You’ve completed your EMT training course, studied hard and passed your certification exam, and earned your license to practice in your state. Now it’s time to hit the pavement and find a job. While many training programs can assist you in finding job placements in your area, landing a job means that you need to prepare for common EMT interview questions and how to answer them. While interviews are commonly a source of major anxiety for job seekers, preparation is the key to successfully navigating the interview process. After polling 20 ambulance services throughout the country, we’ve put together a list of six of the most common EMT interview questions to give you some insight into what hiring managers are hoping to hear from the best candidates.
First, be advised that the format and scope of the interview process for EMTs can vary widely. Depending on the demand for responders in your area, the interview process can range from a “meet and greet” to several required sessions. Many EMS providers will conduct a mass screening prior to interviewing any applicants. Some will require that you complete a skills test and an NREMT-style exam prior to proceeding to the interview. Some may even require a geographic aptitude, or map test, during the process. Likewise, some providers require a basic fitness test, although they’re well-known to be fairly easy to pass.
The key takeaway is that if you’re applying for several positions, you need to be prepared for all these scenarios. While your training should have prepared you for many of the elements listed above, you haven’t been coached on providing sound responses to common EMT interview questions. Let’s dig in.
1. Tell us about yourself?
This question is a common ice-breaker in interviews across all professions, and EMS is no different. The key element to keep in mind is that the interviewer isn’t necessarily interested in whether or not you like to hunt or fish or what your team you’ll root for during the upcoming NFL season. While they may want to get to know you personally to determine whether or not you’re a likable person and will be a selfless team player, they want to know what personality traits you have that will help you succeed in EMS. They want to know if you’re dependable and if you’ll show up on time. They want to know if you’re detail oriented and if you have a history of putting others first. If you discuss personal experiences, use them to show that you have qualities such as those listed above. You’ll have plenty of time for small talk and sports chat if you’re hired.
2. Why do you want this position?
Again, this one goes back to showing that your committed to service. Although it might be obvious on your resume, telling an interviewer that you’ve been looking for work for six months and it’s really time you start paying the bills does not demonstrate a commitment to providing the highest quality of pre-hospital care. Have you always wanted to help others? Are you driven to learn about emergency medicine? Does the hum-drum routine of a desk job sound like your worst nightmare? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re on the right track. EMT interview questions are designed to get at your reason for sitting in that chair. All providers want to find responders who can best fit the job description, and it’s a job description that’s not right for everyone. Let them know that you have the traits necessary to be successful in EMS.
3. What do you know about our company?
This is where research ahead of time is critical. A recent study by CareerBuilder.com found that applicants who had taken the time to understand a company’s background and business model were 40% more likely to be hired. 40%! And all this involves is spending 20 minutes online doing your homework on the company you’re applying to. Take the time to research the history of the service you’re applying to, what areas they serve, what types of calls they usually run, what their truck setup might be, and what kinds of call volume they experience. This will go a long way in showing that you’re not only committed to EMS, but that you want to be a part of their team.
4. What shifts can you work?
With the hectic and varying schedules in EMS, applicants are often more likely to get hired if they’re flexible on what shifts they work. While you may not want to work from midnight to noon forever, these are shifts that are often filled by eager, newly-minted, young EMTs who are willing to work whatever hours are required to land a job. Unless you have serious conflicting responsibilities, ie. your wife is a labor and delivery nurse and works overnights while you’re home with sleeping kids, you need to demonstrate as much flexibility as possible when this question is asked. At the end of the day, shifts need to be staffed and a hiring manager will eventually find people who can do it.
5. What are your plans or goals for the future?
Again, this question is most often designed to asses your commitment to the medical field. Stating that you need to find a good job that pays at least $18 an hour until you figure that out is not the right way to go. If you’re committed to emergency medicine, you’ll have no problem addressing this question. If you don’t know, then discuss your short-term goals. You “want to find an agency that you can grow with and further your emergency medical experience while serving the people of your community by providing the best pre-hospital care possible”. While an employer isn’t looking for you to fabricate some bright future where you become the head of their company, you can be authentic while at the same time framing your response in a way that shows that you’re not a job-hopper or wishy-washy professional wanderer.
6. Scenario-based questions
Many providers base a few EMT interview questions around scenarios. While they’re typically not complex, think “what are the indications of glucose?”, you may want to run through a few scenario practice modules prior to sitting for an interview. Again, passing your certification exam should have prepared you for anything you’ll likely encounter, but some employers simply want to test your critical-thinking skills.
It’s also important to note that many employers, not just in EMS, are moving toward behavioral-based interview questions. For example, instead of asking you if you’ve ever done something, which allows for a simple “yes” or “no” response, they’re moving toward questions phrased as “tell me about a time when…” This requires interviewees to put their behaviors and choices on display and helps them to better asses how you will respond in certain situations. For a list of common behavioral-based interview questions, click here.
We discussed references in our How to Craft a Great EMT Resume guide, but it’s worth discussing once again as references often come up during the interview. Employers want to know that you have references that can give them an idea of your character, as well as show that you’ve committed to making connections within EMS. Don’t list out three of your best friends from high school. Instead, include past managers, training instructors, or classmates from your course.
If you take the time to prepare, as well as arm yourself with some of the common EMT interview questions EMS employers are asking, you’ll be able to increase your odds of landing a job drastically. As always, if you have any questions, let us know in the comments section below.