Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) interview questions are not always what you expect. The interviewer, likely an administrator or head physician, will want to get to know you and your level of passion for the work. They will ask standard questions you can prepare for, but they will also throw in some surprises to assess whether you’re the candidate they want. While this may sound overwhelming, there are still ways you can prepare.
Here’s a list of 11 physiatry interview questions ranging from common to unique and examples of how you might respond to them.
1. Why Are You Interested in This Particular Program?
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 feel confident you share their mission and aren’t only interested in the salary. Your answers will show them you’re motivated to do the job, and you took the time to research.
Answer honestly and specifically, and be sure to express your enthusiasm. Show them why you value the work they do and why you want to be a part of the team. Although you want to be brief, let them know you applied to their specific program because your skills match their goals. Be sure to research the program extensively before the interview and gather as much knowledge as you can. It will help you prepare your answers and feel more confident about the questions they ask.
Here’s an example of how you might explain your interest in a particular program:
“I noticed 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 to find relief from their pain.”
This type of answer works for a wide range of disorders, diseases and injuries, including spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and osteoporosis. The goal is to let them know why you feel you’re a good fit. If possible, tell a story and make it personal. If your story resonates with the interviewer and shows your genuine desire to work for them, you’ll be hard to forget once the interview is over.
2. What Experience Do You Have That Matches the Position or Program?
Your interviewer wants to know what kind of experience you bring to the table. Even if you’re fresh out of a residency program, you possess the qualities and skills to help you in the field. Be creative if necessary, but make yourself an interesting prospect based on your history in and out of the PM&R field. Also, be prepared to explain any gaps in your work history or training.
Walk your interviewer through a story from your past that demonstrates your leadership, teamwork and multitasking skills. Such qualities are vitally important for most physiatry practices and can help overcome other holes in your experience. You might share stories about college projects, part-time jobs or volunteer work — anything that illustrates applicable skills.
Here’s an example of how you might use a story to prove your drive to help others:
“When I was in high school, we had a tornado come through our town, displacing a lot of families and leaving their pets homeless. My friends and I got together and started a drive to collect blankets, pet food, bowls, 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 qualities which are 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 interviewer wants to know more about your academic achievements and experiences, and what you expect life to be like as a physiatrist. 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 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.
To demonstrate the impact of your training, you might say something like this:
“My favorite subjects to study were those related to the musculoskeletal system in geriatric patients. I’ve always been passionate about caring for the elderly, and these lessons led me to a career that will allow me to do that in a meaningful way. As a physiatrist, I hope to help elderly patients become stronger, manage pain and adapt to new ways of functioning when their bodies appear to be working against them.”
This example shows you were engaged in school, and view your career as something more meaningful to you than a paycheck. It also demonstrates you have realistic expectations of your ability to help patients.
4. Tell Me Your Story.
The typical interview starts with the question, “Tell me about yourself.” This is a chance for you to set yourself apart from other candidates. For example, rather than talking about your childhood dream of becoming a doctor, focus on highlighting your most significant accomplishment or a life-changing experience relating to your career choice. If you’ve had unique experiences that demonstrate relevant skills, even if they are not related to medical work, feel free to share them with the interviewer.
Interviewers 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 reasons you are pursuing a career in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Use this as an opportunity to showcase your strengths, ideally by sharing impactful experiences you’ve had. This might be a story about pain in your own life and how a PM&R physician helped you overcome it. Or maybe you’ve watched a loved one benefit from the care of a physiatrist. Be as specific as possible.
If you are an experienced doctor, try not to overload the interviewer with your knowledge of the field. Sometimes when you say too much, it uncovers information that may not be accurate and, therefore, to your disadvantage. Even though you are an expert, the interviewer ultimately wants to feel that you will be a team player and not always wanting the limelight.
Here’s an example of a story you might share to show the drive behind your career choice:
“My husband suffered an injury on the job, and he wasn’t able to find pain relief — even after visiting numerous specialists. It wasn’t until he consulted a physiatrist who developed a comprehensive treatment plan that he could feel better. After watching my husband go through this experience, I knew this was the field I wanted to pursue.”
This answer lets interviewers know you’re committed to physical medicine and have a personal relationship with the rehabilitation field. It helps them understand where you’re coming from, and it shows them you’ve had life experiences that will help you relate to patients with compassion and care.
5. What Do You See Yourself Doing Ten Years From Today?
Interviewers want to know if you have realistic expectations and if you’re looking for a long-term position with the practice. They also want to know if your goals align with the current position.
This may seem like a trick question, but you’ll want to be honest while addressing what the interviewer truly wants to know. A good answer would be one that shows your commitment to practicing physical medicine and rehabilitation and your dedication to continue growing as a professional. You might describe the accomplishments you hope to achieve and any education or further training you wish to obtain.
Here’s an example of how you might answer this question:
“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 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. 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.”
This answer shows you put patients first and derive satisfaction from helping others. It also lets the interviewer know that you have professional goals.
6. Describe Your Most Memorable Patient to Date.
Whether you’ve been practicing PM&R for a few months or several decades, there will always be a patient that sticks out in your mind. Don’t give details about their name or birth date, but share the reasons this particular patient stands out to you.
There is no right or wrong answer. However, your story will show how you relate to your patients and what it is that touches your heart.
To show you how to describe a memorable patient, here’s an example of what you might say:
“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.”
This example clearly demonstrates how you find the work rewarding and cherish the joy-filled moments you share with your patients.
7. What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?
Perhaps 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, no one wants to point out their own flaws, especially to a potential employer. However, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone, even the most experienced physicians, has strengths and weaknesses. One of the skills you must possess as a physician is the ability to identify any weak spots so you can work on improving them.
As always with interview questions, it’s best to prepare your answers beforehand. Don’t be afraid to share your strengths with confidence and tell the interviewer more about yourself. Try to provide specific examples of how you’ve applied your strengths in the real world.
When it comes to sharing your weakness, first, it helps to put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes. They likely want to see signs of humility, self-awareness and honesty. They probably also want to consider if your strengths and weaknesses will add balance to the team.
You want to discuss your weaknesses honestly and thoughtfully. Try to mention weaknesses you’ll be able to improve and be prepared to explain how you plan to overcome weak areas. Whatever you do, be sure to answer the questions. Everyone has room to grow.
It may be easy to talk about your strengths, so here’s an example of how you might address your weaknesses in front of an interviewer:
“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 use my natural abilities to dig deeper and find answers for my patients. My biggest flaw is that I get caught up in the search for answers and sometimes forget to step back and take time for myself.”
In this example, you describe a weakness that is relatively easy to improve. Good responses are ones that take a negative and turn it into a positive. Do not discuss weaknesses that are strong negatives such as issues with anger management or the inability to get along with others. Remember, the interviewer wants to know you will work well with the other staff members and be able to fulfill the role successfully.
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 this multidisciplinary field.
Even if you have 15 years of experience in the physical medicine and rehabilitation industry, it can be difficult to know what to expect working at a new practice. You might prepare for this question by thinking back to the job description or previous experience you’ve had in a similar role. Discuss realistic expectations you have for the job, and talk about how you’ve met or exceeded similar expectations in the past. Keep a positive tone, and don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer questions. After all, every practice is unique and has something different to offer.
Here’s an example of how you might discuss your expectations realistically:
“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 practice’s specifics and what they need in a new staff member, the better you can tailor your answer to this question.
9. What Are Your Expectations for Compensation?
During the interview process, it’s not unusual to be asked how much you want to make. Interviewers may ask this question to determine if they can afford to hire you and to see how much you think you’re worth. If possible, it’s best not to give the interviewer a number. However, you should prepare for this question by doing some research first.
Find out what the typical compensation range is for someone in your field and geographic location. That way, when they talk about your salary and what you can expect, you’ll both know if it is acceptable given your experience and expectations. At Farr Healthcare, I can help you obtain this information if it’s a practice opportunity that I’m representing.
If the interviewer wants a number, you don’t want to answer with a low amount that could make them think you’re a bargain or don’t value yourself. You also don’t want to price yourself out of the position. If you do your homework, you’ll be able to establish a fair salary range. According to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, salaries typically fall between $200,000 and $300,000 for clinical physiatrists. Salaries will vary greatly depending on your experience, location and specialties.
As mentioned, your best option is to avoid giving the interviewer a number, even if you know the salary range in your area. Instead, let them know your salary expectations match your qualifications and experience and that you’re flexible. Allow the interviewer to provide an offer.
There’s no doubt this is a tough question to answer. On one hand, you want to be paid fairly. On the other, you don’t want to price yourself out of an offer. To help you tackle this question, here’s an example of what you might say:
“It’s true that compensation is important. What is more important to me, though, is the opportunity your practice provides. If you are seriously considering me for your practice, I hope you’ll see fit to make your strongest offer.”
This answer reveals little but makes it clear that you aren’t willing to work for a lowball offer.
10. Why Are You Looking for a New Position?
To answer this question, try to focus on why the new job is the right fit for you. You might discuss how it matches your goals, for example, or how it will help you grow professionally. If you need a new job due to relocating, there’s no need to go into too much detail. Employers understand the need to find a new job when someone moves, so you can keep your answer brief.
What should you say if you’ve left a bad job or have been fired? First, know that it’s best to be honest, but you also do not need to say too much. Keep your answer to the point, and try to demonstrate personal growth and responsibility. Be sure you do not describe a situation that could happen in the new job.
Also, keep in mind you should never be negative about a past or current employer. Try to answer the question with as much positivity as possible.
A common way to answer this question is to say you’re looking for professional growth and advancement and that your current place of employment doesn’t offer this opportunity. You could say that the doctors in positions above you don’t seem to have any plans to leave, so there is no room for growth. If you’re looking for a new job because you’re new to the area, you might say something like:
“Due to family circumstances, I needed to leave my previous role and relocate to this area.”
With this answer, you do not give too many details about your personal life, which simply isn’t necessary.
11. What Questions Do You Have for Us?
Make 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 your enthusiasm as a physiatrist. Be sure to prepare a thorough list of questions you want to ask, so you can determine whether the position is right for you.
Here’s a list of some questions you might ask the interviewer:
- 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 you meet that need?
Asking outstanding questions won’t guarantee you get the job, but they will certainly help you make a great impression.
Common Personality Interview Questions
The interviewer will likely ask questions about you and your work style to determine how you handle stress and challenging situations. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but you’ll still want to prepare as much as possible. You’ll want to answer honestly while at the same time trying to match your replies to the practice’s needs. Here are some examples of what an interviewer might say to learn more about your personality:
- Describe your approach to patients.
- Tell me about a specific patient who came to you unhappy with the care they received elsewhere, and describe how you handled it.
- Please describe a difficult patient, family member or colleague you had to work with and how you dealt with the situation.
Show empathy and compassion in your responses. Try to demonstrate your listening skills, interest in patient education and ability to engage patients in their health care.
Unusual Questions Interviewers May Ask
You can find countless tips online describing how to respond to typical questions and show you’re an excellent candidate for the job. However, sometimes interviewers ask unique questions to see how you work under pressure. They want to know how you react to surprises, and if you can handle unusual situations quickly, creatively and effectively. An interviewer might ask questions such as:
- If you could be another person who would you be?
- Who is your hero?
- What makes you uncomfortable?
- When are you happiest?
- Tell me about one of your professional relationships.
- Tell me about your best boss.
Although there is no way to prepare for these types of questions, there’s no need to panic. You can still practice how to handle them.
First, you can practice answering strange questions with a friend or family member. This will help you practice staying calm and confident, even when you feel stumped. If you need a little time to answer a question, ask the interviewer to give you a moment to think about it.
Keep in mind that the purpose of a unique question is to help an interviewer determine whether you have the skills to succeed in the role, so try to reply in a way that shows you’re qualified for the position. If you find yourself unable to answer the question, ask if you can get back to them later. Be sure to follow through with your request, and answer their question with your follow-up thank you letter.
Interview Questions for Experienced Physiatrists
If you have years of experience working in the physiatrist field, you might be asked questions that are a little more direct than if you were a recent grad. You might prepare to answer questions such as:
- How many patients per day are you accustomed to seeing, and how many would you like to see?
- How many patients would you consider to be a full load?
- What are your patient satisfaction scores?
- What type of survey process is your hospital using?
- What is your discharge-to-community rate?
- Describe your relationship with your current hospital administration.
- What type of financial support are you looking for in your new position, such as income guarantee or stipend?
- What types of physician in-services have you done in the past year?
- Describe your record regarding quality outcomes, such as program development and growth.
- Describe your ability to sell and market the rehab program.
- Describe your ability to build physician and staff relationships.
Browse Physiatry Job Openings Today
Are you searching for a physical medicine and rehabilitation or physiatrist job? Fill out a Physician Application and visit Farr Healthcare’s Job Openings for a list of available positions, so you can put your new and improved PM&R interviewing skills to work.