Expert tips for recruiting top talent: Interview questions and a job description template to find the right NP or PA

May 23, 2024   |   PA

Just as most clinical programs don’t teach nurse practitioners (NP) or physician associates (PA) how to launch and run a successful private practice, they also don’t cover how to be an effective manager. The truth is that the most important management skills can only be learned on the job. Having the right employees in place makes managing clinicians on your team easier. 

However, many healthcare business owners make the mistake of hiring someone who feels comfortable. Whether this is a friend or someone whose personality aligns with yours, it’s important to remember you’re filling the role of an employee and not a new friend.

Before you hop into an interview, keep in mind that in this job market, prospective candidates are also interviewing you as a potential boss. Brighid Gannon, DNP, PMHNP-BC, owner of Lavender, recommends showing up to the interview how you expect a candidate to show up for work. “Be on time in a professional setting and be prepared with set interview questions. In my experience, the candidate’s impression of the organization starts to form as early as during the recruitment process.”

To assist you, the following are interview questions for an NP or PA interview and a template for writing an effective job description. 


Define the applicant’s clinical skills and knowledge with these questions:

Annie DePasquale, MD, owner of Collaborating Docs recommends asking about their NP/PA training program. Was it fully virtual or was there an in-person component too?

Expected response: Be sure to check for proof of licensure. For example, Christine Gardella, MMS, PA-C, owner of Medicine At Home, always asks candidates about credentialing with PECOS and the proper jurisdiction for Medicare before hiring. 

As a follow-up, Dr. DePasquale recommends asking where the applicant completed clinical rotations. Who were you working with, and what skills did you learn?

Expected response: Mentions specific skills gained.

Can you describe your experience with [specific procedure relevant to your practice]?

Expected response: Detailed description of their experience, steps they take to perform the procedure, and any outcomes or complications they have managed.

Describe a time when you had to make a critical decision quickly. What was the outcome?

Expected response: Clear explanation of the situation, decision-making process and positive outcome or lessons learned from the experience.


Ask about their approach to patient care:

How do you approach patient education?

Expected response: Discusses the use of clear language, educational materials and techniques to confirm patient comprehension

Can you provide an example of a challenging patient interaction and how you handled it?

Expected response: Demonstrates empathy, effective communication, conflict resolution skills and a positive resolution or improvement in patient care.

How do you handle a situation where a patient disagrees?

Expected response: Emphasizes patient autonomy, discusses the importance of understanding patient concerns and describes efforts to provide education and alternative options.


Focus on teamwork and collaboration:

How do you ensure effective communication and collaboration with other team members?

Expected response: Describes clear documentation, open communication channels and respect for all team members.

Karli Burridge, PA-C, MMS, FOMA, founder of Gaining Health, asks the following: What is your approach to managing challenges in your work setting? Can you think of an example and how you handled it? 

Expected response: Shows ability to address conflicts directly and constructively, seeks common ground and prioritizes patient care and teamwork.

Burridge also recommends asking about what the candidate is looking for from an employer.

Expected response: An ideal candidate should interview you, too, to determine whether the position is a good fit.


Ability to solve problems and think critically: 

Describe a situation where you had to think outside the box to solve a patient care issue.

Expected response: Provides a specific example, explains the creative solution and describes the positive outcome.

How do you approach differential diagnosis?

Expected response: Explains a systematic approach, consideration of multiple possibilities, and use of evidence-based guidelines and diagnostic tools.

Dr. Pasquale from Collaborating Docs recommends asking what do you do when faced with an unfamiliar clinical situation?

Expected response: Discusses seeking guidance from colleagues, consulting clinical resources and continuing education to expand knowledge.

Brighid Gannon from Lavender recommends asking what is the greatest piece of advice you have ever received and how it helps you grow? 

Expected response: This question helps you get to know the candidate better, including their personal values and personality.


Work ethic and professionalism:

Can you describe a time when you had to manage a high workload and prioritize tasks?

Expected response: Demonstrates time management skills, and ability to prioritize patient care and maintain quality despite a busy schedule.

Describe a time when you received constructive criticism and how you responded to it.

Expected response: Shows openness to feedback, a positive attitude toward improvement and steps taken to address the criticism constructively.


Professional goals and development to demonstrate a growth-oriented mindset:

What are your short-term and long-term career goals?

Expected response: Aligns with the practice’s goals, shows ambition for professional growth and desires to continuously learn.

How do you handle continuing education and professional development?

Expected response Mentions specific courses, certifications, conferences, and a proactive approach to keeping skills and knowledge current.

What attracted you to this position and our practice?

Expected response: Demonstrates knowledge of the practice, alignment with its mission and values and specific reasons for interest in the position.


An NP or PA job description template

Getting the right applicants in the door in the first place depends on your job post. The more specific you are about what you need, the more likely applicants will fit that profile. Following is a job description template you can adapt as your own:

Job Title: Nurse Practitioner (NP) / Physician Assistant (PA)

Location: [Insert Location and whether it’s in-person or virtual]

Job Type: [Full-Time/Part-Time/Contractor]

Practice Name: [Insert Practice Name]

Job overview: [Insert Practice Name] is seeking a dedicated, skilled nurse practitioner (NP) or physician associate (PA) to join our growing team. The successful candidate will provide high-quality healthcare services to our diverse patient population. This role involves direct patient care, diagnostic assessments, treatment planning and collaboration with our multidisciplinary team.

Key responsibilities: [List specific responsibilities, such as:]

  • Conduct comprehensive patient assessments, including health histories and physical examinations.
  • Diagnose and manage acute and chronic health conditions.
  • Develop and implement individualized treatment plans.
  • Prescribe medications and therapies as needed.
  • Order and interpret diagnostic tests, such as laboratory work and imaging studies.
  • Provide patient education on health maintenance, disease prevention, and treatment options.
  • Collaborate with physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals to ensure coordinated and comprehensive care.
  • Document patient encounters accurately and timely in the electronic health record (EHR) system.
  • Participate in quality improvement initiatives and adhere to best practices and clinical guidelines.
  • Maintain up-to-date knowledge of medical advancements and continuing education.


Qualifications: [List qualifications, such as]:

  • Master’s degree from an accredited NP or PA program.
  • Current state licensure as an NP or PA with proof of certification by the appropriate professional board.
  • [Insert required years of experience] years of clinical experience in [insert relevant field, e.g., family medicine, geriatrics, pediatrics, etc.].
  • Proficiency in electronic health records (EHR) systems.
  • Strong clinical diagnostic and treatment skills.
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Ability to work collaboratively.
  • Commitment to patient-centered care.


Compensation and benefits:

  • Competitive salary commensurate with experience.
  • Comprehensive benefits package, including medical, dental and vision insurance.
  • Paid time off (PTO) and holidays.
  • Continuing education opportunities.
  • Retirement plan options.


Application process:

Interested candidates are invited to submit the following documents to [insert contact information or apply online at…]:

  • Resume
  • Cover letter detailing relevant experience and interest in the position
  • Professional references

[Insert Practice Name] is an equal-opportunity employer. 

Application deadline:

[Insert deadline]

About [Insert Practice Name]:

[Provide a brief overview of your practice, including your mission, values and any notable achievements.]


Congrats on growing your team and best of luck in finding the right candidate for the job.

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