The Doctor of Physical Therapy Interview

High grade point average? Check!  High science grade point average? Done! Volunteer hours in varied settings? Word! Letters of recommendations? Swoosh! Applied for PT school? Locked down! Invited for interviews? Yup! Ready for interviews? Ehhh.

I am assuming that the majority of the people reading this article are in a similar place to where I was a few years ago. In October of 2016, I received my first interview for a Doctor of Physical Therapy program. Because I applied the year before and did not get any interviews, you can only imagine how excited one would be to get a chance to prove their potential. Well that was me! I told my family, close friends, and even the Physical Therapist for whom I worked at the time. I ended up finding reasonably priced round trip tickets to Texas. I had a few weeks to prepare for the interview, so I read several different articles online, received guidance from the Physical Therapist who I worked for, practiced interviews with my family members and friends.

Two weeks later I was on a plane to Texas! It was a great experience to say the least; I was around like minded individuals with passions similar to mine, was able to learn about the school and what they had to offer, and even learned how to tie a double Windsor knot on youtube! During the orientation at the school, the faculty stated and insisted that the interviews are very laid back, and should be viewed as merely a conversation between two people. Me being the “wide eyed, and bushy tailed” young lad that I was, I took that for face value. During the interview I was asked “Why do you want to be a Physical Therapist?” I answered the question as thoroughly and as honestly as I could. I talked about how I obtained my Bachelor's in Business Management, what made me switch careers, and the road that led me to where I was.  He acknowledged what I said, made some comments about the Physical Therapy career, we spoke about direct access (which I had researched previously), and there was a knock on the door! The knock was to signal that there were only 5 minutes remaining. We went back and forth talking about the profession, and he wrapped up the interview by saying these exact words:

“Gaurav, I think you’re a great fit for the profession, and even a better fit for our school! I am very impressed by your personality and outlook towards Physical Therapy!  I very much enjoyed the experience!”

I replied by saying thank you, and that I appreciated the time and effort taken out to interview me, shook hands and left the room.  I don’t know how that sounds to you but to me, I thought I did pretty well on the interview. Two weeks later, I received a letter in the mail with the standard denial response going something like this: “Although it was a great experience interviewing you, we have decided to go with a different candidate.  Please be aware that there are many strong candidates in the interview process, and therefore this is not a representation of your skills, etc.” I felt a mix of emotions that included sadness, anger, and quite frankly shock! I thought to myself; “I know I did the interview well, so it must have been something else.”

I had to investigate the matter further. I called the school, and said the following:

“Hi my name is Gaurav Khanal, and I had interviewed there recently for your Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. I was rejected during the interview process, however am planning on applying during the next cycle. I was wondering if you could fill me in on how I would be able to strengthen my application?”

The person on the phone went through everything, and it sort of sounded like the first paragraph of this blog; “Overall GPA: above average, Science GPA: above average, Volunteer Hours: above average, Letters of Recommendation: good. Hmmm, I am looking at everything and it all looks above average. It must have been the interview.”

At this point, I was shocked and couldn’t believe my ears! Why would he go out of his way to tell me I did a good job if that was not the case. If I asked him and he was saying it out of politeness, that would be one thing, but this still remains a mystery to me. Anyways, my next course of plan was to become the best interviewee I could. I started by researching online, reading books on interviews to no avail.  What I realized was that there was not a single source of information out there dedicated soley to the Interview for a Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. I had to gather bits and pieces from books, articles, peers, and practicing therapists. After a long and arduous process, I was received the fruits of my labor; I ended up getting into the next 4 schools I interviewed at!

Looking back at how difficult that process was, I decided to write a book that could serve as a one stop shop for individuals who are at the interview stage in the process of getting into a DPT program. Today I want to share some important tips that can help you with the interview:

1. Understand the Anatomy of your interview

In addition to researching the school for which you have an interview, the mission statement, vision, etc., try your best to find out what type of interview you will have, so you can focus on that. Will you have an individual one on one interview? A group interview? A team based interview? Will there be an on the spot essay that you may have to write? This will help you to better prepare by focusing your strategies specific to the type of interview you will likely get. A good way to find this out is by talking second year students (a lot of schools will have a facebook group for each graduation class), asking questions on, and even calling the school and trying to get information from the faculty.

2. Work on Interpersonal and communication skills

I have seen and heard of many instances where students with great GPAs, get rejected because of their interpersonal skills, body language, etc. On the flip side, the students that get those spots are a lot of times individuals with lower GPAs and “paper stats,” but with better interpersonal skills. So if you are an individual with a relatively lower GPA, the interview is something that can give you a huge advantage if leveraged correctly. For those with high GPAs, make sure you have this part locked down, so you do not lose a great opportunity.  Some of the qualities that are judged include posture, eye contact, pitch, rate of speech, being careful of nervous tics, and placing the correct emphasis through tone of voice.

3. Understand the criteria upon which you are judged

 Some things that you are judged on include your desire to become a Physical Therapist, your understanding of what a Physical Therapist does, and the way in which you think. Have these in mind as you are preparing for your interview.

4. Be likeable

People tend to be more influenced by individuals that they like.  People tend to make decisions on emotions first, then logic.

5. Answer the question that is being asked

 I understand that you are nervous during your interview and are probably a hard worker since you have been invited to the interview. The mix of these two can be great if channeled properly but can also work against you. What you don’t want to do is answer a question that is not being asked by answering more than what the question is asking. A lot of times when an individual is nervous, and hardworking, they will try to go above and beyond and overcompensate due to their nervousness. Avoid doing this at all costs.

I hope that some of these tips will help you guys in your future interviews. If you want to help yourself improve even more I suggest checking out the book I wrote. With this you will better understand:

  1. The anatomy of a physical therapy interview
  2. Learn about the different types of interviews and how you are judged in each one
  3. Body language techniques to exude confidence and not cockiness
  4. Learn how to prepare answers to more than 40 of the toughest interview questions

Click here for the Paperback Book!

Click here for the Kindle version!


-Gaurav Khanal



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