Job interviews are pitches. They’re mini documentaries covering your career life—and the highlights you choose must captivate your audience and leave them wanting more and more of your story.
I learned the hard way that this is especially true if you’re pitching to an audience that typically does not understand your genre of work.
When you’re interviewing for a career change, you must be able to convey the fact that your background will make you the best candidate for the role in consideration.
Your audience must be able to see relatable values and goals, as well as similarities in experiences and backgrounds—all the while feeling that your unique background will bring a fresh outlook to the role.
So let’s get to where I messed up.
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You know what they say about assuming.
The recruiter asked, “Can you think of a time at work when you were interrupted in the middle of something important? How did you deal with it, and then get back on track to what you were originally doing?”
Her gaze was intimidating, and I felt like she was daring me to say something to justify her assumption that I was simply not a good fit. After all, I landed this interview because of a close connection.
This particular table was full of experienced healthcare recruiters.
The job was to become one of them, and recruit nursing positions within a hospital in the southeast. There were six of them I had to convince I was the right fit for this position.
All of them had their own questions and concerns about my abilities to be successful in the fast-paced world of healthcare recruitment. Questions were coming at me from every direction in a metronomic fashion.
Here are just a few of the other healthcare recruiter/talent acquisition specialist interview questions I fielded that day:
- “Have you ever worked with or used an ATS?”
- “Can you handle working with difficult people on a daily basis?”
- “How do you manage multiple deadlines, meetings, and still getting all your work completed?”
- “Have you ever had to be flexible in a job?”
- “Things change around here quite often. Do you consider yourself adaptable to change and if so, please explain with a situational example.”
- “What are the skills you think you will bring to a field you have never worked in before?”
An hour and thirty-five minutes later, it was over; I was sweaty.
The same questions that kept coming up in repackaged syntax seemed to ask one thing: why would an occupational therapist make a good recruiter—despite no specific recruiting experience?
I should have known that arriving with a title like “occupational therapist” would be a speed bump on an otherwise smooth road to a job that is a perfect match for my personality and experience.
I should have anticipated those questions, and prepared such great responses that I’d divert the course of the interview to a more conversational route, where my true personality could shine.
Alas, I did not.
Here’s how I stumbled through that first question I mentioned:
I answered, “I was constantly interrupted while working. I might be in the middle of treating a patient, and another one shows up and begins talking to me, or the phone rings, or an MD finally calls back and needs to speak with me right away. My day was always a constant revolving door and I just became adapted to that lifestyle.”
But there were no specific examples, and furthermore, where was the plot? The climax? The solution? The ending that leaves you yearning for more?
Plot twist; I don’t get the job.
My biggest mistake was this: I went in to this interview believing that arriving with a well-buttoned resume showcasing three years as a case coordinator, followed by two years as a licensed occupational therapist, would be a golden ticket into healthcare recruiting…because clearly I have the ability to learn and be successful.
What I should have said (aka why therapists make great healthcare recruiters):
Applicant Tracking System (ATS) vs. Electronic Medical Record (EMR)
While you may not have direct experience using an ATS, you do have countless hours logged using multiple EMRs throughout your career. What is an EMR other than a way to track patients [applicants] and ensure referrals [resumes] are up-to-date, correctly matching the patient [applicant] information and medical history [applicant background]?
I won’t continue to outline the interchangeable verbiage, but it becomes clear that you have been essentially completing aspects of recruiting all along; you just didn’t know it.
Rapport vs. relationship building
As therapists, we have to create rapport with patients to earn their trust in allowing us to assist them in their rehabilitation processes. Recruiters must ensure relationship building occurs with potential candidates to encourage the likelihood of that candidate accepting a position within the company they work for.
These two skills also incorporate an aspect of sales. You are selling your skills as a therapist to encourage patients to attend therapy and you are most definitely selling the company you work for as a recruiter to the candidate.
In both instances, you are looking for reasons why it is in their benefit to choose you as a therapist or place of employment.
Calendar management vs. scheduling patients
In the world of recruitment, you may have multiple hiring managers that you work with and schedule interviews for.
More often than not, Outlook will be the source of this scheduling. You must be able to read calendars and understand availability and communicate both with the candidate and hiring manager to ensure there is agreement.
A therapist is a perfect match for this task, as the majority of therapists work with a revolving schedule on a daily basis. There must be understanding of time allotment needs for evaluations versus treatments, and rotating appointments around based on the needs of the patient and filling in the cancellation spots.
Therapists must be quick at eyeing a calendar and adjusting where applicable to ensure a smooth day at work, and this skill would be extremely helpful in the world of recruiting where calendars are crucial for streamlining interviews.
Handling disgruntled applicants and hiring managers vs. upset patients and physicians
There can be a number of reasons someone becomes upset during the full-cycle of recruitment.
- Someone’s interview got canceled last minute?
- Questions pertaining to a job that you’ve answered already?
- An interview did not go as planned?
- The job is not going to pay what the candidate is requesting?
There can also be a number of very similar reasons someone becomes upset during the therapy process.
- A patient has pain that won’t go away despite numerous therapeutic approaches?
- A patient is upset because you interrupted them during their favorite television show?
- An unexpected bill arrived at your patient’s house for therapy?
Learning to calmly navigate the unexpected and constructively manage problems is a tool we select on a daily basis as therapists. Bringing forth the experiences you’ve had as a therapist that outline your ability to remain calm and solve complex problems is a huge skill for any type of role.
What I learned by bombing that healthcare recruiter interview.
Frankly, the only reason I bombed that interview is I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t know how to articulate specific events that really tailored my skill set to healthcare recruiting. And when I was coming in as an “unknown,” I was immediately disqualified.
I have some advice to myself moving forward, and I think it might help you, too.
If you’re lucky enough to get an interview, do not waste it feeling like your background can speak for itself. Very few people understand what we therapists actually do with our days. It’s our job to dig in and realize the things we do as a therapists that set us apart from just anyone sitting in that interview chair.
The best thing you can do is arrive prepared with the paralleling aspects of the role and why being a therapist has readied you for this non-clinical position because, trust me, it has.