As with , the “tell me about yourself” PA school interview question, when asked, will come first in the interview. As simple and innocent as it sounds, this question is an important one. It shows the interviewer how well you can present yourself and sets the tone for the rest of the interview. Therefore, it is best to be prepared with an answer that will impress the interviewer from the get-go.
There are a few things you should consider about the question itself before you begin preparing an answer. It is intended to let the interviewer know who they are interviewing, what your background is, what your academic intentions are, and of course, if you’re the right fit for their program. Notably, with this question, the interviewer is not looking to get the information already present on your resume. Rather, they want to get a sense of your personal characteristics and what you can contribute to the school. This open-ended question can be a bit daunting, especially because it is where you will make your first impression. However, knowing that the question is bound to be asked can help you deal with the anxiety that comes along with every interview.
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A great approach to answering the question is to focus on its two main components: what to say and how to say it. The best way to do this is by having the information organized in your mind. When preparing for the interview, write all the information down in bullet points so that you have a structural flow to the answer.
What to Say?
So, what information should you focus on?
To start answering the question “tell me about yourself,” go back to the beginning, all the way back to your childhood. When making bullet points, think about your life in terms of milestones and important achievements. Think about your parents and the relationship you have with them, especially while growing up. The strategy here is to show the interviewer how your life experiences have shaped the adult you are.
Next, think about your educational background. Think about your major accomplishments through the years. You may have a whole host of achievements under your belt but select the ones that best relate to what you’re applying for. In this case, any achievements in the medical field would be ideal.
Then come your hobbies and interests. While this part may not seem to be directly related to your application, it still holds importance. It helps the interviewer build a more complete image of who you are, so don’t worry if your hobbies don’t align exactly with your academic passion. It is something beyond your academic or professional achievements that the interviewer wants to know. You can also share some of your life goals and where you see yourself after completing PA school.
Once you have identified some relevant elements of your background, you will want to connect these life events to your motivation for medicine or for being a physician’s assistant. Think of what made you apply to PA school in the first place. This is where you explain why you are seeking admission, but in a way that convinces the interviewer of your passion and interest in medicine. If you meet and have been invited to an interview, you obviously know that the role of a PA is to enhance patient care and assist MDs in doing the same. Not all events in your life need to have guided you to go to PA school, but consider any moments when you felt that with the proper training, you could have helped someone medically or assisted someone in their task.
How to Say It?
This part of the preparation process is just as important as the first, if not more important. How you answer the questions could decide whether you gain admission to the PA school or not. You may have the right content, but you also need the confidence to present it. Your answers and the way you present them can leave a lasting impression on the interviewer and work in your favor.
The best way to go about this is to practice telling your story that you just put together using bullet points. Practice will build your confidence. One of the best and most popular ways to practice is through mock interviews. You can ask a family member or friend to sit down with you, but better yet, you can seek professional interview help, such as that provided in with a .
For example, these experts will help you rehearse your delivery and keep your pauses between statements to a minimum. You don’t have to rapid fire your answers but remember to pace yourself. There is a lot to unpack when this question is asked, so try to maintain a constant pace and flow with your answer while avoiding sounding as if you are reading off a script.
Regardless of whether you’re giving your interview in person or virtually, body language is important. Try to maintain eye contact with the interviewer. Don’t slouch or constantly adjust your hair. Maintain a positive attitude throughout the interview and keep a smile on your face.
What Not to Say?
Before you finalize your bullet points and move on to the next stage of the process, there is another aspect that requires your attention. What you choose to share with the interviewer is important, but what you omit is just as important. Remember that there is a limited amount of time to answer this question, so rambling on about your achievements, aspirations, and skills could work against you. These facts are already known to the interviewer from your resume. Similarly, talking about personal relationships would not be ideal, unless an event aligns with your PA school admission process.
Respect the interviewers’ time, try to stay under two minutes, and present the most important and relevant nuggets of information.
Once you have all your bullet points organized, you’ll notice that they’re arranged from the past to the present. Try to create a cohesive story around them:
- Start with your childhood and your family, briefly describe your upbringing.
- Move on to your educational background and then your hobbies/interests.
- Next, describe what inspired you to apply for PA school.
Make sure there is a flow between these different points and remember, you have two minutes.
Sample Answer 1
My name is Elias Aniketos, and I grew up in Mississauga, Ontario, with two older siblings. Both my parents are teachers, and they raised us with what I feel is just the right amount of strictness. My father was a fan of basketball, a passion he passed on to me. Over the years, playing sports, I have experienced a significant number of injuries, either my own or those of peers. Having attended to my friends and visited the school doctor multiple times, I was inspired by the medical field and felt like I could be an asset here. Quite early on, I became aware of the challenges that doctors and medical staff face, and I felt like I could help.
I am a recent graduate of McMaster University with a bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences. Throughout my undergraduate studies, I gained a passion for health care and worked as a volunteer at St. Peter's Hospital. Two years ago, I became a certified nursing assistant, a role that has given me valuable insight into the daily challenges and rewards of working in the health care field.
I am a hard-working individual with strong communication and interpersonal skills. I am a team player and enjoy working with others to achieve a common goal. I am excited to apply to your physician assistant program and believe that my academic background and hands-on experience make me a strong candidate.
Sample Answer 2
My name is Priyanka Ninad, and I’m from a small town in Northern India. I grew up with my younger brother and older sister in a middle-class family. My parents worked hard to cater to our needs and ensure there were no hurdles in our education or personal lives. When my parents were out, my siblings and I spent a lot of time watching TV, and medical shows were what caught my attention. Growing up with grandparents in the same house, I also have some personal experience catering to people’s medical needs. In fact, I have always had a passion for health care and helping others.
I moved to Canada to pursue a degree in Behavioral Science at McGill University and now a career as a physician assistant. During my undergraduate studies, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a local walk-in clinic and gain hands-on experience with common diagnoses. This solidified my desire to further my education in the medical field and become a PA.
In addition to my academic experience, I have also held several customer service and leadership positions that have helped me develop strong communication and problem-solving skills.
I am a team player and always strive to provide the best possible care for my patients. I am excited to begin my PA training and am committed to continued learning and professional development throughout my career. I believe my passion for health care and dedication to providing exceptional patient care make me an idea candidate for your PA program.
These are two examples of how to answer the question “tell me about yourself” during your PA school interview, based on the advice we have given in this article. Notice that they start with a family background and the relationship with parents and siblings. They move on to sharing medicine-related experiences in a way that feels natural. They mention what inspired the candidate to become a PA and then go on to mention their educational background with direct experience.
Note that while it is always good to have directly related experiences, it is not mandatory. To build up relevant experiences that will impress interviewers, consider the . If you’re just starting out or still considering , it’s important to start adding valuable experiences and building necessary skills.
Both samples conclude by expressing the candidate's passion for joining the program.
Answering the question “tell me about yourself” can be quite daunting, especially if it is your first interview. But it does not have to be. With the right amount of preparation, you can set the perfect tone for your interview with your answer to this question.
Formulate a clear path to your answer with bullet points, based on your life as the foundation. Follow our tips to create an honest and comprehensive response. Practice to gain the confidence you need to prove to the interviewer that you have what it takes to become a PA.
1. Why do interviewers ask the question “tell me about yourself”?
The “tell me about yourself” question is an open-ended one that gives the interviewer an idea of who you are and what makes you suitable to join a PA school.
2. How long should I take to answer this question?
Typically, you should take about two minutes to answer this question. It’s a great idea to time yourself while practicing so you know whether to add or remove information.
3. What is a common mistake students make when answering the PA school interview question?
One of the most common mistakes made by students when answering the “tell me about yourself” interview question is detailing their resume. The interviewer already has access to your resume and does not need a run-down of what’s on it from you.
4. What if I stumble while answering this question?
Don’t worry and try to stay calm. If you lose your train of thought, admit it to the interviewer and ask for the question to be repeated. Don’t worry about short periods of silence and take some time to collect your thoughts. can assist you if you are uncertain about how to prepare for any aspect of the admissions process.
5. How many related experiences should I talk about?
There is no fixed number of experiences that you need to share. If you have multiple events to choose from when answering the “tell me about yourself” question, try to pick the two to three best ones that pushed you toward entering PA school. Briefly describe these experiences without too many specific details.
6. Is it okay to refer to notes during an interview?
If your interview is being conducted virtually, you may be able to refer to notes. Ideally, you should prepare to the point where you don’t need notes anymore, but in case you’re still struggling, have some bullet points ready for reference on the side.
7. Will the interviewer ask about the history of the PA profession?
Yes, an interviewer can check your knowledge on the history of the PA profession. Try to brush up on how the profession came to be, along with some information about its purpose, some milestones, and the context from which it emerged.
8. Along with this question, what other popular question can I expect?
Another popular question during a PA school interview is “why do you want to become a PA?” It is a good idea to prepare for this question as well, as there is a very high possibility of it being asked.