How To Answer Behavioral Questions Through Storytelling

As you begin your PA school interviews, it’s likely that you’ll be asked some behavioral questions.  Behavioral questions are designed to find your specific skills, knowledge, and experience.  These questions probe your character and assess if your background lends any value towards becoming a PA.

Typically, these questions will start out in the form of:

“Tell me about a time when…”
“Could you give me an example of…”
“When was the (first/last) time…”

A great way to maximize your PA school interview performance is to tell a story in response to these questions. Telling a story gives clear proof of experience and is a great way to engage your interviewer.  When telling a story, be specific to the finest detail, as this will show the full extent of your experience and make it easier for the interviewer to picture.  Also do your best to be concise as this will help you stay focused on the question at hand.

You’ll want to pick your stories carefully.  Stories based on recent events and of your previous healthcare experience tend to work the best.  They’re usually the optimum choice because they will be accurate and easily relatable to your skillset as a potential PA.  Healthcare experience stories also give you a great chance to show your breadth of experience in the field and explain any volunteer or job experience in greater detail than you may have been able to in your personal statement.

If you’re pursuing the physician assistant profession as a second career, you certainly may use your previous career experience, but try to highlight your transferrable skills from your previous career to some healthcare experience you’ve had.  Try starting with your career experience and then segueing into how that experience is directly related to the healthcare field or your potential skills as a PA.  No matter where your story starts, it should almost always end on a “patient related” note if possible.

Basic Storytelling Rules and Guidelines

  • Be Specific
    Show the extent of your experience, don’t just gloss over it.
  • Be Concise
    Keeping it short and sweet keeps the listener’s attention and helps you stay on topic
  • Include Action
    Action helps maintain interest and can act as main plot points around which you can add detail
  • Demonstrate Your Role
    Make sure you keep the story about you and your experiences, even if its related to a group activity.
  • Be Relevant
    Choose stories that are relevant to the question being asked as well as healthcare.
  • Patient First
    Try to come full circle with your answer by bringing it back to patient-centered healthcare

These rules are easy to follow, and when they are applied properly, you can maximize your score potential.  The best way to do this is simple- prepare stories ahead of time that you can quickly use when faced with a behavioral question.  You’ll find that doing this ahead of time will make your interview less nerve-wracking and will cut down on anxiety come interview day.