Graduates from a medical assistant certificate program are heading into a strong job market. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of medical assistants will grow 29% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.
We spoke with Danielle Scheetz, Medical Assistant Program Chair in Purdue University Global’s School of Health Sciences, and Cindy Deahl, from the Career Services department at Purdue Global, about the most common medical assistant interview questions and answers. Keep these in mind as you apply for open positions.
1. Tell Me a Little About Yourself
Open-ended questions of this nature can get tricky, because you don’t want to go on and on about your pet rabbit or your personal hobbies. “Focus on your experience, training, and education,” Scheetz says.
2. What Are Your Strengths?
The strengths you pick should be relevant to the medical assisting field. “For example, excelling in time management, working as a team player, and having great listening skills and compassion for others are three strengths that match the qualities of a top-notch medical assistant,” Deahl says.
3. What Are Your Weaknesses?
“Don’t say the word ‘weakness’ back to your interviewer,” Deahl advises. “Position your answer as an opportunity to improve.”
“If you are a new medical assistant to the field, an appropriate answer may be, ‘I am a new medical assistant and will need to learn your clinic’s processes; however, I feel very prepared and confident in the clinical skills I have gained from my externship and coursework.’”
You can also use this as an opportunity to discuss hard and soft skills that you've improved over time and the actions you took to improve them.
4. How Much Experience Do You Have?
Employers are looking for an answer that mixes relevant and diverse experience. If you’ve worked as a medical assistant before, describe the length of your experience. Be specific about where you’ve worked, which schools you’ve attended, and what relevant volunteer experience you may have.
“If you’re interviewing for your first job, focus on the experience you gained at your externship,” Scheetz says. “Talk about skills you performed and observed there, which you can bring to their company—things like having good communication skills, following HIPAA protocol, experience with EKGs, and proficiency with electronic medical records.”
5. Tell Me About a Difficult Situation You Have Been in at Work and How You Handled It
“This is an opportunity to display your problem-solving skills, as well as compassion and empathy,” Deahl says. “Describe the situation, focusing less on the actual problem and more on how you helped identify and resolve it.”
6. Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?
Again, make sure to reply in a professional capacity. When employers ask this question, they’re looking for a career path. If your answer shows a lack of foresight, it will look like you consider the medical assistant position to be a job, rather than a career. Employers are looking for responses that suggest a long-term commitment and perhaps a path to career advancement. Display ambition and discipline in your answer and paint a realistic picture of an empowering future employee.
7. Why Do You Want to Work Here?
This is a chance to demonstrate that you’ve done your research. Before your interview, visit the company website (look for an “About” section) and become familiar with their background, vision, values, and mission statement. Learn about the company culture, study the job description, and check out their social media pages. You want to use your answer to show them you are aligned with their mission and excited to contribute to it.
8. What Skills Do You Have that Qualify You For this Role?
In some states, the absolute minimum education you’ll need to be a medical assistant is a high school diploma or GED. Other states require formal educational programs. To be competitive, certifications, experience, and relevant training go a long way. If you’re proficient with Electronic Health Records (EHR) software, be sure to mention it. Experience with Microsoft Office, medical billing (including insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid), and HIPAA protocol will also make you a strong candidate.
Before and After Your Medical Assistant Job Interview
What you do before and after your interview may be as important as what you do during your interview. These things show professionalism, initiative, and dedication.
Before your interview, make sure to take the following steps:
- Dress professionally and prepare your professional attire the night before. A good rule of thumb is business professional.
- For men, an appropriate choice is slacks with a jacket, or a suit.
- For women, a nice blouse with dress pants or a skirt, a suit, or a business professional dress is appropriate.
- You should also avoid wearing any strong cologne or perfume.
- Bring several copies of your resume, along with a printout of references.
- Map your route to the interview and make sure you arrive at least 10 minutes early.
- When you arrive to the interview, be courteous and respectful to the front desk staff.
- Prepare relevant questions for the employer. Authentic questions for the employer show your interest and may illuminate some important details.
After your interview, take these steps:
- Ask the interviewers for business cards. This will show your continued interest in the position.
- Ask what the next steps are.
- If they indicate they are in a rush to make a decision, email them as soon as you get home, thanking the employer for their consideration and stating that you’re ready to take the next step. Take the opportunity to highlight how your skill set matches the position requirements that were discussed during the interview.
- If they’re not making a rapid decision, mail a handwritten thank you note as soon as possible. This “old school” step could make you an outstanding candidate.
Purdue Global Offers a Medical Assistant Certificate Program
If you’re ready to get the competitive advantage in your career as a medical assistant, learn more about Purdue Global’s medical assistant certificate program.* Our flexible online format gives you the convenience you need to work while going to school, and you may be eligible to sit for certification exams after graduation.† Request more information today.