Physical Therapy Interview Questions

A physical therapist and her assistant work with a patient.

There’s a lot to consider when recruiting, interviewing, and hiring a new physical therapist, and it’s important to hone your strategy in order to hire and retain the best candidates. You can learn a great deal about an applicant’s skills, experience, and credentials from their resume and cover letter. That’s why it’s so important to focus your physical therapy interview questions on personality, attitude, and cultural fit.

Physical therapists work closely with patients, most of whom are trying to overcome painful and debilitating injuries. This means you’ll need professionals with great bedside manner and strong social skills. When devising physical therapist interview questions, make sure you’re able to assess the following (in addition to hard skills and professional experience):

  1. Are you successfully selling your company to the applicant and gauging compatibility?
  2. Do you have a sense of the applicant’s personality and ability to communicate effectively?
  3. Have you done everything you can to close the deal (assuming they’re a top candidate)?

1. Sell Your Organization to the Candidate and Assess Compatibility

Given the competition for physical therapists, recruiters and hiring managers need to be prepared to actively court their candidates. This means top candidates will be interviewing you, while both parties will be determining whether it’s a good fit. So, in addition to standard questions about skill and experience, you can ask questions which assess how they’d fit in, which will also give you an opportunity to highlight your company’s best qualities.

  • How would you feel about working in a collaborative environment?
  • Are you interested in mentorships with more experienced physical therapists?
  • Are you willing to share your expertise, possibly in a mentorship capacity, with more junior-level therapists?
  • Could you describe a time you went above and beyond for a patient, as well as a time you had to deal with a difficult patient or coworker?
  • Can you describe a job you had (any job) that wasn’t quite the right fit. What led to this conclusion?

Recruiter Tip: “In the interview, my focus is on attitude and geography,” says Andy McCall, manager and team leader for physical therapist recruiting at McCall and Lee. “Many guys want to live in LA or San Diego and work with athletes. But the reality is, where do Mom and Dad live, where do you want to raise your kids?”

2. Evaluate Personality and Communication Skills

In addition to highlighting what makes your organization stand out among the rest, it’s important to evaluate your candidate’s soft skills and to discuss the realities of the job, as these will help improve employee retention. You’ll want someone with the right temperament for the job and your particular workplace culture, while the ability to communicate clearly plays an important role in both staff cohesion and positive patient outcomes.

A few examples of these types of physical therapy interview questions include:

  • Could you describe a time you changed course when certain treatments didn’t seem to be working for a patient?
  • Could you explain ways you’ve communicated constructive or negative feedback to PTAs?
  • Could you give an example of how you would explain the necessity of certain treatments or exercises to a reluctant or skeptical patient?
  • Were there times when you were positive about a certain ailment or treatment course that was contradicted by patient feedback? If so, how did you resolve the disconnect and help the patient?
  • How do you balance persistence and “tough love” for patients with the need to keep them engaged with the program?

Recruiter Tip: “A caring personality is important,” says McCall. “PT has a sales and customer service aspect now, especially for outpatient.”

3. Tie Up Loose Ends and Close the Deal

Again, since the demand for qualified physical therapist is projected to continue, compensation is king when candidates compare job offers, and employers who want their choice of PTs will pay something of a premium. Some sample physical therapy interview questions to help you close the deal may include:

  • What are your salary expectations?
  • What would your ideal work week look like?
  • What types of career development programs would you be interested in?
  • What kinds of benefits are most important to you? PTO? Flex time? Comprehensive health benefits?
  • Compensation aside, what are some of the most important intangibles in a work setting?

Recruiter Tips: “Money talks — it’s most often the incentive for students to take one job versus another,” says Stan Dacko, chair of the physical therapy department at Lebanon Valley College.

Still, the quality of the work experience is very important to many physical therapists. “What drew me in was Athletico’s focus on helping patients achieve their desired outcomes, teamwork, and advancing the career and educational goals of their employees,” says Kristen Peterson, a physical therapist in Chicago.

Find More Great Candidates in Less Time

Knowing which physical therapy interview questions to ask is an important part of the puzzle. But first, you’ll need to attract top candidates in this increasingly competitive labor market. Make your search more efficient, and productive, by posting a free job ad with Monster.