing an employer will notice when you walk in for an interview so make it count.

3. Anticipate the Questions Your Interviewer Will Ask

Having done a few news segments over the past few weeks, I can tell you that anticipating the questions your interviewer will ask and practicing your responses is crucial in coming across eloquently in your job interview.  Write down a list of questions you think your future employer might be interested to know, for example “Why did you leave your last job?”.  Then, practice your answers.  Writing your responses down in order to study them may help you practice more efficiently.  Sit in front of the mirror and work on your interview responses.  This helps with your posture, facial expressions and confidence turning you into an interview expert.

4. Address Your Application Weaknesses

Whether we admit it or not, most of us have professional weaknesses.  Some of us even have a few red flags that might give prospective employers pause when it comes to our resumes.  If you are applying for your first nurse practitioner or physician assistant position, for example, your lack of experience is certainly a negative for employers.  If you left a job after only a few months, employers may question your lack of commitment or value as an employee.

Be up front in interviews about areas that may give prospective employers pause and put a positive but professional spin on any issues you think they may have with your resume.  For example, if this is your first job out of your NP or PA program say something along the lines of “I understand you may be hesitant to hire a new graduate.  I realize without any prior NP or PA experience I still have a lot of learning to do, but I am a hard worker, a fast learner and I will make up for my inexperience quickly.  I am happy to provide professional references speaking to these qualities”.  By speaking to your weaknesses up front, you address questions or concerns employers may have but might not have asked about in your interview.

5. Ask Your Own Questions

In any interview, it’s important to ask a prospective employer a few of your own questions.  Not only does this indicate interest in the position on your part, it also help you clear up any questions you may have.  Ask broader questions in the first interview, then get down to details once you are closer to receiving or have received a job offer.  You don’t want to ask questions like “Can I leave work at 4pm instead of 5pm on Wednesdays because I have childcare constraints that day” in your first interview.  This will make you seem picky and potentially unreliable to an employer.  Instead, ask questions that give you an idea of the clinic or hospital’s culture, values and systems.  Ask questions like “What are the greatest challenges you are currently facing”.  These kinds of questions help you determine if you will succeed in the position should you be offered the job.  Create a list of two or three questions you know you want to ask prior to the interview.  Just remember, you are not the inteviewer so keep the inquiry to just a few quality questions.

6. Don’t Accept an Offer On the Spot

I personally committed this error when accepting my first job out of my nurse practitioner program;  Even if you know you want a job, take a post-interview breather.  Ask your employer if you can think about their offer overnight, or better for a few days.  This gives you time to evaluate the offer and ask any further, more detailed questions you might have.  If you have concerns about a particular clinic or hospital, asking to job shadow another NP or PA woh works for this employer for a few hours is a good idea.  This gives you the chance to get the inside scoop on how the workplace operates.  Don’t get involved in clinic gossip, but rather be a listener.  Asking the NP or PA who hosts you a few questions about their expereinces may also help you guide your contract negotiation.

7. Be Confident…or at least Fake It 

There’s nothing worse than talking to someone with a mousey, nervous voice and hunched shoulders.  The fake it until you make it concept is OK in a job interview.  Throw your shoulders back, sit up straight and speak with authority.  You are qulified for this job and you need to convince your interviewer of the same.  Watch this TED talk for some inspiration, freshen up your resume, hit up the mall for a more professional wardrobe and start rehearsong your responses.

Have you landed a job recently?  Which interview tactics do you think helped the most?


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