It is so surreal being back in the classroom after being out on clinical rotations for 6 months! I got back into the swing of things pretty quickly and thankfully I only have to be on campus two days a week for this final semester. As the OTD class of 2019 finishes up the final semester on campus, complete a capstone/doctoral specialty internship, it’s going to soon be time to graduate, pass our boards & start applying for jobs. This semester, we are taking a professional issues course, where we had the experience to participate in “mock” interviews. Faculty members from other programs on campus volunteered their time and expertise to interview each student. I hadn’t experienced a real, in-person interview before so I was interested to see how the mock interview would go. During the experience, I was able to get a glimpse of the process and wanted to use this platform share my experience with anyone interested in knowing how it went, along with some tips that helped me succeed!
During the first few weeks of class, we went over what to include on our résumés. For a student transitioning to a new grad, it can be difficulty to determine what information needs to be provided to our potential employers. Do we add work experience that we did before we started OT school? Do we share hours we covered during observations? What about fieldwork? Research projects? I had to figure out how to really pick and choose the most important and relevant experiences. I personally narrowed mine down to educational experience, level 1 and 2 clinical rotations, professional presentations, study abroad, current volunteer positions, and awards/recognitions. I somehow managed to fit everything onto two pages. I kept going back to edit, thinking… should I be adding more or do I have way too much? After tweaking it individually and in-class over the last few weeks, I was pleased with the final results.
Two days before the interview, I went back over my résumé and saw that some of my bullet points were square-shaped, while others were just the typical round bulletpoint. I quickly fixed them, saved it, and emailed it to myself so I could print it out the next morning on campus. I picked out an outfit to wear. I realized that I definitely need to go shopping for some professional outfits soon. The morning of the interview, I got ready and put the outfit on that I chose. The blazer ripped when I put my arms in so I had to find something completely different to wear!
I got to campus early to just look back over my résumé again and just relax a little before the interviews start. I first had to observe a classmate during her interview. This was helpful for me because I was in the third and final set of interviews so I had the opportunity to see how the process went. I observed my classmate, Kelsey while she interviewed. I can’t even imagine how nerve-wracking it had to be to be in the first set of interviews for the day. I was super impressed with how she carried herself during the interview and was able to tell how passionate she is about becoming a pediatric occupational therapist. I am sure she was just as nervous as the rest of us, but her confidence and enthusiasm made me realize that we just need to be ourselves and the rest will flow naturally. She asked some questions to the interviewers and asked for clarification when needed, and that is totally ok! As some of my classmates and the interviewers mentioned during the debrief, not only are you being interviewed, but you are also interviewing the company, so definitely ask questions and don’t sell yourself short.
I had a classmate observe my interview. We both got to the classroom early and waited outside until the interviewer was ready. I had a case of the nervous giggles so I had to take a moment to myself to get ready to start. I got in, greeted the interviewer and introduced myself. We sat at a round table and I asked my interviewer how her day was going. I gave her a copy of my résumé and we got started. Throughout the interview, I made sure to really be mindful of not saying “um” and to really be aware of my body language. I typically have a bad habit and slouch a lot, especially when sitting in the classroom. Body language is really important, especially in an interview because you don’t want to appear uninterested. But having a slouching habit or always having your arms crossed can definitely give off the wrong impression. For me, trying to be aware of body language, trying not to say “um”, and not talking too fast, is a lot to try to be aware of at once, but practice definitely helps. Knowing that I am a loud and fast talker, I knew that I had to be aware of how fast I was talking. What I did to help this was to just really choose my words before I spoke rather than just spilling everything out at once. I think that really helped a lot overall. Whenever my interviewer asked me something like, “can you tell me how you would deal with [insert certain situation]”. I took a few seconds to think of what I would say, rather than just blurting out whatever first came to my mind. Thinking of past experiences before the interview can help with this. Although you don’t know what you will get asked specifically, at least you would have those memories fresh in your mind can help you come up with an effective and meaningful answer.
Tip #1- pick out your outfit and double-check résumé a few days beforehand
Tip #2- be aware of your body language
Tip #3- try to slow down when you’re talking
Tip #4- it’s ok to take a minute to think about a response before answering
During the interview, I was asked to talk about my 5-year plan/goals. This wasn’t something that I thought about beforehand, so I had to think quickly. I mentioned some goals I had in mind. After the interview, my interviewer told me that for a new grad, your goals don’t have to be super big. It can be small steps to take such as learning a new assessment tool and trying it with a client or getting a certification in something you’re interested in. I really appreciated that feedback because I like to think of my big, long-term goals, rather than thinking about smaller steps that I can take to get to those bigger ones. It can be easy to lose sight of that while in school and just working toward your degree. When you start out as a new grad with little experience other than clinical rotations, you will have to make smaller goals for yourself as a new therapist who has so much to learn.
Tip #5- think about small goals that you want to achieve during your first year as a new grad
Tip #6- be open to feedback after the interview
After my interviewer and I talked more about the requirements for the position and she asked more questions. Another question she asked was, “What would you do if you were asked to do something that wasn’t necessarily in the job description, such as cleaning toys or organizing a therapy room?”. I immediately thought back to a time, before OT school while I was doing observation hours. I was a volunteer at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Outpatient Clinic in Tampa in my last year of undergraduate studies. I thought back to when I spent most of my days cleaning toys, organizing rooms, and sometimes doing office work. At first, I didn’t enjoy cleaning the toys, but realized that therapists are busy during the day and may not have time to do those things. I ended up really enjoying those kind of tasks and I loved having the work area clean and tidy for the clients. I used this experience to answer the question. I said, “I would absolutely take on those roles, if needed”. Since the interview was a “mock” interview, we didn’t go into the experience necessarily having any idea on what position we would be interviewing for. But, interestingly enough, my interviewer was using one of her past jobs as the job I was “interviewing” for. She old me after the interview that she used to work at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Outpatient Clinic, but at a different location! I thought it was so funny that the position I was “interviewing” for was actually somewhere I had some experience at and became extra thankful to have those long days cleaning those toys and organizing the rooms.
Tip #7- highlight your past experiences & achievements
Another memory from the interview was when I was asked how I would respond to working with therapists who have been working in the clinic for a long time as a new grad with an OTD as opposed to those therapists who have a Bachelors or Masters degree in occupational therapy. My interviewer was pleased with my response as I said that I would take the opportunity to learn from those who have valuable experience. When she asked me what I could offer as a new grad, I continued to mention that I have personally gained skills in my OT program that would allow me to hold journal clubs, where I could present new research articles related to practice or I could look into areas for program development. I mentioned that I would seek mentorship and be open to learning. For me, experience is more important than what type degree someone has. As a new grad, I will always remember that I have much more to learn and wouldn’t be here in the profession that I am without those who have been paving the way since 1917 when OT came about.
Tip #8- respect and learn from those who have been in the field
Tip #9- show what you can offer, not put others down
I am honestly surprised I remembered this much from my mock interview! Although I was nervous, I made sure to go in confident and to highlight my skills and experiences, while also being vulnerable to discuss my areas that can be improved. I am so thankful that my interviewer provided constructive feedback and allowed me to have a positive experience, THANK YOU! I feel that mentally preparing and thinking of how I would answer certain questions beforehand really helped. I tried to stay aware of myself in all aspects and chose my words wisely. I know that interviews can be intimidating, but this has been one of the most valuable experiences I have had in the GU OTD program and I am glad that I had the opportunity to give it my all. If you have an interview coming up, just remember this one last tip..
Tip #10- BE YOURSELF & BE CONFIDENT! You are amazing and have so many valuable experiences. There are many things you can do to prepare, but if you stay true to yourself and highlight your strengths and can identify areas of growth, you’ll be fine!
P.S. don’t forget to send a thank-you note to your interviewer(s) for taking the time out of their day for you.
Thanks for stopping by!