Even the best physical therapist can get tripped up during a job interview. Help the hiring team see why you’re the best fit for the job by preparing answers to these 10 common Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) interview questions. We’ve got you covered with sample answers, explanations of what the interviewer is really trying to ask, and a downloadable master list with even more physical therapist interview questions for you to practice.
- Tell us a little about yourself
- What types of physical therapy patients have you worked with in the past?
- What makes you the best fit for this job?
- What is your biggest strength as a physical therapist?
- What is your biggest weakness as a physical therapist?
- What has been your most challenging case?
- Why do you want to work with us?
- Describe a situation where you were a team player
- How do you handle it when patients refuse therapy?
- What defines patient success for you as a physical therapist?
- ✨BONUS✨ Questions to ask in an interview for travel physical therapists
Top Physical Therapist Interview Questions
Tell us a little about yourself
It’s a classic for a reason. Interviewers can learn a lot from what you choose to share in response to this question.
A good strategy is to use this question as a brief refresh of your resume, hitting the highlights. This is also a great chance for you to let your interviewer know if you have any relevant travel physical therapy experience.
Feel free to share a few personal facts like why you decided to pursue the physical therapy profession as a career or your hobbies, but make sure you don’t go overboard. Keep your answer simple and largely professional; this is a precursor to the more important questions.
"I’m a physical therapist with five total years of experience, two as a traveler. My last assignment was a 13-week job at (insert facility) in Los Angeles, but I’ve worked in several states.”
What types of physical therapy patients have you worked with in the past?
This is another one of the most common physical therapy interview questions.
Resist the urge to stretch the truth a little bit here — if you’ve mostly worked with treating patients in one population, such as adolescents, geriatric patients or those with physical injuries, specific movement disorders or chronic pain, focus on that one. You can absolutely talk about your experience with outliers, just make it clear where your experience level truly is. And let them know what you love about working with them!
What makes you the best fit for this job?
You already have the answer to this question — they gave it to you. Look at the physical therapist job description ahead of time and match your current skills and experience with the listed responsibilities.
Include your technical skills and abilities, experience, and relevant certifications. Then zoom out and give them some insight into your communication skills, ability to work well both in a team and independently, conflict resolution skills, and interpersonal skills.
The key here is being not just competent, but well-rounded. The ideal physical therapist is someone who can do the job well and who gets along with everyone else on the team and other health care professionals, but also someone genuinely passionate about the industry and helping patients succeed.
What is your biggest strength as a physical therapist?
Again, the job description will be your best friend when preparing for these kinds of physical therapy interview questions (and its follow-up, which we’ll tackle next). Find the common threads between the skills they’re looking for and match them to your own abilities, patient care experiences, and physical therapy training.
You might also find that your greatest strengths are the things you most enjoy on the job — we tend to prefer activities and tasks where we’re more likely to succeed. Then be ready to share a story where you utilized that strength and made a difference.
“A strength of mine is encouraging patients in challenging circumstances, connecting with them, and finding what will motivate them most to show up for another difficult day. I’ve learned several methods for different patient populations, and it’s incredibly rewarding to see what people can do with a little extra push.”
What is your biggest weakness as a physical therapist?
Many interviewees get nervous about these types of physical therapy interview questions, but it isn’t actually about confessing your worst flaws. Sail through the dreaded “weakness” interview question with these steps:
Share a skill or ability that you are working on (or have worked on)
Explain how you are already working on it
Finish with the positive results you’ve already had
When you spin a negative into a positive like this, it shows that you’re a problem-solver, and proactive when it comes to self-improvement. Just avoid speaking about your struggle with a skill that could prevent you from doing the job effectively. (And avoid non-answers that are actually strengths. If you know that trick, so will your interviewer.)
"Most of my experience is in sports physical therapy, and I had to really change my approach with patients when I changed specialties. I needed to slow down and recognize the traits of each patient instead of assuming what would be most successful – and it’s made me a better physical therapy clinician.”
What has been your most challenging case?
It can be tempting to share a story about something objectively awful and without redeeming qualities, but that won’t do you any favors.
Instead, take this opportunity to talk about your problem-solving process and the therapies or patient treatment plans you used to treat the condition. Highlight the little details that led you to the correct approach, and slip in any details that showcase excellent critical thinking on your part.
Why do you want to work with us?
If you’ve researched the facility ahead of time, this is your time to shine. Familiarity with the team, the company, and the role itself will give you the ability to be specific about what you like most and why you want to pursue physical therapy roles with the organization.
If two physical therapists with exactly the same credentials, similar personalities, and identical experience both applied for a position, but only one of them could reference specific details about the facility, there’s a clear winner. Showing that you cared enough to do your research ahead of time will immediately make you a memorable physical therapy candidate.
Describe a situation where you were a team player
When asked a behavioral question like this, reply with a short story. You can craft your response with the CAR method:
- Challenge: what was the challenge you faced?
- Action: how did you take action to resolve it?
- Results: how did your choices impact the resolution?
A story like this functions as evidence for the interviewer. It’s easy to say you’re a team player, but providing a specific example highlights your communication skills and is more persuasive.
How do you handle it when patients refuse therapy?
It can be frustrating when dealing with difficult patients who refuse to engage in therapy, but it’s a hurdle you need to be able to overcome as a physical therapist — and articulating how you do that is often essential when answering physical therapist interview questions.
As always, keep it positive. Talk through some of the possible root causes of patients struggling to follow the treatment plan and share a couple different solutions you might use to try and motivate patients. You are showing your creativity, flexibility, and willingness to adapt here while keeping uncooperative patients motivated.
You can use the CAR method again to illustrate an example scenario.
What defines patient success for you as a physical therapist?
Explain the criteria that you use to measure patient success and achieve patient outcomes, but don’t just leave it at that. Offer a little bit of insight into why those key considerations and metrics are important for your physical therapy practice, as well as an explanation of how you can consistently manage patient progress and expectations, keep the patient motivated, and help to deliver those results.
Questions to ask in an interview for travel physical therapists
Don’t forget that a physical therapist interview is also your chance to learn about the facility. Asking your own questions in addition to answering them can help you to learn what the physical therapy assignment would really be like – and it shows that you care enough to ask, which is always a good look in a job interview.
Some of the best questions to ask at a travel physical therapy job interview are:
What skills will help the ideal job candidate be successful here?
What are the main tasks and responsibilities of this job?
How do you measure job performance for physical therapists?
What are some common challenges for physical therapists at this facility?
How many clients will I typically see daily?
What is the general patient population and/or length of stay?
What does a typical day look like? What are the expected hours/shifts?
Which assessments are most commonly used in patient care?
How long is each patient slot?
Do you use PT aides? What does the full patient care team look like?
How many other travelers do you have at this facility? Have any of them extended?
What is the job turnover like at this facility?
How many days of orientation are there and how are travelers transitioned into the team?
What is the policy for breaks/lunch?
Is there time specifically dedicated to documentation?
Is there a possibility for an extension with this physical therapy assignment?
For more preparation, download our Ultimate List of Travel Physical Therapist Interview Questions. Write some answers to sample interview questions out ahead of time, find a friend to practice with, or just run through the answers to the interview questions in your head — you’re sure to ace your next physical therapy interview.