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What are some good questions to ask a respiratory therapist

photo of meeting group engaged in discussion

People go into a job interview expecting to answer questions, not ask them. But according to RT managers, asking a few well-thought-out questions can really boost your chances of landing the job, because asking questions shows you are fully engaged in the process and have done your homework regarding the facility and what it has to offer.

Inquiries are welcome

Susan Wynn, MSM, RRT, RT manager at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, IN, says her department always provides a wealth of information during the interview, so job candidates may not have many questions left to ask, but she welcomes their inquiries.

“I would never want a candidate to feel like they are the ones on the ‘hot seat’ and that they can’t ask us for the things they are looking for in a good fit or a good position,” Wynn said. “We want employees to stay long term, so it is in our best interest to allow questions that will give them a feel for the culture of the organization and department. We can’t always assume that just because they applied and accepted the interview that they are sold on us.”

Questions Susan Wynn would like to see candidates ask —

  • What do you provide your staff as far as continuing education or updates on care guidelines, etc., are concerned?
  • Is anyone on staff involved in the state society?
  • Do you allow staff days off to attend seminars, or do you send staff to seminars?
  • Are you an Apex department, or if not, how do you fall within the parameters of the Apex standards from the AARC? (e.g. staff mix, career ladders)
  • Does RT sit on hospital teams/committees? If so, what are those team topics and how does an RT get to participate on those teams?
  • Is there opportunity to become involved in community education (e.g. health fairs)?
  • Is there opportunity to become involved with RT students or recruitment efforts?
  • What do you typically do for Respiratory Care Week?

“Most candidates don’t ask a lot of questions, but I feel like it is a great opportunity for the candidate to give some insight into their priorities and their interests,” Wynn said.

Preparation is key

As the long-time director of respiratory care and pulmonary function at 446-bed UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, Jeffrey Davis, BS, RRT, has hired a lot of RTs in his career, and he always appreciates it when a candidate walks into the interview with two or three questions for him.

“It shows an interest on their part that goes beyond just finding that job and making an income,” he said. He suggests candidates prepare their questions beforehand and make it obvious that they are referring to those notes when asking them. He also advises candidates to be cognizant of the manager’s time when asking their questions.

“I usually have up to an hour for your interview,” Davis said. “One or two questions will suffice.” That said, he believes it’s best to bring more than just one or two so you can ask the questions that most fit with the discussion you’ve been having with the manager.

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Jeff Davis’s top two questions for interviewees to ask —

  • What are you looking for in a new employee?
  • I see on your website that _____. How is this implemented in RT?

“This tells me you did your homework and you want to know as much about your possible future employer as possible,” Davis said. ”Not every RT department has a website, but almost every hospital or health care facility does. Get to know where you are applying.”

Interviewing the position

At Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, UT, BSRT students take part in an executive clinical rotation that includes some fairly aggressive interview prep.

“We hold a pretty intense interview workshop that culminates in them participating with practice interviewing,” said Kim Bennion, MsHS, RRT, CHC, administrative director of respiratory care services. “During the prep portion, I empower them by telling them they are interviewing the ‘position’ as much as they are interviewing for it.”

She encourages the students to ask questions that will give them more information about the facility and its dedication to moving the profession of respiratory care forward.

These are the questions Kim Bennion recommends her students ask —

  • What do you feel are the largest benefits of working for your hospital/department?
  • What is your department’s first year and total turnover rate?
  • What are the largest challenges your RTs are currently facing?
  • As the director/manager, where do you feel RT will be in five years?

“As I tell the students, this will allow you to evaluate the manager/director’s vision and drive for impacting the profession, employee satisfaction, and the pros/cons of working for this manager/director in this department,” Bennion said.

The what and the why

Cheryl Hoerr, MBA, RRT, CPFT, FAARC, is director of respiratory and sleep services at Phelps Health in Rolla, MO, and a former chair of the Program Committee for the AARC Congress who has presented on this topic many times at the annual Student Symposium.

Here are the top questions she’s included in her presentation and why —

  • Which of my skills do you see as most important for the challenges that come with the position? This helps you verify that your expectations of the job are accurate.
  • How will the department help me develop? Applying your current skills is one thing, improving them is another challenge altogether. Asking this question shows the interviewer that you’re interested in self-improvement and growing your skills.
  • Can you tell me a little about the team I’ll be working with? The answer to this question may give you an idea about how well your personality and skills will fit in with the existing therapists.
  • What constitutes success with this position and department? This is a great way to demonstrate that you’re interested in succeeding (not just punching a time clock) and it also gives you key insights into the expectations of the position and the culture of the company.
  • What have you enjoyed most about working here? Your prospective boss can relay what he/she values most and what led to his or her personal success with the organization. Then you can decide whether you share the same values and can envision yourself working there.
  • Do you see any gaps in my skills or qualifications that I need to work on? This question tells the interviewer that you’re willing to fill any gaps that might exist. For you, the worst-case scenario is that there are gaps that will preclude you from getting the job, but that’s valuable information to take into your next interview. In the best case, the interviewer won’t have any answer, and hopefully you’ll be shortlisted for the position!
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Beyond the paycheck

Asking questions during an interview may seem a little daunting, especially for RTs seeking their first job right out of school. But as these managers suggest, speaking up can actually make you a stronger candidate. So next time you head out to an interview, take a few questions along and show the hiring manager you’ve given the position some serious thought beyond just a paycheck.

The population is getting older, and sicker. Nothing to celebrate, really. If you are a certified respiratory therapist, however, or about to finish your education in the field, you can at least see something good on the otherwise negative trend. Your profession is on the rise. The demand for RTs is growing, so are the average salaries for the medical professionals. What does it all mean for your job interview?

First of all, you won’t face a tough competition. Often you may be the only person applying for the job, or you will compete with one or two other applicants. What is more, healthcare facilities are desperate to hire good respiratory therapists. You do not need to amaze them with perfect interview answers. Decent answers will suffice. And a certification (or a degree) of course… Let’s have a look at some questions.

Respiratory Therapist in work, taking care of a child.

Why have you decided to pursue this career?

A typical answer will be saying that you see a meaningful purpose in this job, that you are worried about the growth of respiratory conditions in our population, such as pneumonia or asthma, and want to help. This is a typical answer, and a good one.

If you want to come up with something more interesting, however, you can narrate a story from you childhood, describing your own respiratory problems, or problems of someone close to you, and how the experience with the person motivated you to pursue the career of a respiratory therapist.


How do you imagine a typical day in work?

Read the job description carefully. Perhaps you will work alone, on site, or make home visits. It is important that you understand the job description, since it shows the hiring manager that you really care about the job, and did not apply by the chance.

Another crucial thing is to show motivation to work hard, to always do something. Hospitals are full of personnel who sits in their office, doing nothing unless they are called to duty. Show them that you plan to do your very best, proactively talking to patients and physicians, always looking for an opportunity to do something for the people.


Tell us something about your education/experience.

This is the right time to take your certificate out of the bag, and show it to the interviewers. Most hospitals trust the educational system, and once you show them the certificate, and briefly describe your training and education, they won’t doubt your ability to handle the job, and won’t ask you any technical questions.

What is more, you should always talk about your working duties with enthusiasm. They should feel that you will enjoy doing what respiratory therapists usually do, and will not lose motivation easily.

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* May also interest you: How to overcome interview nerves.


What do you consider the most difficult thing about this job?

Seeing someone dying in front of our eyes, or being unable to help some patients, is definitely one of the toughest aspects of any medical profession. What is more, the hospital environment itself is quite stressful, and there is a reason why some healthcare professions have short life expectancy when compared with the numbers for our population in general.

Anyway, you can pick something different for your answer, but you should always ensure the interviewers that you are aware of the difficulties, and ready to handle them.

A young woman interviews in a front of a panel of three interviewers, for a position in healthcare.

How would you deal with an angry patient? / Describe a situation when you dealt with an angry patient.

When we feel bad physically, we are not the nicest companions. This is something natural, and good healthcare practitioner will never blame their patients.

Tell the hiring managers that you have empathy for the physical and emotional strain patients experience, and understand their occasional outbursts of anger.

Say that you would stay calm and cheerful, and do your best for the patient following the therapy, regardless of their attitude to you. You can also mention that criticism and negative remarks won’t have any significant impact on the quality of your work, or on your attitude to the patients.


Some other questions you may deal with (technical and behavioral, new trend in the interviews).

  • Describe a conflict you had with one of your colleagues (patients). How did you handle the conflict?
  • Describe a situation when you went above and beyond with your service.
  • Tell us about an obstacle you overcame.
  • Describe a situation when you faced a particularly demanding problem or challenge in your personal life. How did that affect you in your job?
  • Tell us about a time when you showed initiative at work.
  • What are some of the most useful therapies for patients with emphysema? Why do they work?
  • What respiratory equipment are you familiar with?
  • What does integrity mean to you? Tell us about a situation when you demonstrated integrity.
  • Describe a situation when you were under pressure in work.
  • Do you have any experience with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome? What therapy would you suggest in this case?
  • Tell us how you proceed in diagnosing the respiratory condition.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision without all the information you needed.
  • Tell me one thing about yourself you wouldn’t want me to know.

Special Tip: If you feel anxious before your interview, or do not know how to answer the questions, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Multiple brilliant answers to all tricky interview questions will make your life much easier in your respiratory therapist interview. Thank you!


Conclusion and next steps

Interview for a Respiratory Therapist job belongs to interviews with average difficulty. You won’t compete with many people for the job, and the hiring managers won’t typically ask you any technical questions (they will trust your certification, and they also often do not have the capacity to evaluate your answers to technical questions).

In most cases you will get five to fifteen personal and behavioral questions, just as described in our article. Prepare for them, make a good impression, and land the job. We wish you good luck! – Your best job interview coach since 2011

May also interest you:

  • How to answer interview questions – It is not only about what you say, but also how you say it in an interview. Non-verbal communication counts for 90% of your message. Do you know how to say the right things?
  • Job interview tips – Advice that will help you to understand how to ace your interview.
  • Interview Questions for Healthcare Jobs – Interview questions for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other positions in healthcare.
  • Salary negotiation tips – Learn how to convince them to offer you the best possible salary in an interview.