Numerous clinics and private hospitals on both sides of the Atlantic ocean benefit from the work of medical assistants. This career offers a unique combination of clinical and administrative duties, and there’s no wonder it has become popular in recent years. The fact that you can get your certification in a few months (sometimes in less than six months), that you can even do most of your classes online, and basically you can be ready to start the job one year after you decided to pursue the career, just adds to the popularity.
But how to succeed in an interview? And what questions will they ask you? You will have to handle some behavioral and some technical (job-related) questions. Our short selection should help you to understand what to expect in your interview, and how to prepare for the meeting on a big day.
Why do you want to become a medical assistant?
You should focus on your desire to help people, and on skills and abilities that make from you a good candidate for this job. Think communication skills, understanding for the position and your role, ability to handle all administrative (and clinical) duties, etc.
Your goal is to convince us that you really want the job, that you do not apply just because you need to earn money. Of course, we go to job because we get paid for doing our work (that’s the way our society and economy functions in the modern times), but you should have also some other reasons (or at least one reason). People who go to work only to earn money are rarely happy in their life. And they do not do a good job anyway… Find a purpose, and talk about it in your interview.
I love to help people, and I always wanted to work in healthcare. But I was not gifted to become a physician, or a surgeon, as I originally wanted. And I realized that I prefer administrative work to clinical duties. Therefore I eventually decided for a career of medical assistant, which allows me to combine the two roles in one job. I cannot wait to start.
What do you consider the main duty of a medical assistant?
You can approach this question from various angles. You can print the job description, look at the duties and responsibilities, and list the most principal of them in your answer. Alternatively you can summarize things to a single sentence (sometimes short answers work better in an interview), saying that the main duty of a medical assistant is to help the practitioners with all administrative and clinical tasks.
If you like to experiment, however, you can try to turn your attention to the patient. You can say that the main duty of a medical assistant is to ensure that the patient feels welcome, respected, and safe in the ordination, and that they suffer as little as possible during the examinations.
Medical assistant is the first person patients meet. They can help them to get rid of stress, to feel better in the ordination. I want to help to build a good reputation of your practice, every single day, with pleasant, friendly, humble and honest behavior to all patients. If I can accomplish this as a medical assistant, I would be proud of my job. And exactly this I consider my main duty.
Make sure to check also: Medical assistant interview – Tell me about yourself.
Have you thought about getting a certification (if you do not already have one)?
The requirements for medical assistants vary from state to state (and country to country), and you do not necessarily need a certification to start this job. But it is better to have one, as it not only prepares you for the role, but also shows that you are serious about your career choice (you paid money for the course, you devoted time to get your certification). Tell your interviewers that you will get a certification as soon as you can afford to pay for the classes, or give them a clear reason why you can not afford it at the moment.
To be honest, a certification (or even a diploma) has never made a great employee of anyone. It is your attitude that matters, your motivation, and your willingness to learn. But we live in an era of diplomas, degrees and certifications, and you should try to convince us that you plan to get one.
I have not got my certification yet. To be honest, I wanted to do it, but I simply do not have resources to start. My plan is to get a job of medical assistant and enroll in the online MA program afterwards. I believe that with my motivation and attitude to work, I can still become a top notch administrative medical assistant. After all, as you for sure know from your own practice, certification or diplomas do not make a great employee from anyone. Other things matter more.
Special Tip: To know how to answer a question is one thing, to come up with a good and original one in your interview another. If you feel anxious, or do not know what you’d say in your interview, check my eBook, the Medical Assistant Interview Guide. Updated in 2019, and includes everything you need to know to ace your interview easily. Thank you!
Why are you applying for a job at our clinic?
You probably do not care much about the place of work, about the clinic you will work for. It is just a question of a good location, and a decent salary offer. Nevertheless, you should try to convince the interviewers that you want to work for them, that you have some special reason.
Visit the website of the clinic, learn something about their vision and goals, the results they have achieved, the medical equipment, etc. Try to praise them for something, find a reason why it makes sense to work for them, and not for one of their competitors.
You can also focus on a positive experience with their services (your own experience, or experience of someone you know, or perhaps even don’t know), a recommendation you got from the medical personnel you know, or their good reputation in the local community.
I just like your place, the way you treat people here. My father was hospitalized here for a week, and he said it was the best experience ever he had in a hospital. What’s more, the way you run this place and present it to the public resonates with me strongly. On the top of that, the clinic is not far from my apartment, and working here I won’t find it difficult commuting to work. * For 7 sample answers check: Why do you want to to work here as a medical assistant?
How would you deal with an angry patient?
Patients are more often scared, not angry. But you will experience the entire spectrum of emotions in your new job, and you should show us that you are ready for this experience. You can say that you would listen to the patient carefully, try to use the experience from the past, or consult your colleagues, basically do anything to calm the patient down.
You can also emphasize that you count with meeting angry patients, that you do not idealize the job, and that a negative (or offensive) behavior of someone won’t affect you in your work. Show us that you are ready to deal with it, and move on…
First of all, I try my best to maintain good relationship with the patients. I try to understand their individuality and approach everyone in a most proper way for them. However, if someone accused me of a bad service, or became angry, I would simply apologize and continue doing my job the best I could. I understand that people are nervous, or scared, when visiting a medical professional. They may experience a variety of unpleasant emotions, which is completely natural. It is my goal to help them calm down and feel secure, but I understand it won’t work with everyone, and some people will be angry. It is a part of the job, something we simply have to count with.
What do you see yourself in five years from now?
Five years. That is a lot of time. We can be alive, we can be dead. We can be leading the clinic, and we can be sleeping on the street. Who knows what will happen in five years from now?
In this interview, however, you should simply say that you will be happy to have the same job. Position of a medical assistant does not offer many career growth options. Show us that you are aware of the fact, that you enjoy your job, that we can count on you in a long run. Alternatively you can speak about personal goals, such as starting a family, earning a degree, living in a new house, improving your lifestyle, etc.
My goal is to be a responsible and skilled medical assistant in five years time. I want to be proud of a good job I do on a daily basis.Not really dreaming about anything else, such as some promotion etc. I know that if I do a good job here, and deliver day in day out, good things will come in return to my life…
Describe a time when you felt pressure in your job.
The goal is to show us that you do not panic, that you can handle a heavy workload. The pressure you will experience in your job depends greatly on the place of work.
Some private clinics have a very relaxed working environment, with all appointments strictly scheduled. You will have plenty of time to drink a cup of coffee, or smoke a cigarette outside, while working for one of these institutions.
Working for a public institution, however, or for an individual health practitioner, can often result in a different picture in your workplace. Full waiting rooms, working overtime, pressure to work fast, etc. Tell us that your motivation is strong, that you won’t be discouraged with a heavy workload, that you can handle the pressure, that you know it belongs to the job. You should do all of this while narrating a situation from your previous job. And if you apply for your very first position, tell us what you would do to handle the pressure.
My last job in a retail store was very fast-paced. We were understaffed, and I had my hands full from morning to evening, often not knowing what to do first. However, I tried to stay calm, focus on one task at a time, and make sure that the customers do not wait longer than necessary. This experience showed me that I can handle the pressure at work, and I am not afraid of failing to do so as a medical assistant.
Describe the biggest mistake you made in your last job
Mistakes belong to every job, even if someone’s health is at stake. It’s impossible to live, and to do our job, without ever making a mistake. Interviewers are aware of this fact. They simply try to find out if you can admit making a mistake, if you look at it responsibly, and if you learned a lesson from the mistakes you made in the past (either in your job, or in your personal life). Everyone makes mistakes, but a great employee will learn from their mistake, and they will not repeat it again.
You shouldn’t say that you do not remember any mistakes. Even if you made only small mistakes, pick one of them for your interview answer. Remember that your attitude matters the most for us.
Once I completed a wrong insurance form. Then we had problems with getting paid from the insurance company. I made the manager angry on the given day, but I learned from it and never repeated the same mistake again. I think mistakes belong to life, and even the best of us cannot completely avoid them. The key is to learn from every experience and avoid making the same mistakes again and again…
Special Tip: Download the full list of questions in a one-page long .PDF document, print it and practice your answers to the questions:
Continue your interview preparation with the following resources
- Medical Assistant Interview Guide (external resource)- An excellent eBook from Anita Stosur, author of the article, in which you will find multiple great answers to each difficult interview question.
- Acmc.edu (external resource)- An interesting selection of questions from the American College for medical careers. They also give some decent interview tips, and reading their content will definitely help you to prepare for the interview.
- Medical assistant training from PIMA (external resource)- Pima Medical Institute’s renowned instructors are both academically and professionally qualified offering years of relevant, hands-on experience to share with students, creating real-world scenarios during your courses. One of the best course out there, have a look at it if you haven’t got your certification yet.
- Medical assistant interview – Why should we hire you?
- Body language in an interview (our article)– What do your gestures and movements say about you? Can we control our non-verbal communication?
- Follow-up letter after the interview (our article)– Advice on how to write a good letter (or email), with sample letters attached. Understand the most important sections on your letter, and make a final push towards a coveted job contract.