13 Occupational Therapy Job Interview Questions with Expert Answers

It’s no secret that job interviews are accompanied by an influx of emotions. Excitement, nervousness, and anxiety are all experienced by most as they think the about potential questions their interviewer might ask. These emotions can be especially heightened when interviewing for your first professional position. One of the reasons OT interviews are so stressful is because conveying your skillset, training, and passion in such a short time feels incredibly daunting. That’s why like anything else in life, preparation is key! Before you dare step into that office to meet your potential future employer, be sure to explore some of the questions you’ll likely need to answer.


What do you enjoy most about occupational therapy?

It’s hard to go wrong with your response to this question, especially if you answer honestly. Think about what you led you to the OT field. What have you enjoyed most about your clinical experience so far? When asked this question in my last job interview, I answered with a straight-forward and sincere response. What I enjoy most about working as an occupational therapist is learning about my patient’s stories. Everyone I meet has their own unique and personal story and I’ve learned a lot by asking them about their lives and history.


What did you enjoy most about your previous job or clinical experience?

Unless you had an absolutely horrible experience in your previous clinical position, this should also be a relatively easy question to answer. For me, the response was simple, I loved my co-workers. Therapy departments are truly a family of individuals. You may love your patients, but in the end your co-workers make or break your job. Your new manager wants to make sure you’re a good fit for the environment and speaking of your co-workers in a positive light will speak volumes about your interpersonal relationships within the workplace.


What did you enjoy least about your previous job or clinical experience?

This one can be a little trickier. Speaking about your past co-workers, supervisors, or bosses in a negative light is not recommended as a response to this interview question. Instead you can talk about something like disliking the fact that your previous clinical experience didn’t target your interest area. For example, I once worked at a small hospital specializing in orthopedic surgeries. As a self-proclaimed “neuro” therapist, I jumped on an opportunity to interview for a neurological OT position only 3 months into working at the hospital. When asked this question in my interview I responded that as a clinician at my current hospital, I didn’t have the opportunity to treat the type of diagnoses I loved to work with most.


What is your biggest weakness?

This is another tricky one. You don’t want to your weaknesses to be related to the general job skills of the new position. Keep your response targeted toward clinical skills that you need to develop more. Especially if you are a new graduate, you aren’t expected to know everything. You can’t teach someone good work ethic skills, however, you can teach and expand upon an employee’s clinical skills, so stick to clinical skills you could work on developing more. This will tell the employer that you are able to identify your weak areas and you’re ambitious about improving.


Tell me about a time you demonstrated excellent care?

Preface your response by stating that you strive to provide everyone with excellent care and think about the ways you go “above and beyond” for every person you treat. Have you been an advocate for patient to receive more services? Have you researched new equipment and technology available to benefit a particular individual? Have you spent a significant amount of time formulating a highly individualized treatment plan or activity for a patient who needs extra attention? Draw from a past experience with a patient when you really went out of your way to provide the best care possible.


Tell me about a time you feel you truly made a difference in someone’s life?

I strive to make a difference in all of my patient’s lives, but there are always those that you not only help, but you make a strong connection to. When considering your example, think of an individual you connected with on a deeper level, as empathy is a large part of our job as occupational therapists.


Tell me about the most difficult patient you have worked with?

This can be a difficult question to answer. You don’t want to sound like a total complainer and you still want to make sure you express your desire to work in the field. Your most difficult patient may be someone who was unmotivated, aggressive, depressed, or experienced profound physical difficulties. Think about how you addressed these difficulties. I once worked with someone who experienced the loss of vision following an injury, requiring creativity on my part to work around these new difficulties. In interviews, this gives me an opportunity to show I can think outside the box.


How would you defuse a difficult situation with a caregiver or patient?

In healthcare, “difficult situations” are plenty. The retail arena is known for supporting the claim “the customer is always right” and while this is not necessarily true for healthcare, this saying does remind us that our patients are our biggest priority. In occupational therapy, difficulties present when dealing with both patients and their families. To defuse a situation, first empathize and then apologize. After listening to the individual’s situation, discuss how you can help remedy the problem. Johns Hopkins Hospital outlines an excellent technique known as the PEARLS Method. Review this method and you should be able to provide an impressive response.


How would you motivate a patient who did not want to participate?

The best way to motivate a patient is to relate to them on a personal level. Better yet, joke around and make them laugh. Respond to this question by stating that you would work interesting and individual-specific conversation into your treatment time to improve motivation and engagement. It takes time and effort to build rapport with your patients. People love to talk about themselves, and if you show strong interest in them as individuals, you will have the best success in motivating them to participate in therapy.


What assessments and outcome measures are you familiar with?

Functional outcome measures are super important. Data allows us to determine how patients are improving from skilled therapy and help us justify the need for continuation of services. Functional outcomes are measured by performing standardized assessments. You should have a fairly good idea of the typically-used measurement tools. Familiarize yourself with further assessments available that are specifically related to occupational therapy (click here for an awesome standardized assessment resource). Supervisors will be interested in what new information (such as assessments) you can bring to the table to support and advance their current OT practice.


What are your clinical interests?

We all have specific areas of interest within the occupational therapy scope of practice. Tailor your response to fit the facility you are working at. For example, you wouldn’t appeal to an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation supervisor if your clinical interest area is sensory integration, a pediatric-based intervention. For hospital-based and rehabilitation facilities, you may allude to an interest in specific neurological or orthopedic conditions. When interviewing for an outpatient facility, consider where might be a great niche to fall into—vision, driving rehabilitation, and hand therapy are all popular additions to outpatient clinics. This is also an excellent transition to discussing what you desire for future clinical development.


How could you benefit this facility? How can you assist with program development?

Think about your assets, especially as they relate to clinical interests. If you have interests in a specialization area, such as vision or wheelchair seating and positioning, make sure to express those as these will not only help the diversification of skills within the clinic, but will assist with marketing techniques to obtain new patients. Do you love doing research and learning about the latest advances? Professional development, especially within the clinic, is a necessity and therapists often take it upon themselves to educate each other via journal clubs or in-services.


Do you have any questions?

This is a fairly open-ended question and most interviews end this way. Show your true interest in the position by asking if any therapists currently employed have specializations and what clinical areas the supervisor what like to grow within the clinic. Consider asking to shadow an occupational therapist in the clinic to let your potential new supervisor know that you are looking for not just a job, but the perfect fit.

Job interviews are stressful, but you can ace your interview and secure a job you love with the right advice. Just relax, take a deep breath, make an effort to look professional, and most of all prepare adequately to ensure you make a great impression.