From a candidate's perspective, PA school interviews can feel like a monumental undertaking. But, to PA school faculty members, interviews allow for just a glimpse of an applicant's insight, personality, and drive.
In the short time it takes to conduct the interview, you're not only being sized up for whether you'd make a good PA student but also if you'd make a great PA and future colleague.
To make the most of your interview session, you must dive a little deeper into each question that's asked. To deliver your strongest answers, you must consider what, beyond the face value of what's being asked, faculty members might be looking to learn about you.
Tapping into these questions behind the question, the QBIQ, will help you to deliver more thoughtful, thorough answers in your PA school interview.
Let's go deep into the meaning behind another common interview question.
This question can be a bit intimidating at first. For most PA school candidates, the main goal is getting into a program. It may have been your focus for so long that you kind of forgot about where you might be in your career in 2, 5, or 15 years.
That's okay. You can readily create your response with two components: short-term and longer-term goals. Longer-term goals tend to be the tougher part for most people, so we'll start with those.
When preparing for an interview, it's incredibly helpful to pause for a bit and imagine your future as a PA. Visualizing yourself working in a PA career can help see how your prior experience may influence your future choices.
Responding to this interview question can also be an opportunity to inject a little more personal information, highlight a prior experience, or discuss a feature of the PA profession that attracts you. Relating your goals to something specific about you also lends authenticity to your response.
So, what does that sound like as an answer?
Here are three potential responses.
"I've always been into trying new things; I love the variety. I took a Latin class last year and went skydiving for the first time a few months back. Variety is one of the main reasons I'm drawn to the PA profession —because of the ability to change specialties. After a few years in practice, I'd be interested in exploring work in an internal medicine specialty, like cardiology or endocrinology."
"I shadowed a surgical PA weekly for six months and learned an incredible amount about the PA profession and interacting with patients from her. She is also a preceptor for PA students. I think precepting is a great way to help out the future of the PA profession and having to teach it is a great way to stay up to date with the most current medical information. I'd love to move into precepting or even education later in my career."
"I really enjoyed volunteering at my local hospital in the past year. I knew there was a need for medical volunteers, but the experience really opened my eyes to the difference that a trained provider can make in an area of need. My long-term goal would be to participate at least twice a year in medical mission trips once I am making enough money to support it."
Your longer-term goal does not need to be 30 years in the future or one where you lobby Congress to change license restrictions; it just needs to be something authentic to you.
What about the short-term goal?
I'm a big believer that survival is enough as a brand new PA. I think it's realistic and a reasonable short-term goal. But, you can also throw in working in a particular area of medicine if it's true to you.
And if you're interested in a particularly specialty, don't shy away from saying it. Everyone understands that your preferences may change during PA school, but being honest with how you see yourself starting out will seem much more authentic than playing the fence.
"My short-term goals would include passing the PANCE, landing an internal medicine position, and gaining confidence in my ability to treat and connect with patients."
Now, to complete the answer, we just pair the short-term with the longer-term goals:
"My short-term goals would include passing the PANCE, landing an internal medicine position, and gaining confidence in my ability to treat and connect with patients.
In the long term... Well, I've always been into trying new things; I love the variety. I took a Latin class last year and went skydiving for the first time a few months back. Variety is one of the main reasons I'm drawn to the PA profession - because of the ability to change specialties. After a few years in practice, I'd be interested in exploring work in an internal medicine specialty, like cardiology or endocrinology."
This combination isn't groundbreaking, and it doesn't have to be. It's a solid answer that helps to highlight a few aspects of your personality while mentioning a reason behind choosing the PA profession. And, it's relatable for someone else who is already working as a PA or has worked alongside them (i.e., your interviewers).
Approaching your responses with the QBIQ in mind will allow you to craft responses that better show who you are as a candidate in a short interview session.
Answering the questions that aren't asked, the QBIQ, will also help any interview committee stop seeing you as a PA school candidate, and start seeing you as a future colleague.