Interviewing for a Physiatrist Position? Prepare to Answer These 10 Questions

Common interview questions for a physiatrist

Physical medicine and rehabilitation interview questions are not always what you expect. To prepare for your physiatrist interview process, familiarize yourself with the questions you’ll likely be asked, as well as a few questions coming in from left field.

Here’s a list of 10 questions and possible answers, including some common PM and R residency interview questions, as well as a few not-so-common PM and R interview questions.

1. Why Are You Interested in This Particular Program?

For this question, the hiring manager wants to know that you’ve done your homework and are interested in their physical medicine and rehabilitation practice for a reason. They want to know you aren’t only interested in taking any old job. Answer honestly and specifically, but offer an answer that shows them why you value the work they do and why you want to be a part of it.

You carefully researched various positions as you applied for them, so you know why you chose to apply to this specific program. Answer sincerely, but answer in a manner that shows what you’ve learned about them in your own research.

Example answer:

“I noticed that your organization was making great strides in treating soldiers who were returning from Afghanistan for non-medicinal pain management. I really want to be part of a practice that focuses on helping the men and women who have served find relief from their pain.”

This type of answer works for a wide range of conditions, illnesses and injuries, including spinal cord injuries, birth defect injuries, and even osteoporosis. The goal is to let them know why you feel you’re a good fit and that you know the specialties of the practice.

If possible, tell a story and make it personal. The more personally your desire to work for them resonates, the more memorable you will be after the interview is over.

2. What Experience Do You Have That Matches the Program/Position?What experience do you bring?

This question could be included in PM&R residency interview questions, too. Your interviewer wants to know what kind of experience you bring to the table. There are qualities and skills you possess that will help you in the field even if you haven’t yet treated a patient. Be creative if necessary, but make yourself an interesting prospect based on your history in and out of the PM&R field.

Walk your interviewer through a story from your past that displays your skills for multitasking, delegating or being part of a team. Such qualities are vitally important for most PM&R practices and can help overcome other holes in your experience. They can be stories about college projects, part-time jobs, or even volunteer work.

Example answer:

When I was in high school, we had a tornado come through our town, displacing a lot of families and leaving pets homeless. My friends and I got together and started a drive to collect blankets, pet food, bowls, pet crates and carriers for the shelter, so they could temporarily house more animals and help reunite them with their families.”

This type of story shows a caring heart, an organized mind and a take-charge attitude — all of which are qualities critical in PM&R.

3. How Has Your Education and Training Prepared You for a Job With Our Practice?

You don’t want to come across as arrogant, but this is the right time to strut your stuff — a little. Show your pride in your education and training. Your interviewers want to know more about it, as well as your expectations of life in the PM&R field of medicine.

Your answer to this question allows them to determine whether or not you have realistic expectations. They also want to gauge how well your training and education match their practice and their needs.

Discuss the details of your education that you found most inspiring and helpful. Explain real-world applications for the knowledge you’ve gained and provide answers that show you understand the field in which you’ve decided to build your career.

Example answer:

“My favorite subjects to study were those related to the musculoskeletal system as they related to geriatric patients. I’ve always been passionate about caring for the elderly, and these lessons helped pave the way for a career that allows me to do that in a meaningful way — by helping them become stronger, manage pain and adapt at times when their bodies appear to be working against them.”

4. Tell Me Your Story.

Telling your story helps the interviewer understand where you're coming fromInterviewers are not looking for a blow-by-blow account of your primary school years. They are interested in knowing what makes you tick. You don’t have to give them your life story, but offer the highlights — the reasons you have pursued or are pursuing a career in physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Focus your answer on something that is relevant to where you are today. Consider sharing a life experience that led you to pursue a career in physical medicine and rehabilitation, or a story about pain in your own life and how a PM&R physician helped you overcome it.

Example answer:

“After watching my husband visit specialist after specialist seeking relief from pain after his on-the-job injury and only finding relief after consulting with a physiatrist to determine a comprehensive treatment plan, I knew this was a field I wanted to pursue.”

This answer lets interviewers know you’re committed to physical medicine, and your relationship to the rehabilitation field is personal. It helps them understand where you’re coming from, and shows them that you’ve had some personal life experiences that will help you relate to patients with compassion and care.

5. What Do You See Yourself Doing Ten Years From Today?

This question helps the interviewer determine if you’re looking for a long-term position or a stepping stone to other things in your career. It also clues them in on your dedication.

A good answer would be one that shows your dedication to practicing physical medicine and rehabilitation, and perhaps shows you’re seeking additional education and training.

Example answer:

“Ten years from now, I plan to be at a point in my career where I can take great personal pride knowing that I’ve helped many patients overcome injuries and illnesses to lead pain-free lives. In addition, I want to feel good knowing I’ve helped others learn to adapt to some of the limitations their conditions present while overcoming many, many more. I’d love to find a long-term home for my physical medicine and rehabilitation skills where I can continue to be challenged personally and professionally as I go about my daily routine and progress in my career.”

It may seem somewhat banal, but it puts patients first, avoids appearing overreaching and lets them know that you have professional goals.

6. Describe Your Most Memorable Patient to Date.

Whether you’ve had months of experience or 20 years of experience, there will always be a patient that sticks out in your mind more than others. Don’t give details about their name or birthdate, but provide the story behind what made this patient standout to you.

There is no right or wrong answer, but your answer will show a lot about how you relate to your patients and what it is that makes one memorable to you.

Example answer:

“I had a patient in her early 60s who presented with severe back pain to the point of near immobility. I created a treatment plan that included physical therapy, cold laser treatments, and using a TENS unit. After a few months of treatment, she walked into my office for her next appointment and proceeded to line dance for me. I will never forget that moment — or that patient.”

7. What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

Transform potential flaws into positivesPerhaps the most anticipated — and dreaded — of all interview questions is the one about strengths and weaknesses. While most people in the field of PM&R appreciate the opportunity to toot

their own horn, the flipside is something you are likely to find disagreeable — no one wants to point out their own flaws.
Be sure to brainstorm an answer that transforms your potential flaws into positive things.

Example answer:

“I have always had a gift for figuring things out — even as a child. It has served me well in the medical field, as I can put my natural abilities to dig deeper and find answers to work for the good of my patients. My biggest flaw is that I get caught up in the search for answers and sometimes forget to step back and take a little me time.”

Avoid discussing weaknesses that are strong negatives and could make you unattractive to potential employers. Things like chronic lateness, poor time management or weak interpersonal skills can be deal breakers with most practices.

8. What Do You Expect From This Position?

Expectations are important, and it’s essential to develop realistic ones. Your interviewer wants to know you’re not romanticizing the work you’ll be doing and you’re prepared for the realities of the multidisciplinary field.

In some cases, you’ll have the answer to this particular question well in hand — but you’ll likely be coming into the position with no real expectations of what is to come. Even if you have 15 years of experience in the physical medicine and rehabilitation industry, don’t be afraid to turn this particular question around on the interviewer. After all, every practice is unique and has something different to offer.

Example answer:

I believe I will be using my training and experience to treat people with pain management issues, injuries such as brain and spinal cord injuries, or diseases involving the bones, nerves, muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons. What can I expect from a typical day working in your practice should you decide to hire me?”

The more you know about the specifics of the practice, the better you can tailor answers to future questions and make yourself a strong candidate.

9. What Are Your Expectations for Compensation?

Ultimately, all interviews will lead to this point. You don’t want to answer with a low number that could make them think you’re a bargain — or that you don’t value your own worth. You also don’t want to price yourself out of the position.

Be prepared for a wide range of salary possibilities. The most common physiatrist salary offerings are between $194,676 and $239,974 as of June 2016, according to For the sake of comparison, reports that a physiatrist earns an average salary of $197,482 per year as of January 2016. Salaries will vary greatly according to experience, location, specialties and more.

The answer is a bit tricky. Your best choice is to avoid giving them a number, even knowing the median numbers for your industry. Instead, place the onus on the interviewer to provide an offer that correlates with their interest in you as an employee.

Example answer:

“It’s true that compensation is important. What is more important to me, though, is the opportunity your practice represents. If you are seriously considering me for your practice, I hope you’ll see fit to make your strongest offer.”

It reveals little, but makes it clear that you aren’t willing to work for a lowball offer.

10. What Questions Do You Have for Us?

Follow-up questions reveal details about youMake no mistake. This question is still part of your interview. The follow-up questions you ask will reveal a great deal about you as a person and as a physiatrist. Consider making a list of several questions, including some that are similar to PM&R interview questions to ask your interviewers.

Example answers:

  • How much time is allotted for appointments with new and follow-up patients?
  • How many patients per day will I be expected to see? What constitutes a full load in your practice?
  • What specific needs are you hoping to fill with this position?
  • Is there a vacancy in your practice or are you growing and expanding?
  • If you decide to make me an offer, what is the most pressing need you have, and what can I do to help meet that need for you?

Asking outstanding questions won’t guarantee you the physical medicine and rehabilitation job, but they will certainly help you make a great first impression.

Are you searching for a physical medicine and rehabilitation or physiatrist job? Visit Farr Healthcare’s Job Openings for a list of available positions, so you can put your new and improved physical medicine and rehabilitation or physiatrist interviewing skills to work.

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