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Toni Talks about PT Today

Insights on Interviewing

Published May 17, 2011 1:24 PM by Toni Patt

The last few weeks have been a little different for us. We've been interviewing applicants for the two open positions on the rehab unit. I say this is a unique because we have more applicants than open positions. Usually we have open positions and no applicants. I participated in the peer interview for some of the applicants.

All of our interviewees were recent graduates or soon-to-be graduates. That has been the case for every applicant I can remember, which makes me wonder. Where are the PTs with experience interviewing? I can't believe in all of Houston there isn't at least one person with experience looking to change jobs. Nor can I believe there isn't at least one person with experience moving to Houston and looking for work.

My facility isn't known for its high salaries and that may be part of the problem. But according to the powers that be, no one with experience has applied. That might scare someone local away. Someone from out of state wouldn't know that.

I don't think the hospital has a big advertising budget, either. I never see employment ads for the place despite at least four openings for PTs between acute and rehab. The openings are posted on the website, which is the first place I would look if I were job hunting. I think we can assume individuals are seeing the postings.

I've also noticed a trend among our interviewees. They all pretty much have said what they think we want to hear. Obviously you expect a certain amount of that. The point of the interview is to impress us. Only one of our interviewees really sounded like she knew rehab and wanted to work there. Another kept stressing how she wants to work with neuro patients even though all her affiliations were orthopedic and her resume mentions improving manual therapy skills. Did she think someone wouldn't notice? Another said her goal was to sit for the NCS but had no idea what that entailed.

I actually would have been OK with the ortho woman had she been honest about her interest. Maybe she couldn't get a job in an outpatient clinic. Maybe she liked neuro but not as much as ortho. Had she been honest about her reasoning, she would have had a better shot. No one completely believed her explanation. We're not going to hire someone who doesn't come off as sincere and believable.

Participating as a peer reviewer isn't easy for me. I want to ask thoughtful questions, not lob softballs. I actually want to know what someone thinks about physical therapy. Yes, the what kind of work environment, how do you handle stress etc. questions must be asked. But I want to hear clinical reasoning. I want to know how an applicant would handle a tough patient. It usually falls on me to ask them when they are taking the exam and when they want to start questions.

We're in the process of deciding who will receive offers. I put my two cents in. Now the management team is meeting to make final decisions. I'm not sure why they're meeting to make decisions if they asked the department as a whole to offer recommendations and we've already done so. Wouldn't that carry the most weight? I don't know. I used to have to interview applicants by myself. It was hard to make a decision because the person was on best behavior around me. I imagine the same thing happened with our interviewees. I expect to hear in the next few days who was given an offer. I wonder if we'll agree.


I posted recently how we had over 100 applications for an entry post position. It is an overwhelming task. I envy your ability to ask questions and "dig" a little deeper. We are constrained by our HR department to only ask the same 7 questions of each interviewee. I managed to throw a clinical scenario in as one, I asked what each would do if they came across someone with all the symptoms of acute CHF (without saying CHF). The responses were disappointing indeed.

Being a PT of a certain age, I know that many of my contemporaries have left the field through either promotion to management positions, opening practices, becoming moms/dads or more frequently becoming disillusioned with the profession.

I hope you get the person you are hoping for.

Cheers, Dean

Dean Metz May 17, 2011 3:14 PM

Here in Massachusetts we're finding an awful lot of new grads applying for our two openings. Only one experienced PT has been interviewed so far.

As for the new grads interviewing, remember that this probably is their very first professional job.  And while business schools give their grads lessons on interviewing skills, I'm pretty sure this doesn't happen in most DPT programs.

I'm finding some VERY BAD interviewing habits from the DPT grads we're seeing:

* No post-interview thank you email (I expect one the same day or early the next AM)

* They arrive without copies of their resumes

* Slow follow-up to email and phone calls

* Some have "no-showed" for phone interviews

* They don't seem to have thoughtful questions to ask of the interviewers

* Slow to respond to verbal and written offers (We had one candidate we were VERY interested in, got agreement on a verbal offer but it took her a week to respond to the written offer.  We retracted the offer.)

Again, I'm sure no one has coached them on how to go through this process, but a lot of it is just common sense and common courtesy.

Good luck in your search

P.S. We prefer the new grads due to cost and the fact that we can mold them to our ways in the first 3-6 months.

David, PT - Director, Outpatient Ortho May 17, 2011 2:16 PM
Natick MA

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