HOW TO ACE A MEDICAL SCHOOL INTERVIEW
You’ve studied like your life depends on it, completed the MCAT, secured your letters of recommendation, submitted your primary, and even completed your secondary applications. Congratulations on a job well done! The most important part is just ahead – the medical school interview. While just about anyone can look great on paper, the interview is just as much art as it is science. Even the most impressive applicant on paper can get rejected from medical schools without strong interview skills. Interview invitations are sent out on a rolling basis until all spots are filled at a given school. Some students begin receiving interview invitations as early as late July if they applied early, yet others receive their first invitation in January-March. Nevertheless, the majority of interview invitations are sent out between September and January. It’s also important to note that each school handles invitations differently. For instance, some schools employ a truly rolling process (i.e., they send invitations one by one as strong candidates make the cut), whereas others invite students on a rolling basis in chunks (i.e., invite their top favorite applicants who applied in July, followed by their favorites who applied in August, etc.), and yet other medical schools wait until a specific date before extending interview invitations in bulk (e.g., no invitations sent out until after all applications received by October have been reviewed).
1. Medical schools want to learn the following three pieces of information through your interview:
That you’re sociable and easy to get along with. You’ll be interacting with people—patients, nurses, colleagues, etc.—every day as a physician, so you have to be likeable and personable.
That you don’t have significant interpersonal difficulties, such as arrogance or major social awkwardness. Few people want to be around someone who is incredibly full of themselves or unable to hold an engaging conversation.
That you seem as polished and fit for medicine in person as you come across on your application. With unlimited opportunities to write, rewrite, and edit your essays, it’s possible to submit error-free application materials. On the other hand, it’s much more difficult to cover up obvious blemishes during a live in-person interview.
2..Know as many details about the program as possible.
You should be familiar with all the medical programs you are applying too. During an in-person interview, an interviewer might have the option to detect that you are anxious or that you aren't. They may believe that you are not interested in their program if you do not seem to have well-thought-out answers regarding specific details about their program. The perfect way to guarantee you know the program is to make an overview of what the program offers; class size, instructive program, clinical details, board pass rate, residency informational overviews, etc. You should visit the school's site and carefully read through multiple pages of content. Please pay special attention to what they repeatedly mention on their website (e.g., diversity, research), because those are likely some areas that the school is particularly proud of or known for. Demonstrating fit with those aspects of their school culture or programs will help you be seen as a great candidate. If you receive the name of your interviewers ahead of time, you should look them up online. If they are faculty members, you should spend a few minutes reading through their research and clinical interests, in case you want to ask questions during your interview about their work or how to get involved in their studies. While asking either of these questions is unnecessary, it's nice to have them ready in your back pocket. If you're unsure of something about the program, such as wanting to know if the program offers time off to study for boards, you can use it to ask the interviewer this as a question. Asking questions helps to showcase your enthusiasm for the program further. You ought to consistently have a question to ask when your interviewer asks if there are any additional questions following your interview.
2.Be prepared to discuss any red flags in your application, without being defensive.
You may be wondering what a red flag is. A red flag is anything in your application that could raise questions to an interviewer about your success at their school. For example, having a miserable semester, a low GPA, a low MCAT score, repeating classes, withdraws on your transcript, or taking a core course pass/fail (excluding the Spring 2020 semester) are all considered red flags on an application. The best way to address this to your interviewer is to explain what happened to result in the red flag thoroughly but to end your explanation with what you learned from the adversity that you faced and how you adjusted your habits to improve following the red flag. Answering questions about red flags without being defensive, i.e., using an external locus of control, showcases your maturity. Schools are not looking for perfect applicants; they are looking for applicants that are well-rounded and can overcome struggles and challenges that may arise when they practice medicine.
3. Be confident in your answers, and avoid being long-winded in your answers.
Remember that interviewers have a constrained measure of time to conduct each interview. When responding to interview questions, get straight to the point, and abstain from giving repetitive responses that don't add value to your answers. Preferably, your responses to an interview question ought to be close to three minutes in length, as it is likely that your interviewer will have a follow-up question to your answer. My interviews were organized, and the interviewer didn't offer a lot of input to the responses I gave. If this occurs during your interview, don't feel flustered, and continue to answer each question with confidence.
4. When answering each question, relate your answers back to medicine in some aspect.
You’re interviewing for medical school; therefore, you want your answers to showcase that you exhibit quality characteristics that you believe a physician should display. For example, if you’re asked a question about what you would do if you discovered that a student was cheating on an exam, stress the importance of being a trustworthy physician that displayed integrity, and how those two qualities should be displayed throughout medical school. Also, you should emphasize every shadowing experience and a medical internship with great significance if asked. Most importantly, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, AND HAVE MOCK INTERVIEWS! There are tons of free resources online that you can utilize to prepare for your interview, such as practice questions. I prepared for my interview by going to student doctor websites and looking for similar questions that were asked from other interviews. I also had my parents do mock interviews to see if I was prepared too.
I flew into Miami, Florida, from Houston, Texas. I flew with American Airlines, and the flight was respectively cheap. It was ninety-five dollars round trip. I flew in that morning, watched television, and ate at Whole Foods the day before the interview. I researched the school's website, as well.
Interview day started at 10 am, so I had time to steam my suit and review potential interview questions in my head. I arrived at the school by 9:30, and realized too late that I hadn't removed my suit jacket before driving! The front desk receptionist issued a cheerful "Hello," gave me my interview packet, and directed me to a large conference room, the interview hub for the day's events. Since I was early, I got to sit and chat with staff members and other potential classmates as they trickled in. At 10 am, we listened to presentations on financial aid, curriculum, rotations, student life, and a lot more. The school provided lunch for us in the cafeteria and gave us a tour of the entire university, last but not least was our interview. I absolutely loved the people who interviewed me. The interview was 30 minutes with the Enrollment Admission Director, one physician who is also a professor, and a current resident. I also got to meet the podiatric physician for the Miami Heat, who will also be one of my professors during my studies in the upcoming years. To kick things off, I was asked the famous ice-breaker, "So Jimmie, tell us about yourself." Good thing I had prepared for this question. I came up with a solid response that included my personality, experiences, and motivation. As the interview carried on, the professors seemed to be pleased with me and enjoying our time. They asked me questions such as:
"Why this school?"
"Tell us about your extracurricular activities."
"Tell us your greatest failure and greatest triumph?"
"Why medicine?" ("Be sure to use personal stories and details to help your answer avoid sounding cliche).
How was your study abroad experiences in China, and what is SPOT?
Precisely what helped me succeed on these questions: find a list of questions to use to prepare for the interview in advance. I used the interview reviews on the student review website and googled a list of questions. Review the school's website with a fine-toothed comb, talk to current students who go there, and pay attention during the interview day to tailor what the school offers to what you are looking for. After a few weeks, I learned my fate: I had been accepted! I hope that the tips above will give you the insight you need to prepare and get into a great school for you. If you follow these tips, I have faith that you too will be able to get in.