How to Ace Your Travel Therapy Interview
No matter if you’re a new grad or have twenty years of experience, the thought of being put on the spot with a barrage of questions is enough to make anyone’s palms sweat.
Luckily, if you’ve decided to pursue travel therapy you can breathe a sigh of relief.
While there is still an interview process, the travel therapy interview is much quicker, easier, and way less stressful!
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Travel Therapy Interview vs. Perm Interview: What’s the Difference?
What if I told you that you could land any job you wanted with just a 10 minute conversation? In travel therapy, this isn’t far from the truth.
First of all, 99% of travel therapy interviews are done over the phone, which is just standard practice since most of the time interviewees are hundreds of miles away or more from the facility. So no digging past your scrubs to find something business casual to wear!
Secondly, if the facility has agreed to interview you, many experienced travelers will say you pretty much already have the job in the bag.
Remember, facilities need a traveler for a reason. As long as your resume and references check out, it is very likely you’ll be hired. This isn’t to say that they won’t ask you anything on this phone call – questions about your experience with their population, setting, payor sources, common assessments used, documentation systems, etc., are all likely.
But you’re probably not going to get those hardball questions you might find at a permanent job. Questions like… What’s your biggest weakness? (Do I say my actual biggest weakness or do I say something I can spin into a strength? Ahh!)
Travel Therapy Interview Timeline
Step 1 – Initial Phone Call
While not an interview per se, the process really begins when you first make contact with a recruiter. Your initial conversation will likely be a casual one about your experience, locations you’re interested in seeing, and settings you’d like to work in. They will also likely go ahead and open the conversation up about money and may even ask you to give them a number – but don’t worry if you have no idea what is appropriate.
Instead, ask them what kind of pay they typically see for therapists of your experience level in your preferred settings. And remember – regardless of what you discuss in this initial conversation, you’re not locked into anything – pay, setting, or location – until you sign a contract.
Step 2 – Paperwork
Once you’ve had this conversation, the recruiter may ask you to submit some items like your resume, a skills checklist, and any licenses or certifications you currently hold. They may also refer you to the travel company’s credentialing department if you are interested in getting licensed in a new state. But, as soon as you get off the phone with them, they should be keeping their eye out for any potential job matches!
Step 3 – Review Opportunities
Once your recruiter finds a job that may be a match for you, they’ll reach out to you ASAP. They’ll give you some quick details about the setting and location, and any recruiter worth their salt will already have a pay package ready for you. This means that you will likely know how much you’ll be making before you even speak with the facility! While this doesn’t mean that there’s no room to negotiate pay after the interview, it does give you a chance to decline a position up front if the money just isn’t there.
This way, neither you or the facility waste time interviewing. Never be afraid to pass up a job if it doesn’t seem like a good fit for you – there are a lot of hard to fill therapist jobs out there, and sometimes your recruiter may offer an assignment that doesn’t match any of your preferences on the off-chance you might be interested.
Step 4 – Submit to the Job
Assuming your recruiter finds a match, or matches, that interest you, they will then submit you for a job. This just means that they will send your profile (which probably includes items like your resume, references, skills checklists, etc) over to the facility. The hiring manager at the facility will then review your application. If they like what they see, they will contact your recruiter to set up an interview with you. Your recruiter will then work with you and the facility to find a time that works for you both.
One note of caution at this part of the process – if you are working with multiple recruiters (which I heavily recommend), make sure that you don’t get submitted to the same job twice. While it’s not a deal-breaker, it does look unprofessional and it makes things more confusing for the facility. If two recruiters offer the same job, you can politely let them know and see who can offer the higher pay package, or you can just go with the recruiter that found it first.
Step 5 – Schedule the Interview
Once you have an interview scheduled, all you really need to do is make plans to be in a comfortable, quiet place with good phone reception. If you’re interviewing for a setting you haven’t been in recently, or at all, it may help to brush up on a few things. The best advice I can give is to not worry so much. They already like you, and they aren’t going to be asking you NBCOT questions!
By the way – this whole process, start to finish, could happen in a week – or less! Travel therapy moves fast, so be prepared to make decisions quickly – but never let anyone pressure you into saying yes to an assignment sooner than you feel comfortable.
Turning the Tables
With facilities needing traveling medical professionals ASAP, interviews can often feel like a formality. Some facilities may only ask you one or two questions, and some may even offer to hire you without an interview!
However, unless you are already very familiar with the facility I would never recommend this. The real secret to travel therapy interviews is that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you, if not more!
While this is true for perm jobs as well, I recommend asking questions in any interview to make sure it’s a good fit. While it depends on your discipline and the current market, in general, if a facility needs a traveler, they need you more than you need them. So ask plenty of questions!
If you’ve worked as a therapist before, try to think about what has been important to you in previous positions. On the other hand, what have been some sources of conflict?
If you’re new to the field or just need ideas, try these questions to start:
- What is the expected productivity?
- How many patients/clients/students will I see a day?
- Is there a caseload limit?
- Will I be required to travel between multiple buildings?
- For home health: What size territory will I cover?
- For schools: How many schools will I cover?
- For schools: Are services primarily provided on a pull-out or push-in model?
- How are no-shows handled? Will I have guaranteed hours?
- What standardized assessments are available?
- What diagnoses are commonly seen?
- How many other OTs/therapists are on the team?
- As an OTR, will I be responsible for supervising any COTAs or students?
- As a COTA, who will provide my supervision and in what form?
- What documentation systems are used?
- What is the dress code?
- Is there opportunity for mentorship, or will I mostly be working alone?
The only thing that I would recommend NOT bringing up during this interview is pay. While the interviewer probably knows the bill rate that they have negotiated with the travel company, they likely won’t know your take-home pay.
Save any questions about your hourly rate, stipends, mileage, or other reimbursements for your recruiter after the interview.
Wrapping It Up
Once you’ve interviewed, your recruiter will likely follow up with you to see how it went. If you liked it, all you have to do is wait to hear back from the facility, which, again, usually won’t take very long.
Have reservations? If they’re minor, you may be able to use them to your advantage and negotiate something more in your favor, whether it’s an extra reimbursement, slightly higher pay, or better guaranteed hours (hours that you are paid for no matter what!)
But, if something in the interview didn’t sit right with you, it is 100% okay to say no and move on. Since the travel world does move fast and everyone’s time is valuable, I do recommend only interviewing for the jobs you are likely to accept if everything goes well.
But don’t ever let anyone pressure you into saying yes after an interview – especially if you suspect ethical issues, unrealistic productivity requirements, or anything else that raises a red flag. It doesn’t benefit anyone for you to accept a job that you can’t stand to finish once you start it.
And while it can depend on the market at the time, as long as you are patient and flexible, a great job will find its way to you. You just have to be ready for it!
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Have you gone through the travel therapy interview process? What questions did you ask? Do you have any other tips you would add to this? Please share them in the comments below!