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 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.
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.
Have you thought about getting a certification (if you do not already have one)?
The requirements for medical assistants vary from state to state (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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
- How to dress for your interview (our article)– Four rules to consider when choosing clothes to wear for your job interview. Every detail matters in an interview. Learn how to choose the right clothes and make a great impression.
- 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.