Last updated on June 9th, 2020 at 07:56 am

An occupational therapist exercises with a patient, and older lady, who is learning to walk again, after an injury. They are outside, in a hospital gardenIn most cases, interviewers will try to find out two things while talking to you:

  • If you have the theoretical knowledge of occupational therapy, and are ready to handle the job from day one.
  • If you have the right attitude to work, and the right personality for this occupation.

They will choose their questions accordingly, but they will also observe the way you walk, gesticulate, shake hands, and basically conduct yourself in an interview.

All of that helps them to understand you as a person.


Job, or a mission?

Nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, teacher … these titles are not merely jobs you can have. They are something more. Anytime you speak about your work, your patients, your daily duties, and things  you try to achieve with your work, speak about them with enthusiasm and love.

Show your interviewers that you care, that you do not apply for a job only because you need money to live, or because you have graduated from the field. Positive attitude, and understanding of the meaningful purpose of your work, will take you a long way in this interview.

Use examples whenever you can

Job interview for a position of occupational therapist. Two interviewers are talking to a candidate. They look happy with her answersYou will have to answer some behavioral questions in your interview. For example:

  • Describe a situation when you were under pressure, or behind schedule with your practice. How did you react?
  • What did you do when a patient was angry, or unhappy about your therapy?

Answer the questions with situations that really happened to you. Show them (on practical examples) that you are aware of everything that can happen in this job, including both good and bad things, and ready for that–both physically and emotionally.

Of course, nobody is perfect. Some situations will catch us off guard, and sometimes we won’t handle the problems, at least not without reacting to them emotionally. Though employers are well aware of this fact, you should still try to present yourself as a strong personality in an interview…

* Must read: How to overcome interview nerves – Get rid of anxiety and deliver your very best in an interview.


Questions you may get, and a hint on how to answer each question

  • Why did you choose occupational therapy? (Talk about your passion for the field, or about your desire to help. If your childhood experience motivated you to pursue this career (for example you were a patient and you had a good experience with a therapist, or someone from your family had the job), feel free to speak about the experience.)
  • What do you think is a main goal of an occupational therapist? (To help patients to develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working is a good answer most of the time. You can say that the goal is to help them get back on track.)
  • Describe an experience with an angry patient. (Show understanding for their emotions. Tell the interviewers that you try your best to stay calm and attentive to their needs, since you understand their difficult situation and emotions they may experience while handling it.)
  • Tell us your strengths and weaknesses. (Once you talk about weaknesses, you should pick something that is not central for a job. Bad management skills, poor computer skills, etc. Or you can say that you are over-friendly to patients–some employers may consider this your strength. One way or another, stress your efforts to improve on your weaknesses.)
  • Give an example of a time you had to deal with a confidentiality issue? (You can narrate a situation when you felt a strong urge to talk about your patient, and what their experienced, since you found it very difficult and battled with it emotionally–you had to share the story with someone, explaining how you feel. But ensure the interviewers that you didn’t lose your integrity, and did not reveal the name of the patient, or any other personal details.)


the therapist helps the woman to learn to walk again, after an injury. We can see her walking on a belt.

  • What do you want to accomplish in this job? (Try to answer the question from the perspective of the patients, or the facility you’ll work for. You can say that your goal is to help as many patients as possible, or to always do your best for every injured person. This is a much better answer than saying you’d like to learn a lot, or that a professional recognition is your goal.)
  • What do you consider the toughest aspect of this job? (Perfect jobs do not exist. To enjoy the great things a career of an occupational therapist offers us, we have to handle the difficult aspects of the job. One of the most difficult things is perhaps coping with disappointment–when we do our best and still can’t help the patient to recover their strength or full range of movement. To work with heavy and overweight patients is another tough task, this time physically.)
  • What is the most challenging thing you’ve ever had to do?
  • If a patient accused you of a bad service, what would you do? (Once again, you should show your understanding for the feelings the patients are going through. Say that you would try to understand their perspective, and improve your service–if possible.)
  • Would you mind working overtime? (Overtime work is not typical in a job of an occupational therapist. Still, you can say that you won’t watch your wristwatch all time. If it takes a bit longer to finish the exercises with the patients, you’ll work overtime.)
  • How would describe an ideal colleague?
  • Tell me your most favorite and less favorite therapy. (Regardless of your choice, you should ensure the interviewers that you understand the importance of various therapy methods, and always choose the one to apply according to the condition and needs of the patient, and not according to your personal preferences.
  • Here is a medical record of a patient. Look at it and suggest how we should proceed with then therapy. (Suggest additional examination, if you consider it appropriate. Do not bite off more than you can chew–if you are not sure, say that you’d need to see the patient before suggesting the therapy. And if you are sure, try to outline the steps, including the estimated time of recovery.)
  • Do you have experience with [name of the therapy method]? (Add numbers and examples to your answer. To say that you’ve worked with this or that method in 2015, and applied it on a daily basis, is a much better answer than just saying that you know the method, or that you have experience with it.)
  • Why should we hire you, and not one of the other applicants?


Special Tip: Download a full list of questions in a one-page .PDF document, and practice your answers anytime later:

interview questions for occupational therapist, PDF

Conclusion and next steps

good atmosphere in the room for interviews. Both the applicant and the HR manager smileInterview for an occupational therapist position does not belong to  difficult job interviews.

The main reason is that you won’t compete with many other people for the job, unless you apply at a prestigious clinic, or a nursing home that pays exceptionally well.

Still, you have to demonstrate your readiness for the job, right attitude to work, and your motivation to do the most for the patients.

Practice your interview answers, and read the following articles to prepare for your interview: 

  • How to dress for an interview – Choose the right clothes and make a long-lasting impression on the hiring managers.
  • Salary negotiation tips – Learn how to negotiate the best possible conditions for your new employment, while still interviewing for the job.
  • Behavioral interview questions – You can definitely face some tough behavioral questions in your occupational therapist interview. Learn how to answer them.

Matthew Chulaw
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