5 Common Job Interview Questions for Occupational Therapists

resume header image

Improve Your Resume or CV

If you’re nervous about an upcoming job interview (who isn’t, right?), you’re probably scouring the internet for the best ways to prepare. There are plenty of ways to practice for a job interview and present yourself in the best light on the big day. You should always start by doing your research on the company you’re targeting and the specific role you will be interviewing for—the more you know, the better prepared and more confident you’ll be on the day of the real interview. Plus, the interviewer will surely be impressed by your knowledge of the company. You’re probably also looking at common job interview questions and practicing your answers. 

To ace a job interview and progress to the next stage of the hiring process, it’s imperative to make the recruiter see why you’re the ideal candidate for the position. You can do this by presenting clearly your job history and qualifications, your professional goals and expectations, and your passion for the field. Most employers look for roughly the same sort of information about you and your work experience, but when it comes to industry-specific questions, it gets a bit more complicated. 

The types of questions you field during a job interview will depend greatly on the industry you work in. Obviously, an interview for a coder job will differ from that for a project manager or a chef position, and it gets even more different when we go into fields such as science and medicine. With jobs that require workers to interact directly with other people, particularly when they have to care for patients, the hiring manager will ask more personality and behavioral questions to make sure the candidate not only has the right qualifications and experience but is also the right fit. Some job interview questions remain consistent across vastly different industries, but others will be significantly influenced by your field.

If you’re preparing to interview for an occupational therapist position and feel that you could use some practice, set up a mock job interview with one of our specialists. We have experts in the occupational therapy field who can prepare you for the industry-specific questions you’re likely to get asked and offer personalized advice to help you succeed.

So, what are some industry-specific questions you might encounter when interviewing for the position of occupational therapist? 

1. Why have you chosen this field and this particular position?

The first thing your interviewer will want to know is why you went into occupational therapy and why you’re applying for this particular role. Usually, people in the medical field want to help others, so you can highlight this by telling the interviewer a moving story about a time when you made a difference in a patient’s life. Alternatively, you can share the moment that made you realize you wanted to become an occupational therapist. Framing your answers as stories is a great way to engage the interviewer and get them invested in you—an interesting story will make you a lot more memorable than someone who offers a cliché answer.

This can go hand-in-hand with your explanation of why you’re applying for this particular position and why you think you’re the right person for it. How you answer this question can have a huge impact on the way the hiring manager perceives your suitability for the role, so do your research beforehand and learn as much as you can about the employer to show there’s a reason why you want this specific job. Be honest—hiring managers are good at sensing pretense—but think deeply about what drew you to this position other than the salary, benefits, or perks. Find something about it that stands out in a positive way when compared to similar jobs and zero in on that.

2. What are your career goals?

Most hiring managers will ask a candidate about their career goals regardless of the field, but there’s a lot more to this question than meets the eye. What the interviewer is really asking here is where you see yourself in the future so they can determine whether your aspirations align with their organization’s vision and objectives. Your career goals don’t matter to them per se—they merely want to see that your ambitions are in sync with those of their company so that they can count on you for the long term. 

It’s essential that not only your goals align with the company’s but also that you’re satisfied in the position—no employer wants disgruntled workers. Therefore, the hiring manager will try to make sure that you’re on the right path and that this position is aligned with your stated goals, so it’s important to consider the broader context of your life and career and the potential of this job to help you achieve your professional dreams. Be honest with the interviewer—and yourself—about this position being an important stepping stone to accomplishing your longer-term career goals. 

You should go deeper than simply saying you want to help people and consider what particular steps you want to take to further your career, highlighting your skills and qualifications to show the hiring manager why you’re the ideal candidate for the job. This requires some forethought, so before your interview, take the time to think through your answer to this or a similar question—you’re likely to receive one in this vein.

3. How would you deal with a challenging patient? 

Occupational therapists know that difficult patients are part of the job, and it’s important for hiring managers to know that you can handle them in a safe, respectful way. Whether they ask you an open-ended question like this or describe a situation with a challenging patient and ask how you would react, it’s critical to demonstrate that you’re prepared for the challenges of occupational therapy. 

Highlight attributes such as patience and empathy when answering this question, and offer an example of how you managed a difficult situation with a patient. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a story from a previous occupational therapy job—if you don’t have relevant anecdotes, think about stories from your personal life that may apply to the situation. Your past experiences not only with difficult patients but also with difficult situations in general are the best way to explain your processes and showcase your skills.

4. Can you handle the heavy workload?

Occupational therapists know the workload can be heavy and even overwhelming at times. It’s not an easy job by any measure, and the hiring manager needs to make sure you’re not only aware of this but also equipped to handle it. It’s a stressful environment, and employers would rather hire a less qualified candidate who’s highly resilient than a more qualified applicant who might crumble under pressure.

An occupational therapist has to excel at time management and multitasking and be able to keep moving and maintain a positive demeanor throughout the day. Again, use a past experience to show how you handle the heavy workload and prove that you’re capable of balancing your work and life despite the demands of the job and the long hours. Anecdotes are often the best way to answer questions like these as they constitute real-life examples that demonstrate your abilities and attributes rather than your perception of them.

5. What qualities should an occupational therapist possess? 

The interviewer might ask you this question to see if your answer aligns with what you’ve said about yourself and also to test your knowledge of the job. That doesn’t mean you should just recite all the skills and qualities listed on your resume—provide an honest, well-thought-out answer that still allows you to emerge as an ideal candidate. Consider not only the physical qualities and work experience an occupational therapist should have but also the mental and emotional traits they must possess to thrive in such a demanding environment. 

As with the other questions, you should think about your answer in advance—don’t script it because you’ll sound like a robot, but turn over the ideas in your head so you can spontaneously offer a powerful answer. Your response will speak not only to your own experience and qualifications but also to your objectivity and ability to self-critique. 

To go over these and other questions with a professional, schedule a mock job interview to feel more confident and prepared on the big day. Our industry-specific advice will help you ace your interview and take the next step to building a thriving career in the occupational therapy field.

Improve Your Resume or CV