Mock Interviews Prepare PAs for Future Careers
Interviewing for a job can be a daunting task, but second-year physician assistant (PA) students at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) are ready to impress their potential employers thanks to the introduction to professional practice (IPP) course and a session of mock job interviews.
The students gathered in small groups in classrooms throughout Ross Hall in early February ready to learn tips and tricks for the interview process. During the sessions, faculty asked the students questions about their backgrounds, work ethic, future plans, and even those time-honored, hard-to-answer questions such as “what are your greatest strengths?” and “what’s your biggest weakness?”
Students then received feedback from the professor, as well as from their classmates and future colleagues.
“I thought the interviews were incredibly helpful,” said PA student Tatum Little. “I have never gotten any insight or feedback for my interview skills, especially the subjective aspects, so this is a plus.”
Rory Ruskovich expressed interest in starting his career at a free clinic, possibly in Hawaii. Erika Bramlette, PA-C, MBA, assistant professor of physician assistant studies at SMHS, asked Ruskovich about what would prepare him for the job. He responded by talking about his previous time spent in Hawaii and his interest in helping people who might need the support of a free clinic. Bramlette and his classmates then gave positive feedback on his response, along with recommendations for some improvement.
Ruskovich noted that he often worries in an interview situation about freezing up and not knowing how to respond, or not having something he says be interpreted the right way. “[The] questions were helpful to see how I navigated in those stressful moments,” he said after the mock interview session.
He added that while group interviews can be very stressful, the feedback he received was extremely helpful, as was hearing the other students’ responses to similar questions. “I like being surrounded by people smarter than myself and hearing their answers to questions that I have a hard time with, like salary negotiations,” he said.
Maura Polansky, PA-C, MS, MHPE, chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies and associate professor of physician assistant studies at SMHS, also participated in the mock interviews.
“The experience was enjoyable for me, and the students definitely seemed interested in being prepared for interviews,” she said. “I think the process is a great idea and allows more consideration of real issues.”
The IPP course is designed to prepare PA students for their emerging professional roles and responsibilities as a physician assistant, explained Debra Herrmann, DHSc, MPH ’01, PA-C, associate program director and co-director of clinical education and assistant professor of physician assistant studies at SMHS. “The course emphasizes securing employment, continuous professional development, career trajectories, professional practice, and maintenance of certification,” she added.
Herrmann said she really enjoys the mock interviews because of the genuine enthusiasm and curiosity the students bring to the sessions.
“While students are often intimidated by being interviewed in a group setting, after the session, I often receive feedback from the students that hearing how their peers answer tough questions is very helpful in improving their responses,” she said. “I want students to leave the session reflecting on and implementing strategies to increase their interviewing confidence so when their dream job becomes available, they are ready to go after it without fear or apprehension.”
After the mock interview session, it was clear the students, thankful for their training and experience at SMHS, are now even more prepared to begin their careers as physician assistants with the right tools in hand.
“GW’s PA program started by teaching me how to interact with patients, but now I am learning how to present my skills to potential employers,” said Little. “I can feel my career coming into focus.”