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7 Questions PT Interviewees Really Want to Ask

by Diane Weaver, DPT

What is that potential hire really thinking during the interview? What questions are they thinking but are afraid to ask for fear of messing up? As the employer, you undoubtedly want to attract and hire the best physical therapists out there. In the ever changing healthcare industry, it's challenging to keep up with the most important aspects prospective hires are looking for. You may wonder what the person you are interviewing is really thinking. Here's an overview of the questions employees really want to ask in the interview.

Question 1: How busy will I be?

What does the schedule look like? How many patients will I see per day on average? Will I see patients every 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or 45 minutes? Or do you require that therapists double book? How long are PTs given for new patient evaluations? Whether you are interviewing a new grad or an experienced therapist, it's a certainty he or she will have an expectation or opinion on what a reasonable day looks like. They want to ask this question to get an idea of whether your practice will be a good fit for them.

Question 2: What are the patient demographics?

Your potential employee may want to ask questions about the patient mix as well. Some PTs may want a variety of diagnoses to treat while others have specialty areas of interest, such as vestibular therapy or women's health. Therefore, a PT who is passionate about treating high school athletes may not adjust well to a clinic who primarily serves patients of Medicare age.

Question 3: How do you measure job performance?

This question gives an employee a glimpse into what you value most and how your business works. Your prospective hire will want to ask questions about these 3 factors in job performance:


Employees understand that this metric is the bottom line and most physical therapy employers do set productivity goals. But, how it's defined and assessed could seriously affect the job. Is it only direct, billable patient care? This means that documentation, phone calls, emails, and marketing are all considered non-productive time. Furthermore, what are your expectations for productivity and how does it factor into performance?

Patient outcomes and patient satisfaction

With insurance companies increasingly requiring functional outcome tools for approval, how do you utilize these tools and are they a part of a performance assessments? Furthermore, APTA research shows patient variables such as co-morbidities and socio-economic status influence patient outcomes. Do your outcome tools account for these factors?

Employees know that patients’ experiences are important and want to provide high quality care to patients. Do you assess patient satisfaction in your practice? How does it relate to job performance?

Team dynamics

A job in the world of physical therapy is a complex interaction between managers, co-workers, and patients. Physical therapists and assistants must work as a team. They might want to ask about your team’s dynamic. What primary expectations do you have for an employee as a part of that team? Do you expect a PT to work over their lunch hour or stay late to see a patient? Do you value PTs or PTAs that mentor new grads or serve as a clinical instructor? Would you like to see an employee take initiative on marketing or community outreach?

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Question 4: How's the division of labor?

Employees want to know what your staffing looks like, because staffing setup and roles significantly impact job satisfaction. Employees know this. What is the ratio of physical therapist to physical therapy assistants? Are PTs primarily doing evaluations or do they follow some of their patients? Employees will want to ask questions about whether you employ other disciplines such as athletic trainers and techs and what their role is.

As a new grad PT, I accepted my first job at an outpatient clinic where a tech did all the exercises with the patients. PTs were free to utilize manual therapy or modalities with patients but tech performed all exercises. I quickly realized clinicians were often only applying a hot pack to patients and then passing the patient to a tech for the rest of their treatment. My attempts to do more with patients were met with resistance. This model was not a good fit for me, as it was a waste of my skills and I wanted a more active role with my patients. In hindsight, I should also have asked more questions in the interview about how roles were divided up. I left the job after 6 months.

What about acute care?

In a different setting, such as acute care, in which therapists may have to do some heavy lifting, lack of aid from techs or other disciplines may lead to worse patient outcomes and decreased job satisfaction. A 2013 literature review of acute care found that conflict between employees about roles is a source of burnout for physical therapists.

Question 5: Will I have autonomy?

A question that you might not consider, but your potential hire wants to know the answer to. PTs graduating today have doctorates and are entering the workforce in the era of direct access. They have the skills and the training to practice autonomously and will expect to do so. However, they are also entering an industry in which shrinking insurance reimbursements, increasing regulations, and emphasis on productivity leave PTs with less control.

PTs will want to know how much freedom they have to make decisions regarding patient care. If a PT wants to co-treat a challenging stroke patient with the OT, do they have the freedom to do this? Can a PT block more time for a difficult patient? Are employees able to choose what continuing education courses they want to pursue?

Question 6: Who am I working with?

Employees would like to ask you basic information about co-workers, including how much experience they have in the field, how long they have been with your company, areas of interest or specialization, and overall turnover rate. Many new grads or inexperienced PTs are looking for mentorship. Others may want coworkers to collaborate with on an area of interest.

How long are employees staying with your company? PTs are in demand and this trend will likely continue. The Bureau of labor statistics reported an expected growth rate of 22% in 2018. PTs don't want to stay in a job they don't like. Your company's turnover rate may be a key indicator of how well employees like working there and how well benefits stack up.

Question 7: What is the compensation package?

Employees will definitely want to know their salary, but might be reluctant to ask this question. However, they will also be interested in the total package including any benefits, PTO, 401k, and continuing education (CE) reimbursement. The new grad who has $70,000 in student debt may be more focused on salary while an experienced PT may be more interested in PTO and retirement benefits.

CE reimbursement is essential to the compensation package. If employers do not provide any continuing education money, employees may have to spend a lot of their own money for courses which may make the total salary less attractive.

PTs are increasingly achieving specialist certifications to improve patient outcomes and stand out in the workforce but education and testing for certification is expensive. How supportive is your company financially of specialist certification? Furthermore, do you offer pay raises for therapists that do obtain certification? Employees will want to know if this is something you value. If the total salary is less than competitors but you are willing to spend $ 2,000 on an APTA specialist certification, the right PT will certainly take notice.

Why are these questions important to be aware of?

Employees are often hesitant to ask too many interview questions, especially those related to somewhat taboo subjects such as salary. Prospective hires don’t want to be perceived as overly demanding. It is prudent for the employer to bring up these topics if potential hires do not. The answer to some of these questions may be a deal breaker for a PT. It’s better for both parties to find out before hiring an employee. Broaching these subjects may also be a good way to test a potential hire’s knowledge on relevant issues.

Most employers want to find quality employees who are seeking long term employment to minimize cost and improve patient care. While you may not know how many interviews that PT you just sat down with has been on or what the PT clinic down the street offered, knowing what many employees are thinking in the interview will help you find the right fit for your company.


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