Interviews can be intimidating for people looking for a job and stressful for people looking to hire the best candidate. During an interview, both parties have a limited amount of time to present their best selves while also deciding whether the job and candidate are a good fit.
It is important to be as prepared as possible for your interview. If you are looking for a job, review practice questions and make sure you understand what kind of person the employer wants to hire. If you are the interviewer, you need to come up with questions that give you a good idea of the candidate's experience, personality, and competence.
This guide goes over medical assistant interview question ideas, how to give a good answer (for interviewers), and how to interpret different types of answers to questions (for interviewees).
Before we start, it's worth noting that if you're looking to hire for your healthcare facility, Stepful can help you hire certified medical assistants and upskill your existing employees.
Medical Assistant Interview Question Ideas
Medical assistant interview questions should help employers find out about the candidate's personality and experience and whether they will be a good addition to the team or not.
Before we dive in, if you're interested in becoming a medical assistant, check out our 4-Month Online Medical Assistant Program. Not only do we prepare you to take your CCMA exam, we also help you find a job after graduation, including preparing for interviews.
Below, we go over medical assistant interview question ideas, including why they’re good questions and sample answers for each.
1) Tell me about yourself and your background.
This gives the interviewee an opportunity to talk about their education, experience, and any other relevant information. They can also describe their personality and what makes them unique.
A good candidate might talk about their work ethic and desire to help others by working in the medical field. They will talk about their education or willingness to learn, as well as whatever work experience they have. Reflecting positively on past experiences and showing excitement about their future as a medical assistant are good signs.
Answering this question should include stating your name, work experience, positive personality traits, education, and any successes you’ve had. Candidates should not be afraid to answer this question confidently and share their successes and best qualities.
2) Why are you interested in this role?
This question can help an interviewer figure out how much this job means to the potential candidate. Someone who is interested just because they need money or it is a convenient location may not stay with the organization for very long.
Answers to this question should include why they want to be a medical assistant, why they want to be part of the company, or why they feel they are a good fit for the organization.
“I think medical assisting would be a great job for me because I enjoy caring for others and learning about medicine. I have read about your office and it seems like a great place to work. I would love to be part of working towards your mission statement: helping people live their healthiest lives.”
3) Can you tell me about your experience in medical assisting?
This question should not be skipped since it gives the potential employer a good idea of how much training the new employee will need. While experience isn’t required to be a good medical assistant, having a solid background in medical assisting can make onboarding a little easier.
If a candidate has medical assisting experience, they should be able to explain their daily responsibilities and any skills related to medical assisting they learned while working. If they have no experience, they might highlight training or any other relevant experience.
“I earned my medical assisting certification in 2019, and then began working as a medical assistant in a family practice office. During my time there, I learned a lot about managing administrative tasks, caring for patients, and staying organized. I was known as one of the best phlebotomists and people often called me for help with a difficult sample collection”.
If you have no experience, explain that you’re passionate about it and willing to learn. You might talk about other experiences such as, “I received my medical assistant certificate after completing an accredited program. Before my medical assistant training, I worked in a restaurant where I gained a lot of experience in customer service, remembering small details, and time management.”
4) Why did you leave your last job?
This question reveals a lot about a potential candidate such as their attitudes and values, and whether they are likely to take responsibility for their actions or blame others.
Answers might include wanting to get into a healthcare job or being tired of a long commute from a different office. It is a bad sign if your candidate immediately starts complaining about their old job. Even if they came from a bad work environment, complaining about it to a new employer is a red flag.
“I left my last job because I have always been interested in the medical field. I came across your company during a job search and it seemed like a great fit. I appreciate the experience and learned a lot from my last job, but I was ready to move on to something new.
5) What would you say is your biggest strength?
Every person will answer this question differently, and it helps the interviewer find out more about the candidate's personality and strengths.
Good answers will hopefully have something to do with the job. Someone who brags about their great singing voice or athleticism may not have the patience and customer service required to be a medical assistant.
“I am a very hard worker and follow through with all of my commitments. I am always ready for a challenge and do not shy away from working hard”.
6) What would you say is your biggest weakness?
This is a little bit more difficult for most people to answer. However, it gives an idea of a candidate's self-awareness and ability to admit and work on their weaknesses.
Hopefully, candidates are honest when they answer this question, and can tell you how they are working on self-improvement.
“My biggest weakness is that it can be hard for me to hear criticism. Training to be a medical assistant helped me realize that I have a lot to learn and that people who give me negative feedback are usually just trying to help. I am aware that this is a weakness of mine and I am working on being more receptive to constructive criticism”.
7) What is your favorite part of medical assisting?
Asking this question helps the employer determine what the candidate enjoys about medical assisting and estimate whether they will be likely to stay at the job for a while or if they might quickly get burnt out and quit.
It is always better to hire candidates that will enjoy their job, rather than those who are interested in the money.
“I really enjoy interacting with patients all day. I like getting to meet all kinds of different people, and it feels good knowing that I have a chance to make them feel more comfortable during their doctor's appointment.”
8) What is your least favorite part of medical assisting?
Just like the previous question, this can help employers guess how happy the candidate would be working as part of their organization.
If a candidate answers this question by jumping in with a long list of complaints about how difficult it is to be a medical assistant, that's a big red flag. Good answers present both a problem and a potential solution.
“I don’t like feeling rushed while taking care of people. Sometimes days are really busy and I don't always feel like there is enough time to really connect with each patient. Luckily, I have learned to manage my days and stay organized so that I can maximize my time with each patient.”
9) Tell me about a time when you had a difficult patient and how you handled it.
Talking about a difficult patent reveals whether a candidate can handle customer service problems, how they respond under stress, and whether they are problem-focused or solution-focused.
A solution-focused answer is a good answer. Something that shows how the medical assistant tried to help de-escalate the situation or improve the patient's experience. A problem-focused answer focuses on the difficult patient, sounds like complaining, and blames the patient for making the medical assistant's job difficult.
“I was taking care of a patient who needed blood drawn for an important test but was terrified of needles. She was crying and obviously very upset about getting blood drawn. I listened to her concerns empathetically and explained that although she had a right to refuse, the test was important and would help us keep her healthy. I had her look away and asked her to tell me a story about her dog to keep her distracted. I drew the blood quickly and she felt much better afterward.”
10) Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a coworker and how you handled it.
Conflicts with coworkers are bound to happen in any workplace. Employers want to hire people who can get along with others and can resolve interpersonal conflicts well.
Just like dealing with difficult patients, stories about difficult coworkers are better if they are solutions-focused.
“I had a coworker who was always late and it meant that I had to do a lot of the opening work by myself in the mornings. I pulled her aside after work one day to explain that I felt stressed because of the extra work. I found out that her childcare situation made it hard to get to work on time. We went to our manager and suggested that she could stay 15 minutes late in the evening to inventory supplies instead of doing it in the morning. That way, she could drop her children off and I could complete the rest of the morning tasks without her there.
11) Do you prefer clinical or administrative work more?
This question helps determine whether a candidate will be a good fit for the specific role. Someone who loves administrative work may not be happy if your job requires mostly clinical work.
An ideal candidate would prefer the type of work that is needed in the hiring organization. It would be best to hire someone who is willing to do both types of work.
“I loved working at the front desk and keeping things organized at my old job, and prefer administrative tasks. However, there are things I enjoy about both types of medical assisting, and would be happy to fill whatever role is needed.”
12) What computer skills or programs are you proficient in?
This helps employers understand how much training their new candidate may need.
Interviewees should answer this question honestly and should be able to describe a few details about each program they have used.
“I am familiar with both Cerner and PowerChart electronic health systems. I also helped my previous job keep things organized using Excel spreadsheets and we communicated using Microsoft Teams.”
13) What do you know about HIPAA and how to make sure you don’t violate the guidelines?
It is important to ask this question to find out if a new candidate will need extra training about HIPAA guidelines. Violating these guidelines can have serious consequences.
It’s okay if a candidate does not know much about HIPAA, as long as they are willing to learn.
“I am generally aware of HIPAA but not very familiar with specific guidelines. I am willing to do some extra training or at-home learning to understand it better, however.”
14) Are you trained in phlebotomy and ok with drawing blood?
Most medical assistants need to be competent phlebotomists. Someone who does not want to deal with blood or body fluids might not be a good fit for a medical assisting job.
Again, if someone is not trained, they should at least express that they are comfortable with needles and blood, and have the willingness to learn.
“Yes, I am certified in phlebotomy and feel comfortable drawing blood.”
15) Do you know how to take patient vital signs? Which ones?
One of the most important things a medical assistant does is to measure and record accurate vital signs.
Ideal candidates know how to measure blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, spO2, and temperature. They should also know what normal values are for each of these measurements.
“Yes, at my previous job, one of my main responsibilities was to measure and record accurate vital signs for each patient. These included [insert vital signs you know how to measure here].”
16) Do you know how to do electrocardiograms (EKGs)?
EKGs require specialized training. Even some experienced or certified medical assistants may not know how to perform an EKG. A good candidate will show a willingness to learn if they do not already have the skill.
“I know what an EKG is, but haven’t had a lot of practice. It is something I would love to get better at.”
17) Do you have experience with medical coding and billing?
Medical coding and billing can be difficult to learn. Having previous experience with it is a big advantage for a new medical assistant.
“I learned a lot about medical billing and coding during my medical assistant training course.”
18) What is your ideal schedule? Are you willing to work nights, weekends, or holidays?
Depending on the facility, this question may or may not be important. Employers should be clear about potential expectations for scheduling, and candidates should be honest about their availability.
19) What is your expected salary?
This question should make sure that the employers and job candidates have reasonable expectations for salary.
Candidates should do some research before they apply so that they can request a reasonable salary for their experience, education, and location. You can learn more about average medical assistant salaries by state here.
“Since I am certified and experienced, I feel that somewhere around $18 per hour would be a fair place to start.”
Medical Assistant Interview Tips for Job Seekers
The more prepared you are for your medical assistant interview, the less nervous you will feel. Getting rid of some pre-interview nerves can help you think clearly and come up with good answers to interview questions. Confidence is a key part of having a successful interview.
Here are some tips to ace your medical assistant interview:
Write down answers to sample questions
As you prepare for your interview, write down some answers to sample questions. That way, you have at least thought through some possible questions and can have a general idea of what you would like to say.
You might want to return to your questions and re-read them a few hours before the interview to keep them fresh in your mind. Like studying for a test, the more you review the answers, the better you will be able to recall them when the time comes.
Answer using the STAR method
STAR stands for Situation Task Action Result.
It is a way of answering behavioral questions that is concise while covering all of the necessary information. Be specific while avoiding rambling or giving irrelevant details.
Describe the situation, usually some kind of problem that you faced. Then describe how you planned to correct the problem or address the challenge, and what actions you took to get you to your goals.
Lastly, talk about the result of your actions. Even if the results were not favorable, you can explain how you learned from a mistake or changed course to come up with a better solution for the next time.
Practice with a friend
Just like anything else, the more you practice something, the easier it gets. Find a friend to practice with, and discuss things that go well or that need work after the practice interview.
If you can, find someone to practice with who works as a medical assistant. They will be able to tell you about their own interview experience and give you some insight into what a potential employer might be looking for.
Research who is interviewing you
Before you go to your interview, do some research about the company. Understanding an organization's mission statement or values can help you decide how to answer questions.
If you can, find out a little bit about the person who is interviewing you. Not only does this help you prepare for a successful interview, but it can help you decide whether the job will be a good fit for your personality.
Arriving late to an interview does not give a good first impression to a potential employer. Give yourself plenty of time to find the office, get a parking spot, and take a deep breath before you start your interview.
Arriving 20-30 minutes early should give you plenty of time to find the place, use the restroom, and review some of your potential interview answers before it’s time to get started.
Be honest in your answers
If you don’t know the answer to a question, that’s okay. Simply tell the interviewer that you are not sure, but would love to learn more or could follow up with them after the interview.
A teachable employee is much better than someone who lies or makes up answers that they aren’t sure about. If you don’t understand a question, it is okay to ask for clarification.
Have a list of references
Before you go to an interview, have a list of references ready to go. Make sure you contact all of your references and ask them for permission to give their phone number to a potential new employer. You don’t want references to be surprised when an interviewer calls, especially if it is someone working with you at a job you haven’t left yet.
Come up with questions of your own
Almost every interview ends with the interviewer asking whether the interviewee has any questions for them.
Make sure you have at least one or two questions prepared. This shows initiative and that you are invested in the company.
A few sample questions might include:
- How would you describe the culture of your organization?
- What are some of the challenges your medical assistants have while working here?
- What do you enjoy the most about this job?
- Do you offer continuing education or opportunities for eventual advancement?
- How do you generally deal with employee problems or conflicts?
Send thank you notes to all interviewers after
A quick thank you note a day or two after your interview can help you stand out and keep your name fresh in the interviewers’ minds. It is even better if you can list each interviewer by name and thank them for their time.
Medical Assistant Interview Tips for Employers
It is just as important for an employer to prepare well for an interview if they want to hire the best candidate for the job.
Understand the medical assistant role
In order to ask good questions and understand answers, make sure you understand the roles and responsibilities of a medical assistant. If you know what a medical assistant does, you’ll be able to find a person with the right qualities for the job.
Ask both professional and personal questions
It is okay to ask personal questions in addition to professional questions. This will give you an idea of their personality as well as their experience.
Don’t include too many interviewers
Interviews are already intimidating. Only allow essential stakeholders to be part of the interview process. Having too many people in the room might mean there are fewer opportunities for the candidate to talk.
Explain the interview structure at the beginning
Be upfront about the interview process at the beginning of the meeting. Give a clear introduction of every person included in the interview. Then, explain that you’ll first ask questions, and then give the opportunity for the candidate to ask a few questions.
Let the candidate do most of the talking
Let the candidate do as much of the talking as possible. They may even answer several questions in the same response if you let them finish a story or may reveal something you hadn’t thought to ask about.
Be clear about your timeline for hiring
Let the candidate know when you plan to make a decision and when you expect your new hire to start working. Also, let your candidate know whether or not you plan to reach out to applicants who are not chosen.
Tell rejected candidates why they didn’t get the job
Rejected candidates usually appreciate knowing what they could have done better. Some may even come back and apply again after they have gotten more training or experience.