Whether you are applying to a training program or competing for a job on the market, you will no doubt have to go through an interview process. Many candidates get nervous about interviews, because they find themselves babbling or because they can’t think of an answer on the spot.
One of the best ways to conquer the fear of the interview is to anticipate in advance what you are likely to be asked. When you can predict interview questions and practice your answers, you’re much more likely to come across as prepared and articulate—precisely the qualities employers are looking for in the ideal medical assistant.
Here are some typical medical assistant interview questions for both school and the workplace to give you a start planning a stellar screening for your new career.
School Interview Questions
Once you start to think about them, the common questions that will be asked of you before matriculating to a medical assisting program make sense. Training programs want to know that you are well matched to the profession and that you are up to the task of the coursework, internship, and a job thereafter, which will reflect on the institution.
Schools want their graduates to shine in the workplace.
One of the first questions you will likely be asked is: Why do you want to be a medical assistant? Think about your answer to this carefully, as it shows if you are really a solid candidate for the profession.
Good reasons to go into medical assisting include:
- You enjoy helping people.
- You have been told you are a natural healer.
- You have a keen interest in healthcare or the science of medicine.
- You have a knack for organizing and making places run more smoothly.
- You’re looking for a career where you can mix your healing or scientific skills with office management abilities. (Don’t forget that medical assistants can work as either clinical or administrative staff or as both, depending on their preferences and what their employer needs.)
- You are thinking about a long-term career in healthcare—maybe nursing or physical therapy—and medical assisting seems like a good introduction to training and working in the field.
- Medical assisting is a growing vocation with a strong prediction for a stable future, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (It’s perfectly acceptable to show that you have researched the medical assisting field and have practical, as well as emotional, reasons for wanting to be a medical assistant.)
The next question to follow is apt to be: Do you have any medical or administrative experience? This is where, even if you have a skimpy resume, you need to frame your background in terms of what’s required in the medical assisting profession.
Maybe you’ve not had any direct medical experience, but you’re a parent who has dealt with scrapes, shots, broken bones, and the flu. Perhaps you’ve never held an office job, but you may have helped a family member run their store or worked as the volunteer coordinator for a fundraising event.
Write down all your experience, paid and unpaid, and try to relate it to typical medical assisting duties. Spend time figuring out how to highlight any transferable skills (this is good advice for other interviews too, see below).
Other typical school interview questions might be:
- How well did you perform in high school (or whatever your last level of school is)?
- What was the most difficult class you took and why?
- What was your favorite subject in class and why?
- Have you won any awards or scholarships before?
- What makes you unique from other program applicants?
- Why should the school accept you—what can you bring to the group?
An internship or externship is a way to gain exposure to real-life medical environments and see which areas of medicine attract you, either after or during your medical assisting training. Your training program will try to match you to an outside facility where you best fit it.
Questions your school or externship/internship host may ask are:
- Have you enjoyed your medical assisting program, and if so, which parts did you like best?
- What are your best and most challenging areas of study?
- How have your grades been?
- Do you prefer clinical or administrative medical assisting better, or perhaps a mix of both?
- Do you have an interest in a particular medical specialty, like pediatrics, cardiology, or OB/GYN? Why?
- What do you hope to learn during your externship/internship?
- Where do you see yourself working when you finish your training?
- Do you plan to become certified or registered?
General Job Interview Questions
Regardless of what specific type of medical assisting you may have a preference for, there are some general job interview questions you’re likely to encounter. Think about previous job interviews you may have had, as questions asked then may reappear now.
In addition to questions already listed above, you will probably be asked about topics like:
- How do you typically manage your workload so everything gets done?
- How would you handle feeling like your workload was too heavy/too light at work?
- Do you multitask well?
- Are you a “people person?”
- What’s your strategy for dealing with difficult people? (Think about patients, as well as doctors, coworkers, etc.)
- What’s the most challenging thing you’ve ever dealt with in your life? How did you approach it? What was the final result?
- Why did you leave any previous jobs?
- Why do you want to work here?
- What makes you different from other applicants?
These questions may be asked directly by the person you’ll be working with, or they may be part of an initial screening by human resources or a nurse manager.
Clinical Medical Assistant Job Interview Questions
The medical assistant career path can take many directions, so job interview questions can vary somewhat based on the employer. Regardless of whether you’re looking for a position with a general practice or a highly specialized hospital department, questions about clinical medical assisting will likely revolve around two things: your ability to deal with people (especially at their worst) and your knowledge about the medical field.
Common questions to hear when interviewing for a clinical position include:
- Can you handle high-stress environments?
- Have you ever handled a medical emergency before? What role did you play? What was the outcome? How did you feel afterward?
- Does the sight or smell of blood or other bodily fluids bother you?
- Are you certified as a medical assistant? Are you CPR certified?
- What kind of strategies do you use to communicate with people who have a hard time understanding you or are disagreeing with you?
- Why are you interested in a general practice/specialty position?
- What do you know about (area of practice where interviewing)?
- How do you ensure accuracy when recording data or transferring information?
- If you made a mistake on the job, what would you do about it?
- How is a medical assistant’s job different from a nurse’s?
- Are you comfortable working on your own, or do you prefer frequent supervision?
- Do you see yourself working as a medical assistant five years from now?
- (If applicable) Tell me about your previous healthcare work experience.
Try to give your answers in a way that is both honest and puts you in the best light with regard to the specifics of the job description. Remember, the employer is trying to solve a problem by filling the medical assistant position at their facility. You want to demonstrate that you are the best solution to their opening.
The employer also wants to know that you’re a good fit for the overall culture of the clinic. They don’t want to spend time training you only to find that you’re bored with the slow pace of the office or can’t keep up with the doctor’s breakneck speed.
Administrative Medical Assistant Job Interview Questions
Administrative medical assistants often manage a physician’s office, handling scheduling, accounting, insurance documentation, filing, and ordering supplies. Sometimes these tasks are expected in addition to clinical medical assisting.
As such, employers will want to know things like:
- Do you have experience with electronic medical records software? Are you adept at learning computer technology?
- What do you know about HIPAA?
- Have you ever managed an office before or worked as a secretary or receptionist?
- Are you comfortable greeting patients at the desk and answering phone calls?
- What would you say to an irate patient who has been kept waiting longer than they expected?
- Are able to open and close the office at the start and finish of each day?
- Did you cover filing and scheduling in your training program?
- What do you know about the insurance industry? Medicare?
Because administrative tasks for medical assistants can also involve skills like typing and using accounting software, sometimes medical assistant employment agencies perform the initial screening for jobs, as these duties are easier for them to test. If you pass the first round of interviews, you may have a second in-house interview with someone from the employer’s medical staff.
As a final note, don’t forget to bring a list of your own questions to the interview. You’ll likely be asked if you have anything you’d like to know, and being prepared shows your professionalism and interest in the job.
Your interview is your big chance to convince employers you are the best candidate for a position, so invest the time in preparation, and you’ll improve your chances for an offer and the job you’ve always desired.
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