The Essential Occupational Therapist Interview Questions and Guide

Leading up to Interview

  • Practice, practice, practice interview questions
    • Speaking out loud
    • In front of a miror, an audience, your cat, or record yourself
    • Pay attention to volume, tone, speech rate
    • Your smile
    • Your posture
    • Your non-verbal language (fidgeting)
  • Research the employer
    • Company mission, values (pro tip: can be used as talking points during your interview)
    • Department specifics (unit size, population served, etc.)
    • Recent company news
    • Benefits (very important, especially if you are seeking full-time employment)
    • Research Salary in your area
  • Research recent Industry News
  • Practice your handshake with different people (spouse, friend, parent, dog, cat, yourself (L hand and R hand) – try the extremes with limp/firm to find the “just right”

Preparing What to Bring

  • Copies of your resume
  • Professional interview portfolio/folder
  • Pen
  • Notebook with questions for the employer and pages to jot down notes during the interview
  • Additional merits e.g. published a research study
  • Page of your references

Day Before Interview

  • Choose your outfit
  • Wear your outfit (to ensure good fit, including your shoes)
  • Iron or steam your outfit
  • Hang outfit to be ready to go the next day
  • Print out resumes, questions, and references and place them into the portfolio
  • Double-check and confirm interview time and place
  • Research traffic and drive time to arrive early (at least 30 minutes)
  • Ensure your car has gas
  • Get a good night’s sleep (set at least 2 different (physical) alarm clocks)
  • Put the portfolio in the car that you will drive to the interview

Day of Interview

  • Eat a well-balanced breakfast
  • Do a leisurely/self-care activity leading up to interview
  • Get dressed, do your hair, look good and confident!
  • Shave (optional, recommended for guys)
  • Brush your teeth/eat a mint
  • Use the restroom before
  • Do not drink too many fluids
  • Silence your phone

Salary Negotiation?

I recommend negotiating your salary during your hiring process. Although the topic of salary likely will not come up during your interview, it is a good idea to begin thinking of your dream salary and the salary you are okay with. There are many resources on the Internet regarding salary negotiation, but for OT, it is a good idea to research Salaries in your area.

The Interview

  • “Tell me about yourself”
    • Practice and time yourself with this question, be short, succinct – less than 2 minutes
    • Your resume in a nutshell
    • Your chance to sell yourself

From this point, there are several interview formats and questions. Typically, you will encounter a panel (you and several interviewers). Behavioral interview questions are becoming more popular and was the one I was asked for my employer. Even if you do not anticipate behavioral interview questions, I recommend using the “fingertip strategy”

Fingertip Strategy

  • Think of several specific “stories” or experiences you had related to Occupational Therapy that you can use to answer interview questions.
    • What was the problem/situation?
    • What context/environment?
    • Who was there?
    • What was your role/involvement?
    • What was the problem/task?
    • What was your action?
    • What was the result?
  • For each specific example you think of, associate it with a finger on your hand, e.g. Thumb = story 1, Index finger = story 2, etc. Think of at least 5, but no more than 10.
  • During the interview, recall the stories you thought of by using your fingers as a memory aid.
  • Most likely, you may not have direct occupational therapy work experience. -> Think of related healthcare experience. If you have none -> Think of related work experience or life experience.
  • What stories to focus on:
    • Problem-solving, initiative, judgment
    • Handling stress, resilience, adaptability
    • Analytical skills, creativity
    • Persuasiveness, negotiation
    • Attention to detail, planning and organizing
    • Integrity, reliability, motivation
    • Team building, leadership, management

You can do this!
Knowing these types of characteristics will allow you to answer any behavioral question that comes your way, even if you are not prepared for it, because you will have a story for almost each type of character trait.

Behavioral Interview Questions

  • “Tell us about a time you had a challenging situation.”
  • “Tell us about a time you had a conflict with a co-worker, how did you handle it?”
  • “Tell us about a time you made a risky decision.”
    • This is in my opinion, the most stressful question to answer, so being prepared for it will be very helpful. Be careful not to share a major mistake that makes the employer perceive you as an unsafe practitioner. We take risks every day in our lives, including our jobs, but it is important we outweigh the pros and cons.
  • “Tell us about a time you made a non-conventional or non-popular decision.”
  • “Tell us about a time you were in direct conflict with a peer and how was it resolved.”
  • “Tell us about a time you went above and beyond your duty for the client, family, or co-worker.”

Non-Behavioral / General / OT Interview Questions

  • “What area of OT are you passionate about?”
  • “What got you into OT or healthcare?”
  • “What steps do you take to advance your practice?”
  • “What resources can we provide you to make you a better practitioner?”

While Answering the Questions:

  • Be confident
  • Make eye-contact (with all/several the employers in the room if possible)
  • Try not to fidget
  • Sit with good posture
  • Be succinct
  • Be truthful
  • Be careful not to reveal: names of people, confidential information, bad characteristics, etc.
  • Ask for clarification if needed
  • Time a moment to think of a response, instead of answering
  • Minimize filler phrases/sounds (“um, uh, mmm”)
  • Smile (including during your response)

Additional Resources:

Good Luck!