When hiring a Medical Assistant, a highly valued candidate is one who can multitask in an office receiving a large volume of patients on a daily basis. Look for a candidate who understands the importance of moving seamlessly from administrative tasks to assisting patients with basic medical tasks. A typical workday may require a range of duties from scheduling appointments and documenting medical history to taking vital signs and administering medications.
Along with possessing the requisite technical skills, a qualified Medical Assistant will be sharply focused and diligent when carrying out their duties. Accuracy is essential when providing patient care and supporting the smooth operations of an error-free office. A strong candidate will have a pleasant demeanor and a firm grasp of all health care regulations, including HIPAA and OSHA.
General interview questions (such as “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you looking for another job?”) are a great way to get to know your candidate’s personal history, interests and goals. However, be sure to add inquiries specific to the role they’re interviewing for, so you can gain valuable insights into their likelihood of success in that position.
Below are Medical Assistant interview questions to help you get started:
1. What background and experience would you bring to our office?
What you want to hear: At a minimum, a candidate should discuss their academic background and all successfully completed certification programs. Beyond academics and training, a strong candidate will have two or more years of actual work experience in a medical setting. Look for a candidate who will fit well with the overall experience level of your current team. Do you want someone more senior who can mentor less experienced team members, or does a younger candidate at a lower cost better support your staffing needs?
2. What patient care duties are you most comfortable with?
What you want to hear: A strong candidate will be able to discuss a range of patient care duties such as taking vital signs, administering medications, and drawing blood. They should also be able to identify the skills they are most comfortable with as a result of training, repetition, or both. How does their response match up with the skills needed in your office? Do they appear eager to gain more experience in the areas they are less comfortable with?
Red flag: A candidate who cannot readily discuss their comfort level with various patient care duties is either lacking in self-awareness or failing to be completely candid. Either scenario will limit your ability to assess their capabilities and should give you serious pause.
3. What administrative tasks have you performed most frequently in your previous roles.
What you want to hear: An experienced Medical Assistant should be well-versed in the administrative duties of the role. Look for someone who can recite a list of duties such as scheduling, patient check-in and check-out, preparing treatment rooms for examinations, medical record maintenance and the like. Strong candidates will mention experience with a variety of administrative software programs including EHR (Electronic Healthcare Records). How does the candidate’s experience pair with the needs of your office?
Red flag: A candidate who brings a particularly strong clinical background but limited administrative experience will require a level of training not needed by a more balanced candidate. Make sure your team is prepared to allocate the time and resources to get them up to speed.
4. What steps do you take to ensure your compliance with HIPAA?
What you want to hear: HIPAA compliance is central to the role of Medical Assistant. Your candidate must have a firm command of the HIPAA regulations and be able to discuss the various ways they work to protect patient privacy. You want to hear steps such as: calling a patient by first name only in the waiting room, closing the exam room door before a personal discussion, keeping patient records concealed, and only communicating health care updates to family members authorized to receive such information.
5. Tell me about a time you had a difficult patient and you dealt with it.
What you want to hear: Difficult patients are common in health care, and an experienced candidate will have quite a few stories to tell. The candidate should be able to explain why a patient was difficult and the techniques they used to help the patient through the task or procedure. For example, you might hear about a patient who was fearful of needles and resisted a blood draw. The candidate may convey how they calmly acknowledged the patient’s fear, offered to use the smallest gauge needle, and suggested the patient look at a poster on the wall as a distraction during the draw. Whatever the story, listen for a candidate who remains reassuring and professional throughout any instance of difficulty.
Red flag: A Medical Assistant who does not have the proper demeanor and interpersonal skills will only further frustrate a difficult patient and make the situation worse. This puts more responsibility on your other team members who are tasked with reassuring the patient and maintaining a quality level of care.
6. What is your greatest strength as a Medical Assistant?
What you want to hear: A strong candidate will be self-reflective and capable of sharing a specific skill or quality they feel is their greatest strength. They may cite being an excellent multitasker, or having superior clinical skills, or being highly successful when dealing with difficult patients. There is no right or wrong answer, you just may want to assess the response for strengths that align well with the needs of your office and team.
Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your Medical Assistant position.
Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:
- Are qualified to handle both clinical and administrative duties
- Bring a level of experience that fits well with your existing team
- Has a firm grasp on all applicable healthcare regulations, including HIPAA and OSHA
Need help writing a Medical Assistant job description? Check out our Medical Assistant job description template.
What do you consider the three most important skills a Medical Assistant must possess to be effective?
During periods of high activity, are you comfortable handling front-office duties such as greeting new patients and answering phones? Why, or why not?
What do you look for when reviewing a patient’s medical history?
People often confuse nurses with medical assistants. How would you describe the difference to a patient?
Occasionally you may be required to take blood samples. Have you been trained in phlebotomy? Are you comfortable drawing blood if necessary?
Explain your method for setting up an IV fluid line.
Imagine a patient asked you a question you didn’t know how to answer. How would you respond?
What is your experience working with electronic health records software?
You are witnessing a patient in cardiac arrest with no physician present. What steps would you take to perform CPR?
Are you comfortable working under the close supervision of a physician? Why, or why not?