Here are the top 10 most asked physical therapist interview questions along with suggested answers that will help you prove you are the right person for the job.
1. Why did you decide physical therapy was the career for you?
The interviewer wants to understand what has motivated you to choose physical therapy as a career. Your answer should show a real desire to help and care for others, not that you are simply looking for a paycheck at the end of each month. A physical therapist is part of the health care industry, so your answer should show compassion.
I chose physical therapy because it allows me to work directly with patients, putting in place treatment plans to help them heal. Working one on one allows me to help them set goals to move towards recovery, managing their conditions and having a better quality of life. As we work through their treatment plan, I will see their progress and we will work together to review their goals, both short and longer term. For me, I gain satisfaction from being able to help patients manage their conditions and pain levels and to have an excellent quality of life.
2. Describe one of your most challenging cases to date. Why was it challenging? What therapies did you use to help the patient make progress?
Use this question as a means of demonstrating your experience as a physical therapist. It is also an opportunity to show the types of cases you have been involved in. A suggested way to show your experience is to use the Situation, Task, Action, Result – the STAR. First, describe what was challenging about the case. This is the Situation. Then explain what particular Task or Tasks you had to complete. Describe the therapies you used to help the patient and any particular skills you had to employ. This is the Action you took. Lastly, tell the employer the Results you achieved overall. Focus specifically on your role in the case and not what others did.
Every patient is unique and therefore presents different challenges. A particularly challenging case involved a young female patient who had suffered serious lower and upper limb injuries and significant psychological trauma. Neither the physical nor psychological injuries could afford to wait for the other to be treated so I had to find a way to take the psychological trauma into account in my treatment plan. I had to balance the physical and psychological. I worked with the patient to set realistic goals. We adjusted the goals regularly but ensured we always focused on the positive even when goals were adjusted down. We worked to rebuild muscle strength using targeted exercises. The treatment plan was adjusted as we progressed but always took into account the psychological trauma.
3. Have you ever encountered patients who refuse to cooperate or engage with treatment? If so, how did you deal with that?
As a physical therapist, which is a patient-facing role, you need to be able to engage your patient in the treatment process to help them heal. This question is designed to let the employer assess your interpersonal skills dealing with uncooperative patients and how you find ways to motivate and treat uncooperative patients effectively. Think about the strategies you have successfully used in the past with uncooperative patients. What has worked before and equally think about strategies that you found to be unsuccessful? Consider how you would encourage the patient to engage with the process and progress towards achieving their goals.
First, I would consider why the patient is being uncooperative, in other words, I would try to establish the cause, not just look at the symptom. The apparent lack of progress could be a frustration for them, for example, if they are looking at the end goal, instead of considering the smaller goals that can be achieved on the journey. I would then try to manage the patient’s expectations. This can be helped by setting small, achievable goals so that the patient can see the progress they are making by meeting these small goals on the way to meeting their long-term goals. That can then help their motivation and can help convince them to cooperate.
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
With this question, the employer wants to know that they can count on you in the long run. They want to know that you have a genuine desire to help patients. Take this opportunity to demonstrate to them that you see yourself being a physical therapist as a long-term career option, not just a paycheck at the end of each month or a means to an end. Staff turnover is a concern for employers who put time and expense into training staff and integrating them into the business. Show them you are looking to the future and that you have a desire to carve out a career in the physical therapy industry, preferably with them.
In 5 years’ time, I see myself still working in a physical therapy role. I enjoy helping patients heal and finding ways to manage their conditions and improve their quality of life. I have a particular interest in [specific therapy methods], and ideally, I would like to be working towards specializing in those methods within the next 5 years.
5. Tell me how you would assess a patient’s condition.
The employer is looking for you to show your assessment process to ensure nothing of importance is missed. Attention to detail is crucial in health care. Consider how you would explain your process to ensure you develop the best treatment plan for the patient.
Every patient I see is an individual, and I treat them as such by performing a detailed examination and obtaining a full history. Getting a history of their symptoms and conditions is important as that will inform how I treat them, and I understand the importance of accuracy. It is also important to gather information about their past medical history to allow me to tailor my examination to evaluate the patient’s strength, flexibility, coordination, posture, and balance if appropriate.
6. Have you ever disagreed with a colleague? How did you handle that?
The employer is testing your conflict resolution skills with this question. Although the question asks about disagreements with colleagues, conflict resolution skills are also necessary if there are disagreements with patients. Your answer should show that you can resolve disagreements in a professional, appropriate, and timely manner, while also showing that you can maintain a relationship with a colleague following a disagreement.
Disagreements can occur in the workplace. I disagreed with a previous colleague when she felt that she had a better approach to dealing with a patient. I made sure that we didn’t discuss this in front of the patient, as that would be inappropriate and confusing for the patient. I asked to speak with my colleague privately. We found a quiet place to discuss matters away from the patient. I listened to her approach and the reasoning behind her approach. I talked through my approach and my reasoning, and we then agreed on how to proceed that would be best for the patient. We continued our working relationship with no difficulties after the conversation, as we both had the opportunity to explain our approaches and agree on the best way forward professionally.
7. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
This is a question applicable to almost any interview for any position. The employer is looking to assess whether your perceived strengths and weaknesses make you a good choice for the particular role. It can be difficult to admit to weaknesses. You don’t want to give an employer any sign that you are unsuitable for the role. Consider whether the weakness you choose to admit could be perceived as a strength, for example, as this is a health care role, admitting that your weakness is that you can be overly sympathetic may be perceived as a strength for this position. It shows your compassion for your patients, a highly desirable trait in a physical therapist. Alternatively, pick a weakness that has no bearing on your ability to be a physical therapist.
Areas where I am particularly strong are my excellent communication skills with both patients and colleagues and my attention to detail. In terms of weaknesses, I sometimes find that I can be overly sympathetic.
8. Why do you think you would be a good fit to work here?
Education, qualifications, and skills are important, but culture is another factor that employers give consideration to when choosing employees. Your answer should demonstrate why you are the right fit for both the team working at the clinic and the patients treated at the clinic. It is an opportunity to highlight your skills, and your ability to work well both alone and as part of a team, as well as to demonstrate any understanding you have about the culture of the clinic.
I understand that providing excellent patient care is one of the key values of the clinic. I always put the patient at the heart of what I do. While patient care is often one on one, I also appreciate that teamwork is a necessity to provide the best patient care. I consider being able to work as part of a team one of my strengths.
9. How do you measure and track success when working with a patient?
There are objective means of measuring and tracking success, but you may also have your own ways of determining success. This answer can show your attitude and desire to help patients succeed with their recovery. You can use this opportunity to show compassion and your ability to adapt to an individual patient’s needs.
I appreciate there are objective measures of success, but I also think it is important to involve the patient in setting goals. If they are involved in setting goals, they will feel part of the process rather than being told what they must achieve with no consideration for their own goals. I want the patient to feel they have a voice and to feel responsible for their success.
10. What conditions have you successfully treated in your career to date?
This question is about your experience to date. Your answer is an opportunity to show the breadth of your experience and knowledge. If you are aware that the clinic specializes in specific conditions, use your answer to highlight your experience in those conditions. Share anything particularly noteworthy or unusual about your past cases. If you haven’t had a significant amount of experience, don’t be concerned. Instead, use this as an opportunity to highlight areas you have an interest and knowledge in and demonstrate your desire to experience them on a practical level.
At my current clinic, I see patients with different conditions, but my caseload is principally focused on treating patients with movement disorders. As a result, I am accustomed to developing long-term treatment plans. I realize that the long-term nature of the plan can mean patients lose motivation or struggle to stay engaged at various points during treatment. I understand the importance of keeping the patient engaged with the treatment plan in order for the outcome to be positive, so I work with each patient to develop short-term goals that will act as stepping stones and will lead us to achieving the long-term goals. I also have an interest in expanding the conditions I am involved in treating. I understand the clinic treats a wide variety of patients, and this role will allow me to gain experience treating different conditions.
Next 40 Most Asked Physical Therapist Interview Questions
- Describe how you motivate patients and keep them engaged with their treatment plan.
- How do you solve disagreements with doctors or other physical therapists?
- What is it you enjoy about being a physical therapist?
- Thinking about family members and caregivers, how do you set expectations for them? How would you provide updates to them about the patient’s status?
- Can you tell me more about the types of patients or services you’ve worked with previously?
- Thinking about your career to date, how many clients have you worked with?
- What has been your best experience working with a client?
- Tell me about the most common type of injury your patients have suffered from.
- How do you structure your sessions with patients to ensure they get the most benefit from the sessions?
- Which of your patients has affected you most? Why?
- How do you stay up to date on best practices for physical therapists?
- Tell me what you consider to be the most important part of your physical therapy training. How do you use it in a clinical setting?
- How do you set and manage patient expectations during a long physical therapy plan to keep your patient motivated?
- Have you encountered difficult patients who stop making progress in their physical therapy, and, if so, how did you deal with that situation?
- Describe your approach to developing a treatment plan for patients.
- Thinking about working with geriatric patients, what do you consider to be some of the challenges working with them?
- What conditions, if any, do you not feel comfortable treating with physical therapy?
- Tell me about the most difficult case you have worked on. How did you handle it?
- Are there any areas you feel you would benefit from more education or training?
- Do you have any special interests in physical therapy? Tell me about them.
- Tell me about your experience with long-term care.
- What are some key considerations in dealing with movement disorders?
- How would you deal with a situation where one of your patients suddenly refused to work with you?
- What is stressful about being a physical therapist? How do you cope?
- Thinking about your current or previous job, tell me about a typical day.
- Have you ever dealt with a patient who had a diagnosis that you were unfamiliar with? How did you deal with it?
- Tell me about a time you consider you delivered excellent care to a patient.
- If you thought a colleague was lying about treating a patient, how would you deal with that?
- Tell me about your education.
- What would you do if a patient accused you of poor service?
- What do you consider to be the latest trends in physical therapy?
- When is a time you had a lot on your plate, and how did you handle it?
- What have you learned from your clinical experience to date?
- What is the most difficult decision you’ve had to make, and how did you arrive at your decision?
- Describe a challenge you had to overcome.
- Why did you pursue physical therapy instead of another health profession, such as a doctor or nurse?
- What do you know about our organization?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- What can you bring to our team?
- Tell me about a time you successfully took charge of a group.
10 Best Questions to Ask in a Physical Therapist Interview
Once the employer has finished asking their questions, you will get the opportunity to ask the employer questions, and you should take this critical opportunity to show your interest in the role and to help you assess if the employer is a good fit for you.
- What are the goals of the clinic this year?
- What are the skills I need to be successful here?
- Is there potential for individual growth and opportunities to pursue certifications?
- How many patients will I see each day?
- How long is each patient slot?
- What are the most common assessments used in the clinic?
- What is the general patient population?
- Do you use PT aides?
- Do you offer a mentorship?
- How collaborative are the staff?
When interviewing for a physical therapist, the employer is looking for knowledgeable candidates who can handle a variety of patients and conditions in sometimes stressful situations who are keen to help their patients heal. Interviews can be stressful, but preparing with these questions can help you prove you are the right physical therapist for the job.
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.