We are all familiar with the standard interview questions, most of which lack creativity and do not require unique answers. Many candidates have pre-planned answers to these cookie cutter questions to ensure that they are saying what you want to hear. These uninspired interview tactics may be acceptable for employees and employers in certain industries with many roles considered desk jobs. However, the healthcare industry requires constant patient interaction and a skilled clinical background for a successful working relationship.
These necessary skills make it even more important to hire an occupational therapist who is a good fit for your facility, the rehab department, and the healthcare professionals you already employ. Many questions are geared more toward what it’s like working at your facility. These answers will give valuable insight into how this occupational therapist may get along in this role. But you may be wondering, “What are the right questions to ask an occupational therapist during a job interview?”
What types of treatments are you most comfortable doing?
This question will give you as an employer an idea of how much this OT knows about the job they're interviewing for. It will tell you how much experience this therapist has completing treatments currently used at your facility. Furthermore, it also indicates how much training this therapist would need. You may encounter some candidates who are interviewing for a position at an orthopedic clinic but only have ten years of experience in school-based occupational therapy.
While this work experience may not appear relevant to your clinic, the above question will provide the answers you need. Perhaps this therapist will inform you that she has, in fact, exclusively treated orthopedic and musculoskeletal diagnoses in a school with no orthopedic clinics nearby. This means most of her experience is relevant and helpful toward the job she is interviewing for.
Conversely, you may interview an occupational therapist who has extensive orthopedic experience on her resume. You might learn that they haven't performed any of the treatments offered at your particular orthopedic clinic. In particular, this question also helps get a more direct answer from your candidate. A vague question about their experience may spur a long-winded answer with little concrete information!
Are you familiar with using [equipment at your facility]?
Use of medical equipment such as ultrasound machines, electrical stimulation units, Hoyer lifts, sit to stand lifts, and more is common in settings such as skilled nursing facilities and outpatient clinics. It helps shed light into this occupational therapist’s comfort and skill level—do they at least have a working knowledge of how to use such equipment? Not to say that an occupational therapist can’t be trained on the use of such tools. But, a basic knowledge of settings associated with such equipment will start the job off smoothly. It is to be expected that most therapists will be familiar with varying brands of equipment, which have some differences. Yet, knowing one ultrasound machine gives a therapist the knowledge they need to use most other ultrasound machines and so on.
Similarly to the previous interview question, the answers also give you a preview as to how much training this occupational therapist may need. This knowledge will help you anticipate whether this therapist will be able to hit the ground running or will require more hands-on supervision before fully entering the role.
Do you have any specific clinical experience that makes you a good fit for this role?
Often, you can easily answer such a question by simply looking at the candidate’s resume. But this interview question works best when it specifically asks about experiences that may not be on a candidate’s resume. By encouraging a candidate to discuss their previous role, you are able to glean an idea of their past. This includes roles they have naturally assumed, roles they may have accidentally fallen into, and the roles they did not have a personal preference for.
If your candidate has experience with leadership-oriented roles, they're likely a good fit for those roles. You can also determine where this candidate may fit in at your company and whether they'll be able to handle the requirements of this job.
What communication styles do you use with patients?
If you are an employer and an OT, you may think of Renee Taylor’s interpersonal modes when hearing this question.1 For those of you who are not familiar with Taylor’s work, the interpersonal modes define how therapists interact with patients. Some of these modes are modified to engage certain types of patients; other modes are primarily used by certain therapists due to their personality types. The modes are encouraging, empathizing, problem-solving, collaborating, and instructing, which are frequently used in various combinations in most clinical settings.
If a therapist is readily able to identify which modes work for their treatment and which modes they are less familiar with, this will not only speak to their personality but also how they work with patients. Some therapists or employers may be unfamiliar with the work of Renee Taylor. However, a candidate's view on their own personality will provide an employer with valuable insight into the candidate's working style.
The research regarding these interpersonal modes is not to say one is preferred over another, as each mode provides unique and patient-centered care. However, certain modes are again indicative of a candidate’s personality and style of working. This is valuable information to know as it also points toward whether or not this candidate will fit in well with a team of therapists using their own modes of interacting with patients.
How these questions create a more comprehensive interview
Questions such as these also prove useful as lead-ins to other standard questions. For example, a common interview question across many industries is: “How do you deal with difficult people in the workplace?” The answer to this question often points toward how your candidate deals with difficult co-workers and difficult patients alike. Such questions are also able to be expanded upon to speak about treatment methods, skills, or educational background(s) which make this candidate unique.
The more personalized your interview questions are to your particular field, the better the answers your candidate will provide. Once you have all the appropriate answers and information, you will be able to make an informed decision regarding whether this candidate is good for the job.
- Taylor, R. R., Lee, S. W., & Kielhofner, G. (2011). Practitioners’ Use of Interpersonal Modes within the Therapeutic Relationship: Results from a Nationwide Study. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health, 31(1), 6–14. https://doi.org/10.3928/15394492-20100521-02