Nail Your Occupational Therapy Job Interview

Nail Your Occupational Therapy Job Interview

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No one likes job interviews. Nerves are off the charts, palms are sweaty, you suddenly feel unrehearsed regardless of how long you took to prepare, and you fear you’ll freeze under the pressure. Interviewing as an occupational therapist, you may feel confident that your skills could truly be of service to the patient’s a particular facility, but due to the diversity in the field you may feel daunted by the prospect of conveying your skillset, training and heart for the work all in 20 minutes.

Preparation is key to nailing that occupational therapy interview and landing that position. Outfits should be planned a week ahead of time, cover letters and resumes should be updated, nails should be immaculate, the list goes on. But even more than preparing yourself on the outside, preparation on the inside is a vital part of locking down that job.

Before you dare step into that office to meet with a potential employer, school yourself on some of the questions you’re likely going to have to answer.

Questions About Problem-Solving

Q: “How do you deal with a difficult patient?”

This question is probably the most common and important things that will pop up in most any healthcare-related interview. Be sure to let them know that you’re capable of patiently allowing the distressed client to express their feelings as you calmly provide feedback. A relaxed patient is a happy patient.

Q: “Describe a situation where you did not agree with management and how did you handle it?”

This question is hard because an ideal candidate would not be someone that could readily become confrontational with management directive. However, they want to know that you are able to stand up for what you know is right, but handle it in a positive way. One way would be to explain that in a situation where you felt their choice wasn’t in the best interest of the facility or a patient that you hoped their decision would be reconsidered.

Additional questions to consider:

  • “Tell me about a difficult situation and how you handled it.”
  • You can also expect them to possibly ask what to do if you get a patient that doesn’t speak English very well, how you deal with difficult family members, or about needing to make an ethical decision.

It’s best to realize that these answers are not difficult; you need to stay composed as you answer them in order to prove your ability to keep poised under pressure. 

Questions About You

Q: “What do you like to do in your free time?”

Isn’t is funny how we would assume that no one would be better than us at knowing ourselves? But, it can get super tricky when put on the spot to share about our free time or interests. It seems so simple that many people neglect preparation on it. Many people feel like they don’t have hobbies when they really do and have trouble remembering it when placed on the spot. Don’t be too honest if you spend 5 hours on Facebook or Instagram a day, but don’t be a liar and say you volunteer at soup kitchens when really you did that once 5 years ago. This question is to see what you’re like outside of your professional role and to gain some insight about your personality. Maybe you are an avid golfer, spend weekends in the garden, love hunting for antiques, or even joyfully belt out karaoke every Friday night.  Think about it ahead of time and you’ll be fine.

Q: “How would your friends describe you? How would your enemies describe you?”

This is a question that might as well be asking, “What are your good and bad qualities?” Obviously, your friends would say all your positive attributes. That ones a no-brainer! But, exposing your weaknesses and being able to spin it is an art. Maybe your enemy would say you were obsessive compulsive when in fact, you just truly have a divine eye for detail.

Additional questions to consider:

  • “Why did you go into occupational therapy?”
  • “Tell me a time where you felt most proud to be an OT practitioner.”
  • “What interests you most about this job/facility?”
  • “What’s the last book you’ve read?” or “What CD’s in your car right now?”

Questions About Them

Q: “Tell us about our hospital/facility/etc.”

Before any interview, you should do your research. Flattering them will grant you brownie points. For example, tell them you learned about them being named the #1 rehabilitation facility in the region and would be honored to join such a winning team. Or, share a personal story about a friend or family member who got top-notch treatment there if you have one. They’ll love your connection you feel with them. Just don’t lie and don’t kiss their butt too much or you will come off as insincere. There’s a fine line there.

Q: “Why should we hire you?”

This question is almost always asked in any interview regardless of the field. This question actually is the best one for answering because it grants you the opportunity to sell yourself as long as you are able to tell them you are easily adaptable to the team/culture and that you not only can perform the job, but will do it with spectacular results.

Q: “Do you have any questions for us?”

Sometimes the person conducting the interview is less prepared (or even more nervous) than the candidate. They might forget to give you the information you require to know whether you would be a good fit. You want to be sure you are well aware of a typical workday and ask them what kind of person would make their ideal candidate. Asking them about what they’re looking for is a great way to assure them that you have those attributes and skills so they are left with a positive lasting impression.

Caroline Hill is a digital marketing specialist for Track5Media, parent company to Allied Travel Careers. She has her bachelor’s of science in speech communication with a focus in public relations. In her free time she enjoys writing, spending time enjoying the great outdoors, indie music, and petting every dog she ever meets. 


If you are currently on the hunt for an OT or COTA job, learn more about the 6 steps to finding the right OT job! In Step #4 you will find interview questions related to specific practice areas

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