Preparing for an Interview

Congratulations on being granted an interview for PA school. This accomplishment proves that your academic achievements, clinical experience, and personal essay have represented you effectively.

Understand that not all students are granted an interview, but rather, those students who have presented themselves effectively in the earlier components of their applications.

Why the Interview is Important

The interview is your final chance to communicate to the admissions committee five crucial elements:

  • Your understanding of the roles and responsibilities of PAs
  • Why you desire to become a PA
  • How your previous clinical and non-clinical experience has prepared you for a career as a medical clinician
  • Your awareness of the intense level of training necessary to achieve such a responsibility
  • Why you should be accepted.

Again, the admissions committee is not your adversary. On the contrary, if you have been granted an interview, you already have proven advocates on the admissions committee.

The interview is your time to confirm their understanding of your academic excellence, clinical maturity, why you want to be a PA, your understanding of the various roles PA’s play in the medical & surgical team, and your level of ability to communicate under stress. There is no doubt that the interviews will be stressful. With proper preparation, performance-impairing stress can be significantly reduced.

Why Preparation is Important

Thorough interview preparation will be evident to your interviewers and will help you greatly towards your goal of performing well and increasing your chances of program acceptance.

No matter how much preparation; however, there is always the chance of a question being asked of you that you have not prepared for. Such a question can be difficult or relatively simple, but if you did not prepare for it, an unanticipated question has the potential to throw you off course.

For example, an interviewee was asked the simple question of what was the most recent favorite movie he saw. He prepared thoroughly for his interview as far as the expected type of questions, but had not anticipated this question. He anticipated the question “What was the last movie you saw?” but not, “What was the most recent favorite movie you saw?” This interviewee was stumped. The answer-at-the-ready for what movie he last saw was in the chamber ready to be fired off, but he hadn’t memorized the simple variant to the question in his preparation and thus was only prepared to answer questions he anticipated.

Variants to interview questions you prepare for will occur at your interview. To counteract becoming stumped at an unexpected interview question, take a moment to reflect how the question being posed to you is similar to any question that you have prepared for, and think about the following to help you answer the question:

  • Who are you?
  • What are you good at?
  • What do you want to do?
  • What do you love to do?
  • Do not lie.

PA Questions You May Be Asked

Before your interview, prepare by attempting to anticipate types of questions you may be asked, rehearsing your answers and becoming comfortable with synthesizing answers to variants of questions you anticipate.

Below you will find a general list of common PA interview questions. Also create a list of questions that are specific to you, such as “Why did you transfer colleges? Why did your grades drop during a certain semester?”

  • Why do you want to be a PA?
  • How would you define a PA?
  • Why do you wish to become a PA rather than a NP, nurse, or physician?
  • How does a PA fit into the healthcare model?
  • How do you see the healthcare system changing in the next ten years, and how will it affect PAs?
  • What is managed care and how has it affected physicians and PAs?
  • What is the most important factor between a PA and his physician supervisor and why?
  • Why should we accept you?
  • If you had to be a member of the healthcare team other than a PA, what would you choose?
  • Who is the most important person on the healthcare team?
  • What is the difference between a NP and a PA?
  • Describe the day of a hypothetical surgical PA and that of a medical PA?
  • What part of becoming a PA and practicing medicine as a PA do you look forward to most, and what parts do you think will give you the most difficulty and why?
  • How has your background prepared you for the intense physical and mental training to become a PA?
  • What contributions would you make to our program?
  • Have you applied to other schools? If so, how did you come to choose those other programs?
  • What do you think are the three most important aspects in evaluating a PA program?
  • Where do you see yourself in the next five years/ten years?
  • What is a dependent practitioner, and how do you feel about practicing as one?
  • What are the most significant issues PAs currently face and will have to face in the future?
  • What was the name of the interviewers you met already today?

Sources of PA Information

For very specific PA-related questions, there is no substitute for being familiar with current PA profession developments and news and shadowing time with a PA. As an AASPA Prospective, you will receive AASPA’s newsletter "Sutureline" and AASPA’s journal, "Surgical Physician Assistant" and will have access to past issues of "Sutureline."

Other sources of PA profession developments and news are “The Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants” , current PA students and PAs in practice.

Read Interviewing Strategies