Topics on this page:
- Problems that can prevent becoming a hired MA
- Solutions and strategies to boost your chances of being hired
- Recession-proofing your career choice
If you have not yet found a job that is stable, pays well and offers potential upward mobility and growth – welcome to the under-employed/unemployed club. Currently this particular club has a lot of members, and the one thing they all have in common is that they all want out as soon as possible, to join the respectable ranks of the employed. However, factors such as lack of a post-secondary education, lack of trade and career training, little to no job history or experience – all work negatively against entry level job-seekers, in addition to the recession and its effect upon the job market.
Perhaps improving your job marketability in the current economy is why you’ve chosen a career as medical assistant. Medical assistance is currently one of the fastest growing careers outside of traditional college picks, so it is no surprise that you are either considering MA training, currently enrolled in an MA training program, or have recently been certified.
Once a medical assistant certification is in hand, you are guaranteed a job. No more under-employed club. Right?
Unfortunately, no. You are not necessarily guaranteed to be hired at the first MA job you apply to – or even the second or third. For newly certified MA’s having trouble being hired, there can be other contributors. Finding work as an entry level medical assistant can be a challenge, but there are some strategies to increase your chances. First, though, let’s take a look at what some of the problems may be.
1. Competing applicants are better qualified, more experienced
Like every other industry and available position for hire, there are many entry level and experienced applicants competing for any given open position, because of the severe lack of jobs. Competition then increases and becomes a serious obstacle for newly certified, entry level medical assistants who do not have work experience. Qualified MA’s who have had related job experience will almost always be selected before one who has no previous related experience.
Although it seems contradictory, both rural and urban locations can present difficulties for job-seekers. Rural areas are difficult because there is a scarcity of jobs altogether, so available medical assistant positions may be infrequent. When a position does open up, there may be just as many competitors for it as in a suburban or urban area.
Urban areas have the opposite challenge. Because urban populations are so numerous, every job that becomes available is met by scores of other applicants – many of whom will be extremely well qualified. Urban area employers can be as choosy and selective as they wish. Obviously, this creates a problem for entry level medical assistants, who may rarely even be asked to come in for an interview.
3. Poor resume and cover letter
Your resume is the very first point of contact with any potential employer, and also the source of the first impression he or she gets. Do not simply wing your resume, or send an email with a brief description of you and your qualifications. Take time to tailor your resume and your cover letter to both the medical assistant profession and the employer you are sending it to. Employers decide after looking at a resume whether or not to consider an applicant – so be sure yours is as impressive as you can truthfully make it.
4. You give bad interviews
Some people can have outstanding resumes and qualifications, get called in for an interview – and then blow it with unprofessional behavior or terrible answers and posture. Even if you think this is not you, it doesn’t hurt to brush up on your interview skills by reading up on the best way to interact with an interviewing employer. Small things like sitting up straight, smiling, making eye contact, dressing appropriately, and coming well prepared and on time can make all the difference in the world.
Some of the solutions for the above problems are common sense: design a well-written, properly formatted resume that showcases your strengths and downplays your weaknesses, and always tailor your cover letter to the employer. Do not send a catch-all, generic cover letter; this demonstrates lack of effort before you can even get your foot in the door.
However, there may be a few strategies you have not yet considered, such as:
1. Prepare answers to possible interview questions, such as:
- What do you know about our institution? Always, always research the employer or institution you are applying for. Know things such as, but not limited to- what it specializes in, the image the healthcare facility wants to project, and its values and policies
- What previous experience do you have with X medical procedure? Rather than list off what you’ve done, give an answer within a context; for example, I applied a total of 30 cast settings on different fractures and breaks.
- What’s an example of a time when you had to perform under pressure, or provide medical assistance during a high-stress situation? Obviously this depends upon individual experience, but the interviewer or hiring personnel is looking for an answer that shows you can maintain focus and calm under pressure.
There are plenty of other questions you can prepare for, which could certainly give you the advantage over an equally qualified applicant. During the interview do not make up things to sound more impressive or experienced, because most hiring managers or employers will verify your answers with previous employers. Not only that, but many of them are trained to detect lies.
2. Visit and apply at facilities that have not advertised an open position.
Just because a healthcare facility has not put an ad in the paper, does not mean they will not hire you as a medical assistant. It is always a good idea to go and introduce yourself and ask if there is anything open, and leave your resume. Very often, people are hired for jobs that are not made public.
3. Network locally and online
By networking both online and in your everyday life with others in your industry, you can let your peers know you are looking for work. Especially in urban areas, employers often hire someone they know, or because a co-worker has recommended someone. Social media is a great networking tool as well. LinkedIn is especially useful when you are job-searching. Not only can you apply to jobs directly on LinkedIn, but you can post your experience and your resume on your profile, so that employers can easily find you. In addition to LinkedIn, you can used Facebook and Twitter to expand your online networking.
4. Use multiple platforms for job-seeking, application and employment
- Job search engines such as Monster, Indeed and CareerBuilder, or feel free to visit our medical assistant specific job board.
- Employment agencies – chances are you have a temp or employment agency specifically devoted to medical staffing. This is also a great way to build work experience if this is the main obstacle to landing a full-time job.
- Paid or private employment agency – these are very similar to a temp agency, except that they are paid by either businesses or job-seekers for job placement. While most job-seekers cannot afford to hire someone to get them a job, there are those that are paid by the healthcare facility to fill empty positions, so they are worth looking into.
- The American Association of medical assistants (AAMA) does have a mentorship program that could be worthwhile and possibly open some doors for you. Definitely join this group, and attend local chapter meetings. You will meet interesting people with established careers. Ask them how they got their start in the field. Listen carefully and make a mental note of any good tips. After chatting for a few minutes, ask for a business card. Follow up with a short email, but don’t ask for a job in this message.
5. Volunteer at places and centers that can add to your hands-on training
Not only will the experience be something to emphasize in the empty space on your resume, but it will also make you an ideal candidate for medical assistance positions. Volunteering is always seen as a positive inclusion on a resume.
Comparatively speaking, finding a medical assistance job in a recession is much easier than say, a news anchor position, or a job at an advertising firm. Medical staff is always needed, no matter how terrible the economy.
It may not even be the economy that is preventing you from getting an MA job. Review your approach, your resume, your job-seeking tools and platforms, your interviewing skills, and your volunteer experience. If you master all of the above, you’ll have a virtually recession-proof career, and you may be surprised at how quickly you find yourself shaking your new employer’s hand.