The interview is the last milestone you reach before acceptance.
It's the final opportunity to showcase your best qualities and leave a strong impression on faculty members.
With so much hard work leading up to the interview, we all want to be able to put our best face forward and be well-equipped with the tools we need to leave a positive impression.
In case you missed my last post, I went into depth about my strategy for interview preparation, and today, I am breaking down the most important things to know going into the interview itself.
Interview Day Mindset
Your mindset going into an interview can either be a tremendous asset or a tremendous detriment depending on your thought processes.
Feeling doubtful and anxious before an interview is typical but knowing how to channel your energy into a positive perspective will make the entire process more enjoyable and allow you to be present and focused during interviews.
Confidence is the key player in the interview-day mindset, although getting there can be challenging. In speaking with several students and PAs, the consensus about interviews is that it is less about what you say and more about how you say it.
Of course, you want to have intelligible answers that demonstrate compassion, the ability to work with others, and ethical thought processes, but as a future PA, interviewers are seeking individuals who can confidently present themselves in a professional manner while connecting with others.
That being said, appearing confident and comfortable in an interview is far easier said than done.
To begin facilitating a confident mindset, remember that even receiving an interview is something to be proud of as the school recognizes your efforts as someone who could be accepted.
Another great tactic is writing down the reasons why you would be a good fit for the program and the qualities you possess that will make you an exceptional PA.
It is easy to fall into imposter syndrome during the application cycle and wonder why they would pick you over the thousands of other applicants, but reaffirming your strengths will revive your belief that you deserve acceptance.
Although it is somewhat cliche and slightly awkward, Amy Cuddy’s idea of the “power pose” was shockingly helpful. This strategy was recommended to me by a PA I did a mock interview with, and I found it to be an easy way to bolster my confidence.
Your body language is highly integrated into how you perceive yourself, so whether you’re online or in-person, maintaining confident body language will reinforce those feelings to yourself as well as the interviewer(s).
Another tactic I found helpful is changing how you perceive the interview.
My biggest change was that I started to think of the interview as a conversation rather than an interrogation.
Historically, I struggled under pressure, and by creating an illusion of an interview being insurmountable pressure, I was mentally crumbling before I even started speaking. Instead, I thought of it as the staff wanting to get to know me and letting me get to know them before we agree to be inseparable for several years.
When you frame your mindset like this, it’s slightly comparable to dating; PA school is like a relationship, and you should probably meet your partner before you agree to several years of your life together. Using this method, I found it less stressful going in and easier to be personable during the interview.
- It is less about what you say and more about how you say it.
- Change how you perceive the interview.
Interviewers are People Too
I would not have enough fingers to count the number of times people told me “Just be yourself” as interview advice.
Although I support this dogma, it can be hard to know what version of “yourself” to bring when charting such new territory, especially when you feel heightened pressure.
We all act differently around our bosses than our friends or grandparents, but we’re still able to hold conversations and connect with one another, just in different ways. Using this concept, I tried to view my interviewers as people rather than the ultimate deciders of my professional fate.
I once had an admissions committee member tell me, that despite what we may think "The best interviews do not happen when the interviewee speaks the most."
Although we may all inherently enjoy speaking about ourselves and want to provide as many “selling points” as possible, think about what it would be like to interview someone who did not let you get a word in. Would you get a warm, fuzzy “I want to help them achieve their goals” feeling? Probably not.
Remember, interviewers are people, and people like to be talked to, not at.
As the interview is wrapping up, it is almost guaranteed that you will be asked if you have any questions, which is a great time to connect with your interviewer. My tactic was always to ask them about themselves. This turns rounds of questions into a conversation and allows you to get to know one another on a more personal level.
Questions like these could include asking them what they teach, what field of medicine they’re in, why they like teaching or even their favorite things to do in the area.
From there, you can let the conversation flow and make an effort to get to know them as people. You would be surprised how quickly faculty members open up if given the opportunity and how much you can learn about them in such a short amount of time.
In practice, it is much more difficult to be intimidated (and appear intimidated) when you know you’re talking to a mom, dad, avid skier, lover of rock music, or someone who volunteers at a vaccine clinic.
Additionally, being personable is invaluable as a PA, and demonstrating ease in facilitating personal connection is certainly a skill to reinforce during the interview. Of course, time is limited, and you want to be sure to answer the questions but take advantage of opportunities to establish common ground with your interviewer.
- View your interviewers as people rather than the ultimate deciders of your professional fate.
- Remember that interviewers are people who like to be talked to, not at. The best interviews do not happen when the interviewee speaks the most.
- As the interview is wrapping up, you will likely be asked if you have any questions. This is a great time to connect with your interviewer and ask them about themselves.
Brush up on your research
Prior to the interview, refresh your knowledge of what initially drew you to apply to that school in the first place.
You want to know what you’re heading into and be able to answer any school-specific questions with ease. By being well-versed in the program, you can tailor your responses to the school’s attributes and show the interviewers that you have taken the time to learn about the program.
The program's website is the obvious resource for any information you may need that could come up in an interview. Dedicate time to vetting their resources and learn as much as possible about what it would be like to be a student there.
Key facts you want to know about a PA program on interview day:
- Mission statement
- PANCE pass rate
- Accreditation (thoroughly investigate this. All records are available on the ARC-PA website, and you can see the program's accreditation history, as well as if their accreditation has been revoked.)
- Class size
- Amenities such as a cadaver lab, simulation center, on-campus study spaces, classroom layout, etc.
- Curriculum (Are there classes that stick out to you as unique or of interest? Is there clinical experience during the didactic year? What does the master's project look like? etc.)
- Extracurricular requirements/ activities (Volunteer hours, student societies, mentor programs)
- Community involvement
- MS PA vs. MPAS (it is important to know what kind of degree you will receive)
The night before the interview, I liked to review my notes about the program and try to get into the mindset of being a student there.
- Thoroughly study the PA program before your interview! Make it your goal to be a program "expert" when you walk in on interview day.
Interacting with other interviewees
Whether you are told so or not, most schools are gauging how you interact with your peers in some capacity.
Although this is more difficult with an online format unless you’re involved in a group activity, in-person interviews are a good chance for programs to put an amalgamation of students in a room and see how you interact with one another.
Prior to arrival, you must shed any competitive mentality. The people you are about to meet are not your competitors, they are your potential future classmates.
I completely resonate with anyone who finds this difficult. It can be hard to meet so many exceptional candidates and wonder how you match up, but bringing your confidence to a level of “I belong here” will only improve your interview skills and diminish your stress levels.
Even if you’re amongst a sea of strangers, make an effort to talk to the other applicants and get to know them. During my interviews, I saw a lot of the same faces, so it was fun to reconnect and support each other through the process. I even met a few people from my undergrad university who I hadn’t known before but coincidentally had a few interviews together and will be classmates in a few months.
The best part about interviews is that everyone else is in the same position, they have to answer all the same difficult interview questions, and it is a great bonding experience to get to know people who all have the same goal.
You never know who your future classmates will be, so get to know those around you and enjoy the camaraderie.
- Shed any competitive mentality. The people you meet on interview day are not your competitors, they are your potential future classmates. Be friendly, get to know them, and learn about them.
Being well-prepared, calm, and confident are key ingredients to nailing your PA school interview. By following the tips provided in this blog post, you can help ensure that you put your best foot forward on interview day. So take a deep breath, relax, and remember that you’ve got this!
View all posts in this series
- My PA School Interview: The Journey of a Lifetime
- The Top 46 Physician Assistant Applicant Interview Questions
- Use this Interview Hack to Get The Physician Assistant Job of Your Dreams!
- The Physician Assistant Job or PA School Interview – Email Etiquette
- The Physician Assistant Interview: Thank You and Follow-up (With Sample)
- A Look Inside Two PA School Interviews
- 5 Things I’ve Learned Going Into My Fourth Physician Assistant Application Cycle
- 300 PA School Interview Questions You Should Be Ready to Answer
- PA School Mock Interviews: Prepare with a Live, Recorded Video Interview
- Mock Physician Assistant School Interview With Taylor Hill Pre-PA
- Mock PA School Interview With Pre-PA Lily Boyle
- The Interview That Got This Pre-PA Into 5 PA Schools
- 101 PA School Applicants Answer: What’s Your Greatest Strength?
- Mastering Your PA School Interview: Tone Matters
- The Worst PA School Interview Question Ever!
- Why Choose PA Over NP? Here’s the Perfect Answer
- Don’t Make This Critical PA School Interview Mistake!
- 5 Best Ways to Give a Memorable PA School Interview
- 3 Things to Do the Night Before Your PA School Interview
- How to Prepare for Your PA School Interview Day Essay
- How to Squash PA School Interview Day Stress (4 Simple Steps)
- Mind Mapping: A Tool for Personal Statements, Supplemental Essays, and Interviews
- What a REAL PA School Interview Looks Like (in 2022)
- My PA School Interview Preparation Strategy
- How to Bring Your Best on PA School Interview Day