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Medical Assistant Interview Guide

Asian patient consultation doctor's officeOne of the most important skills any medical assistant needs to have is people skills. No matter what medical crisis your patients may be facing, you always need to appear positive, professional and confident. But no matter how great your people skills are, job interviews can still be a nerve-wracking experience.

Whether you’re interviewing for your first medical assistant job or you’re an experienced veteran, we have some tips and tricks to help you succeed. These simple techniques will help you create a positive, lasting impression.

Do Dress Appropriately

You’ll want to wear professional business attire, like what you’d wear to a traditional office. Believe it or not, we’ve heard stories of aspiring medical professionals who show up wearing scrubs. While this is likely what you’ll wear each day at work, this is inappropriate for an interview.

Don’t Be Late

On interview day you’re probably going to have a lot on your mind. So you might want to make your travel time as easy as possible. Program your GPS ahead of time. Figure out how much time you’ll need to give yourself. Remember, you want to arrive for your interview at least 15 minutes early.

Do Bring a Copy of Your Resume and Cover Letter

This one is a little weird. After all, the person conducting the interview probably has your resume and cover letter right there in front of them. The truth is bringing your resume and cover letter to a job interview is really more of a tradition than a practical need. You also want to bring a pad of paper and a pen so you can take notes during the interview.

After the interview is over, you want to mail over a note to the interviewer thanking him or her for meeting with you. This is a polite, friendly way to help create a positive impression. Go with a handwritten note card – it’s much more personal than an email.

Don’t Try to “Wing It”

No matter what questions you’re asked, you’re going to need to tell a few stories about your experiences as a medical assistant. Even if you’re just out of college, you likely did an externship somewhere. So hopefully you have a few experiences under your belt.

You’ll want a story where you had to deal with a difficult patient. Without blaming the patient, you want to illustrate how you successfully and professionally resolved a stressful situation using your excellent people skills.

You’ll also likely need a story about a time where you helped improve efficiency. A major part of a medical assistant’s job is to handle many of the bureaucratic issues in the medical office. Your experience can be from a previous job or an externship.

Do Familiarize Yourself with HIPAA

Patient rights and confidentiality are obviously pretty important topics in health care. So you can likely expect a question or two designed to test your HIPAA knowledge. You’ll want to talk about a specific time when you properly handled privacy regulations. In fact, the more you can weave your HIPAA expertise into your answers, the better.

Do Know Your Schedule

If you’re just starting out in the industry, your chances of landing a job as a medical assistant typically improve if you’re able to work any schedule. If that’s not going to be possible, you’ll need to have a clear schedule you can present to your potential employer. Note that limited availability isn’t always a deal breaker for an employer. Many medical offices keep traditional daytime hours.

Don’t Hide Your Weaknesses

This is one of the most common and difficult interview questions any potential employer can face. You certainly don’t want to list a bunch of reasons why you’re not suitable for hiring. Instead, you want to list weaknesses which have a positive aspect. Some examples include:

  • “I can’t leave tasks unfinished. Even if this means I have to stay late, I don’t like leaving when there’s work to be done.”
  • “I’m a real people person. Sometimes I spend a little too much time chatting with patients. While this does help me bond with the people I meet, I have found success keeping conversation down when there are other tasks which need to be completed.”
  • “I’m really interested in the medical industry so I tend to use a lot of jargon without thinking. Sometimes I need to remind myself to slow down – that most patients don’t spend their time reading medical journals like I do.”

Do Practice Beforehand

The key to a successful interview is preparation. Enlist classmates or friends in the industry to conduct mock interviews with you. You also want to mentally prepare a few stories about your experiences in health care. On interview day, remember to be friendly and polite. Your dream career as a medical assistant awaits!

Typical Medial Assistant Interview Questions and Answers

For a recently graduated medical assistant, attending a job interview can be both thrilling and anxiety-inducing. However, if you are truly prepared to provide excellent answers to even the most complex questions, you can walk into your interview with self-assurance and grace. What kind of questions can you expect to be asked? While there is no predicting the specific questions a particular employer may ask, there are some common questions medical assistants are asked to measure their knowledge and competence. Before your interview, review these sample questions and tips on responding to prepare yourself to shine.

Q: Can you tell me about your experience in providing patient care and support?

A: This answer will be as unique as you. Be concise and brief with your answer while still providing a comprehensive detailing of your externship experience, volunteer efforts, and any past work experience in the field. Detail your personal experiences with patients, ensuring that you emphasize the fact that you can comfortably deal with patients from a wide variety of backgrounds and with different personalities and temperaments.

Q: Have you had any experience dealing with ‘difficult’ patients?

A: Almost everyone who has been in the medical field has had at least one experience with a difficult patient. Choose one such experience from your past and tell it truthfully, playing up the positives of the situation. Think carefully about this question before your interview and rehearse your answer. This is a great opportunity to show a potential employer that you have the compassionate, caring nature that will allow you to provide empathetic care in any situation.

Q: Do you consider yourself a people person?

A: Medical assistants must have excellent interpersonal skills. When formulating your answer, emphasize that you like working as a member of a team and that you derive great enjoyment from being of help and service to others.

Q: What experience do you have with medical office procedures?

A: If this will be your first job, you may feel nervous about this question. However, as a graduate, you undoubtedly gained experience in an externship. Think carefully about all of the duties you performed as an extern and be ready to discuss your experience in detail, including how you contributed to successful completion of the duties.

Q: Are you comfortable working with computers?

A: The majority of medical records are not computerized. In addition, most medical facilities do all scheduling, billing, and other vital documentation on computers. If you have a wide range of computer skills and experience with various software programs, discuss them. If you are not completely comfortable with computers, now is the time to gain additional training that you can discuss during your interview.

Q: What is the best thing about being a medical assistant? The worst?

A: Since you chose this career, you likely have no shortage of responses to what you like best about it. On the other hand, it can be very uncomfortable admitting that there are things you do not like, especially to a potential employer. Instead of actually voicing a complaint about the career, think of a negative that is actually a positive. For example, you could say that you sometimes feel that a medical assistant’s responsibilities are too limited and that you would like to be able to provide more help. You may be asked to discuss an example of your perceived limitations, so be prepared with an example or two.

Q: What do you feel is the most important to providing patient care?

A: Medical assistants work very closely with patients and provide a great deal of instruction and counseling. A good answer should include being empathetic, providing exact and comprehensive information to patients and their families, answering any patient questions, and listening closely to what patients have to say.

Q: Are you familiar with HIPAA?

A: To answer this question, be prepared to provide detailed information regarding your knowledge of HIPAA regulations and assure the interviewer that you consider patient confidentiality to be a priority in all situations. If you have trouble thinking of a possible response, it may be a good idea to study HIPAA regulations before the interview.

Q: What do you do to better yourself as a professional?

A: Possible answers can include membership in professional organizations, any professional publications you read on a regular basis, or any classes and/or additional certifications you are pursuing or plan to pursue.

Q: What have you done to better the environment in which you work?

A: Think of a time during your externship or previous work experience that you found a way to work more efficiently, to save time or money, or to build staff morale. Be ready to discuss one such time in detail, including how it benefitted the facility in which you work.

Q: Why are you the best candidate for this job?

A: Answer this question very carefully. Be very familiar with the business ahead of time so you can tailor your answer to meet the vision and ideals of the facility. Also make sure you answer confidently, but stop short of superiority or overconfidence as this can turn many interviewers cold.

Q: What hours/ salary are you looking for?

A: Honesty is the key. If you are willing to take anything to get a job, say that you are open to different options. If, however, you are only willing to work certain hours or have a minimum salary requirement, say so. Once you start working, complaining about the schedule or pay can hurt your professional reputation and future employment possibilities.

Q: What are your flaws as a medical assistant?

A: This can be the most difficult type of interview question in any career field. After all, who wants to discuss their shortcomings to a potential employer? There is a clever way to answer this question, though. The best way is to discuss negatives that could be seen as positives. For example, if you are a control freak, say instead that you have a high need for organization and quality. If you get caught up in details, say that you are a perfectionist who has designed a system for providing the highest quality service in a timely manner. This question is very tricky, so develop a good answer and rehearse it in front of trusted friends and family members until you are comfortable with it.

Interviewing for a medical assistant position can be nerve wracking, but you can walk into any interview with confidence and ease by preparing for tough questions like these.