Interviews are a two way street. While you have to sell yourself and prove you’re the best candidate for the job, it’s also important to make sure the job is right for you. In Part 1 of this series, we reviewed questions commonly asked during interviews and what to expect. Once you make it through the standard and awkward interview questions, it’s time to ask your questions and find out if this is the job for you.
The most important thing is to consider beforehand what you want to know. There are so many aspects of a job besides the required clinical skills. At the end of the day you want to be very clear on the expectations of the position and make sure you see yourself succeeding there.
When it comes time to ask questions, consider the following subjects and related questions.
Training and Onboarding
The Primary difference between training and onboarding is training is specific to your job role while onboarding focuses on integration into the company. For example onboarding should familiarize you with the mission and vision of the company, employee culture, understanding the organizational leadership structure, etc.
As a new graduate, you’re probably most interested in the training. Most employers understand there is a slower learning curve for new graduates than experienced PAs. Some questions to consider asking are
- How long is the training period for new PAs here and what does that look like?
- What is considered a “full schedule” for a PA here and how long do you expect for them to get there?
- Do I get to work with different providers during my training period?
- How are performance evaluations done and how often do these occur?
While you’re likely familiar with the general expectations of the PA in a given specialty, every employer is different. If all you have for reference is the clinical rotation you were on, or perhaps no reference at all, make sure you’re clear on what the role is. Consider asking
- What does an average day look like for the PA here?
- How do the physicians view the role of the PA and how do they utilize them?
- What kind of administrative tasks are expected and is there designated time for this? (some employers offer “admin hours” dedicated for paperwork and other administrative tasks)
- How often should I expect to stay over or have to finish work at home? Is this common or generally an exception?
- How does coverage work when providers are out of the office? (for yourself and your colleagues)
- What is the role of nursing and support staff?
- What is the process for handling patient calls, medication refills, etc?
- How are calls handled off-hours?
- What are the expectations if I feel like something is out of my scope or I have a question? Are physicians readily available for me to discuss patients if needed?
This might be your dream job as far as specialty, but nobody thrives in a toxic work environment. No job is perfect, but you want to sniff out any major red flags if possible. Consider asking
- How long do your PAs stay here on average and what have been primary reasons for leaving?
- How would you describe the work culture here?
- Do you feel like staff and providers appreciated each other?
It’s often difficult to judge when to bring up salary and benefit questions if they haven’t come up yet. Sometimes these topics are handled entirely by the HR department and may not be introduced until after you’ve been offered a position, or the people interviewing you may not be able to answer.
You also don’t want to sound presumptuous or overconfident by asking about benefits too early in the process, before they’ve had a chance to evaluate your skills and qualifications. But it’s fair to ask at least some general questions at your initial interview and certainly if you’ve progressed through the interview process.
You have to be careful not to judge your compensation by salary alone. Bonuses, call pay, overtime, etc contribute to thousands of earned dollars every year. For example, my current take home pay is approximately 20K more than my base salary each year.
Some questions to consider are
- How are PAs paid here? (this is a very general way to ask and they will hopefully describe all potential income. If not, you may have to ask specifically if it is salary, hourly, based off productivity, a combination any of these, and if there are bonuses or any additional sources of income)
- If there is a productivity component, ask if they can provide you an example of what previous PAs have made on average under that model.
- For positions where overtime is popular (ER, urgent care, etc), how often is it available and what are the expectations for filling extra shifts beyond your approved hours?
- Several positions I’ve seen have promoted a sign on bonus. Is that something you offer? (it NEVER hurts to ask!)
- What is the etiquette around vacation and taking time off? How much notice is required? Is there an approval process? Is there seniority?
- Is CME offered and is this typically something I choose or am I expected to attend specific trainings?
- Are licensing fees, DEA, board fees, etc covered?
Really think through what you want to know and don’t hesitate to ask. Some additional questions might be
- How well does this health system approach multidisciplinary care and what does that look like? (This is huge in primary care; What is the referral process to have your patient’s see specialist? What would it look like for me to consult a specialist on a patient of mine?)
- Is there anything you could see a PA doing in this practice which they currently are not? (think procedures or things within your scope you’d like to pursue)
- Are there any leadership roles for PAs in the organization?
You don’t have to ask all of these questions. You don’t have to ask questions just for the sake of asking or trying to impress them. At the end of the day an interview is a two way street. They choose you and you choose them. No job is perfect, but make sure the job role, expectations and benefits are clear.