Practicing your responses can help you ace your next interview
A job interview is a nerve-wracking experience. You know you are being evaluated on everything you say and even what you don’t say. Saying the right thing or the wrong thing could make the difference between whether you land the job or not.
One way to help calm your nerves is to practice ahead of time. There’s no way of knowing exactly what the interviewer will ask, but if you practice with sample questions, you will become more comfortable talking about yourself and your experience. Try these sample questions next time you have an interview.
1. Tell me about yourself.
This question is tricky because you don’t want to veer off into personal matters. Keep it concise, and stick to your professional life.
Sample response: “I recently completed my medical assistant training and an externship at White Hall Pediatrics. I am looking forward to getting started in my career because I love working with children and think I could be an asset to your pediatrics practice.”
2. What experience do you have that qualifies you for the job?
This question may be easy if you have been working in your field for many years, but if you are new, it can be harder. Think about the skills and experiences you have had during your schooling and the skills that could transfer into the new job. Above all, always be honest and don’t claim that you have experience that you don’t have.
Sample response: “My experience in my externship gave me a lot of hands-on practice working with young patients. I got to check in the patients, measure their height and weight, and show them to the exam room. I also did well in all of my clinicals during my medical assistant training. I am comfortable with blood draws, injections, and EKGs.”
3. Tell me about your training program/education.
This question is especially important if you are trying to get into the workforce in a new career. Make sure that the employer knows you are trained and ready for the job.
Sample response: “My medical assistant training was at the Harris School of Business. It is an accredited program. We had access to all the necessary medical equipment in our clinical lab. The school focuses on hands-on learning, so we had a lot of lab time where we learned phlebotomy, first aid, EKGs, and vitals. In order to graduate, we had to complete an externship too. Mine was at White Hall Pediatrics. It was a great experience to see a real pediatrics office in action. I realized that I am prepared with the skills I have learned, but that nothing is ever predictable in a doctor’s office!”
4. Why do you want this job?
Be sure to have an honest reason why you would enjoy the job, and never say “for the money!”
Sample response: “During my medical assistant training, we learned about a lot of different places where medical assistants could work. For me, the chance to work with kids was the clear favorite. That’s why I am hoping to work in a pediatrics practice.”
5. Describe a negative situation in a previous job and how you resolved it.
Whenever an interviewer asks you about something negative, like “why did you leave your previous job” or “describe your worst boss,” you need to be very careful. You don’t want to come off as a complainer. It’s better to show that you are diplomatic and can find solutions to problems.
Sample response: “I used to work in the food service business, and when serving so many different people, you can often find dissatisfied customers. My supervisor showed us all how to handle complaints professionally. For example, one customer insisted that we had a certain menu item that our store didn't carry anymore. We didn’t even have the ingredients to make it. I just politely explained that we no longer made that item, and suggested some alternatives. The customer ended up leaving without purchasing anything, but by dealing with her politely, I made sure she wasn’t angry when she left.”
6. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
This question is tricky, because you don’t want to brag or to put yourself down. Try to strike a balance.
Sample response: “My biggest strength for this position is that I enjoy children and am good at making them feel at ease. My clinical skills are also strong, and I’m proud of the grades I earned in my training program. I also enjoy the administrative parts of medical assisting. I like working with computerized systems for scheduling, billing, and patient records. My weakness is that I don’t have much on-the-job experience yet. But my externship helped to build my skills, and I know I am ready for the job.”
7. Where do you see yourself in three years?
Employers want to know that you have career aspirations, but they don’t want you to be so ambitious that you leave the job 6 months after you take it.
Sample response: “If offered the job, I would plan to stay for at least three years in this position. I know I will have a lot to learn here, and could envision staying for a long time. Over time as you get to know my working style, I would hope to gain more responsibilities.”
8. Give an example where you showed leadership and initiative.
Interviewers tend to ask questions about direct experiences you have had. Think back to successes you have had in past jobs, and get ready to discuss them if the employer asks.
Sample response: “At my previous job at the restaurant, I helped train new staff. I felt I was good at this because I am good at seeing things from another person’s point of view. I remembered what it felt like to be new, and so I wanted to be there for the new people when they had questions or problems. After working there for two years, I was the go-to person for questions.”
9. How do others describe you?
This question is another way of asking about your strengths. Think back to previous jobs, and imagine how you stood in the eyes of others.
Sample response: “My previous supervisor found me to be reliable. I never missed a shift and always showed up on time. She also thought I had good customer service skills and was able to be diplomatic with difficult customers. My other co-workers would describe me as friendly and easy to work with.”
10. Give an example of how you contributed to a team/group effort.
Lots of employers want to know how well you work in a team. Be sure to have an example ready.
“During my externship I got a glimpse of what teamwork looks like in a pediatrics office. I knew I had to be there to greet the patients in order for the whole process to work from start to finish. If I got behind in calling in the patients, then the whole schedule would be thrown off. Being at the beginning of the process showed me how each person needs to fulfill their own part of the process. I also learned that we have to help others on our team. With sick children, you never can predict what’s going to happen. As a medical assistant, I know I need to help out the whole team with whatever is the most pressing.”
We hope these sample questions help you prepare for your next interview. Practicing these questions will be worth the effort! In addition, you should take the time to schedule a mock interview with your Career Services department. Or practice interviewing with a friend or family member. Job interviews may not be anybody’s favorite activity, but they can be a lot more comfortable if you take the time to practice.