How to Ace your Medical School Interviews

Once you make it to the interview stage, you are officially in the home stretch!

Preparing YourselfWhile of course every school will have its own unique style of determining who you are and if you are a good fit for their school, the vast majority of your interviews will be low pressure and conversational in nature. They will not be trying to trip you up. Is this always the case? No, but exceptions are just that — exceptions and not the rule. It is important to spend time preparing before you start your interviews.

A good practice is to read through your personal statement and activities on your primary application so that your motivations and past activities are fresh on your mind when you interview. Practice interview questions with a close friend or advisor. It is important not to memorize your answers outright, as this will make the answers sound robotic and rehearsed. Instead, rehearse your answers until your are easily able to provide succinct, meaningful answers to the most common questions.

Before you interview at a specific school, also review your secondary application questions and answers. Also review the mission statement and unique aspects of their institution so you are in the right frame of mind going in. This will allow you to highlight the aspects of your application that are most in line with their institutional identity. You will also want to brainstorm a set of questions to get answered about the program during the interview day.

What to Wear
Medicine remains a very conservative field so you will want to keep this in mind as you determine what to wear to your interview. A black, gray or navy suit with a tie or a dress with a blazer are appropriate choices. Your interview day will likely involve a walking tour of the campus so you will want to wear professional but comfortable shoes. Now is the time to look your best. That includes facial hair that is well-groomed, groomed nails and a fresh haircut and line up.

As a general rule, avoid bright colors, strong scents, or bold statement pieces. To complete your professional look, bring a padfolio to take notes on throughout your interview day. Not only will this help you remember details of the site you are visiting but it will also remind the admissions team that you are engaged in the day. You will also notice most of the other applicants will have one.

What They Will Ask You
Common questions that frequently come up during medical school interviews include:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why do you want to be a doctor? Why not some other science field?
  • How do you handle conflict? Provide an example of a time you had conflict and talk about how you  overcame it
  • What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • Why this school?
  • What role do you tend to play when working on a team?
  • How do you feel your background has prepared you to become a physician?
  • What do you consider the most pressing issue in healthcare today?
  • How do you think the US should address the physician shortage problem, particularly for primary  care doctors?
  • What are your goals in medicine? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • What career would you pursue if not medicine?
  • What questions do you have for me?

What They CAN’T Ask You
Certain questions are off limits for you to be asked during interviews. Examples of inappropriate questions include questions to clarify your age, race, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, marital status or income. They cannot ask you about your disabilities, criminal record, drug history or whether or not you have children. Such questions are not permissible by federal statutes on what constitutes unfair or discriminatory inquiries. 

According to AAMC policy, if you are asked an inappropriate question, you should report it to prevent further occurrences. Report the inappropriate question (s) and the interviewer’s name who asked them to an admissions officer within 24 hours of the interview, being sure to note the date and time of the incident. You also have the right to ask for another interview to ensure an unbiased evaluation of your application to that medical school.

Key Interview Day Tips:

Be Kind to Everyone You Meet

Remember you are “on” the moment you step foot on campus to interview. That means every single person your encounter, from the secretary to the cleaning crew, to the man taking your parking ticket. They need to see the best version of you ONLY.  Arrive early – if you are “on time” you are late. Put your best foot forward at all times. This includes while watching presentations, during the interview day lunch and driving off campus.

Pay Attention to Who Else is Interviewing

Play close attention to the other applicants who are with you during your interview. Instead of viewing them as competition, imagine that one day they will be your future classmates. Ask yourself if the people in the room are the types of people you want to spend 4 years with. Are they lightheaded, approachable and easy to connect to? Are they stoic, unfriendly or unrelatable? Are they diverse or homogeneous? It seems far away, but very soon you will be deciding which medical school to attend. The type of people a medical school selects to interview says a lot about the school’s priorities and the type of student body they are trying to build. This is useful insight to have when deciding which school is the best fit for you.

Come Prepared with Questions of Your Own

If an interviewer asks you if you have questions about the program, ALWAYS HAVE QUESTIONS READY. It doesn’t matter how fried your brain is after the end of a long interview day. It is your job to stay engaged throughout the entire day. Not having questions ready makes you look unengaged every time.

A golden piece of advice: when in doubt, ask the interviewer about themselves. Ask them how they ended up in this particular program, what drew them to it, what keeps them staying and what aspect they would change about it. This works wonderfully for several reasons: 1.) interviewers are people, and like most people, they are subconsciously flattered by others showing sincere interest in who they are. They will view you more favorably for working to get to know them and the institution better 2.) you will be in a position to gain insider information about the institution that will aid you in your decision when it comes time for you to decide which program is the best fit for you.

Send a Thank-You Note

Follow-up each interview day with a thank-you email. Consider sending one, not just to the program director, but also your interviewers and any current medical students you spoke with during the day that made an impression on you. Express your gratitude for the interview day and briefly touch on what impressed you most about the program. A well written thank you note may prompt someone you met to advocate for you when it’s time for admission decisions to be made. But beyond this, a thank you note is a nice, classy touch regardless.

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