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How to Interview for Your First Medical Assistant Job

by Allen B. Ury


You've finally completed your medical assistant training. Now you're ready to go to work. All that stands between you and your dream career is the dreaded job interview.

Interviews can be unnerving experiences. Or they can be exciting and full and promise. A lot depends on how you prepare for the meeting and the attitude you bring to it.

Here are some ways you can make your medical assistant job interview successful:

1. Interview for the Right Position. Recent graduates often ask, "How can I get a job if I don't have experience?" The answer is, not all jobs require experience. While some employers are looking to hire seasoned professionals -- and are able to pay top dollar for their expertise -- other employers need entry-level people who are willing to start out earning matching entry-level wages. When you're just out of school, focus on these lower-tier positions. That way, you can be sure you and your interviewer are on the same page.

2. Do Your Research. Never go into an interview blindly unaware of the business where you're asking to work. Use the Internet to search for articles, reviews, blogs, etc., that profile or reference the employer in question. If you're interviewing at a private medical practice, Google the physician's name. If you're set to interview at a clinic, hospital or other similar enterprise, search for information about the facility, the services it offers and patient reviews.

3. Prepare a List of Questions. By asking the right questions, you can impress your interviewer with your knowledge, curiosity and professionalism. Put the focus on the employer and his/her needs, not yours. Common questions to ask include: How long has the practice/facility been open? How many patients does it serve? Is that number growing, falling or stable? What kind of conditions do you normally treat? What are typical patient demographics? Does this group have special or unusual needs? Why do you think patients choose this practice/facility over others in the area?

4. Get a Good Night's Sleep. You want to be as alert and sharp as possible for this important day, so get a good night's sleep the night before. Go to bed early, and don't have any alcohol that evening.

5. Dress Appropriately. Choose an outfit that is conservative, but not too formal. After all, you're interviewing to be a medical assistant, not a business executive. If you're a woman, keep make-up and nail polish to a minimum. Your hair should be neat and freshly washed. Wear no perfume.

6. Confirm Your Appointment by Phone. Call to confirm the appointment on the morning of your scheduled interview. This not only reminds the employer you're coming, but helps you avoid wasting time should the employer need to reschedule or cancel the interview.

7. Arrive Early...But Not Too Early. Being late for a job interview is the surest way to lose the job. Arrive about five minutes before your scheduled appointment. This way, you look eager, but not desperate.

8. Bring Your Resume. Your interviewer should already have a copy of your resume, but bring an additional copy, just in case.

9. Answer Questions Briefly and Honestly. You're apt to be nervous during your interview, but don't let all that adrenalin turn you into a motor mouth. Make your answers short and direct, sit up straight and be honest. If you don't have an answer, say so.  And add, "But I'll be sure to find out!"

10. Stay Positive. Smile. And laugh (when appropriate). Also be complimentary. When confronted with a subject you're unfamiliar with, tell the interviewer how eager you are to learn new things and find new ways to contribute.

11. Avoid Rookie Mistakes. The most common mistakes first-time interviewees make tend to involve selfish questions like: Will I have to work late? Do I get vacation time? How soon can I expect a raise? While these are all legitimate questions, they should be saved for the negotiating phase. First, you have to get the job offer.

12. Ask for a Tour. At the end of the interview, don't be eager to leave. Ask for a tour. In most cases, the interviewer will be impressed with your interest. This can also be your opportunity to meet other staff members, learn why they like working there, and perhaps even recruit a few allies.

Just before leaving, be sure to thank the interviewer for the opportunity and ask for a business card with the interviewer's contact information and correct spelling of his/her name. (Don't ask when you can expect a decision. The interviewer probably doesn't know the answer.) As soon as you get home, write a hand-written thank-you note and mail it to your interviewer. Don't use email. It's an old-fashioned custom, but it can still score you big points.

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