Written By: Priyanka Surio
The most common misconception is that you don’t have to prepare for your medical school interview, but that’s the difference between those students that get their foot in the door and those that can actually walk through it to the other side, the medical student side.
How to prepare for the medical school interview? Includes tips, preparation, answers, ambiguous questions, ethical questions, and other elements as created by experienced interviewer and author Dr. B Ferdinand of the Gold Standard MCAT-US.
What’s the point?
The admissions committee has already seen your credentials, now they are simply ensuring your maturity and let’s be honest: they want to make sure you aren’t the antisocial psychopath genius who may crack at the slightest bit of pressure. Being a doctor requires outstanding interpersonal and communication skills. You will have to communicate with nurses and other health professionals. You will need to be able to relate to patients in a way that is clear, convincing, and sympathetic to their needs. By getting to know you, the admissions committee can determine whether you are able to effectively relate to others. They conduct their investigation by asking you questions that shed light on your interests, goals, beliefs, and experiences.
The table of traits
Medical school admissions committees are looking for the following traits observable by your interaction with them throughout the interview.
- Communication Skills
- Listening Skills
- Sense of Humor
- Analytical Skills
- Leadership Potential
First impressions are lasting
You are receiving this interview because you have already demonstrated that you are a strong applicant for medical school. You are still being strongly considered, and as such, you should not take the interview lightly. Set the tone for your interview because you have full control over that part of the process. Make sure to show the admissions committee that you are serious about the interview and don’t take this opportunity for granted. Dress the part in full business professional attire, erring on the conservative side. Bring a folder or portfolio with several resumes or CV’s to hand out to each interviewer; it shows preparedness on your behalf. BE ON TIME, and remember fifteen minutes early is on time and on time is late. Look them in the eye with confidence not arrogance. You don’t have the seat in the incoming class yet, so make sure you don’t overstep boundaries by acting like you do. Firm handshakes are a must as they show the key to success: confidence.Once you are in the interview, never forget that a smile goes a long way. Being positive and enthusiastic shows your passion for the field and demonstrates like-ability which is what you need when a group of professionals are staring you down. It shows you cannot be fazed or intimidated, which is an asset for any future doctor who is faced with challenging decisions daily.
The key to success is confidence.
We’ve heard this over and over, but how does one handle curveball questions or those designed to test your potential weaknesses in the application? The secret is to be able to answer each question with confidence giving the impression of a well poised individual under pressure. You have to be able to talk about your weaknesses in a manner where you acknowledge them and demonstrate how you have learned and improved since then. Don’t think of your weakness as a burden, think of it more like a way to show how you overcame, conquered, and learned.
You know you’re winning when…
The interview shifts from interrogation to dialogue. You want the interview to be a give and take, which means you need to know your stuff. Asking intuitive questions, not only about current healthcare issues, but about the medical school’s specific trends is the key to impressing the committee and breaking the ice. It also creates a more comfortable atmosphere and shows an intellectual adeptness that surpasses the rigid conduct of the interviewer and gets them to loosen their bit and engage in your conversation. It’s about showing your personality and getting the admissions committee to like you. One of my role models, Dr. Benjamin Carson, the youngest pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University and its affiliated hospital, tried this method when interviewing for a one spot residency position within the prestigious institution. He looked for and found a commonality between himself and the interviewer: classical music. The interview ended up being a discussion on classical composers which shifted into a general conversation about Dr. Carson’s life and how he began listening to that type of music. At the end of the “interview” (about an hour later) the interviewer states, “well I suppose I have to carry on with interviewing the other candidates, but let me say it has been an immense pleasure having such an enlightening conversation with you.” The next day, Dr. Carson received notification that he had been selected for this extremely competitive residency position. While this may not be a common occurrence, the moral of the story is to find that common thread and expound upon it, really engaging the admissions committee.
Dissecting the Group Interview
The group interview means the committee will be asking questions from more than one candidate. This is an atmosphere that can easily foster cutthroat competition, but it is important to remember that trying to be a know-it-all will not help you in this situation. You will not only be observed on how you answer questions, you will also be observed for how you react when your fellow applicants are speaking. This is where you put your pride aside and hide that scheming jealous face for a more natural, attentive, and most importantly, respectful look. Remember, these applicants are just as intimidated by you and maintaining that mutual respect for them is important. They have had to go through a symmetrical process, with long stressful hours of studying and preparation. Being sympathetic and respectful of your fellow peers shows that you are the bigger man/woman, which to an admissions committee speaks volumes on your character. Being alert also provides you an opportunity to learn. You can always learn something from someone and you may be surprised at what you can use in another interview that a fellow applicant brought up in the group setting. Most importantly, speak up! Just as being respectful of others’ opinions is vital, you also can’t take the route of being so polite that you surpass the opportunity to make your thoughts heard. Making a presence within the group interview is important and can set you apart from the other applicants, which is why when you say something it needs to be insightful or profound, not simply speaking for the sake of being heard. To an admissions committee and the other applicants, talking out of turn or too much can hurt you because it looks unrefined, disrespectful, and is even downright annoying. Overall, look at the group interview as an opportunity to engage with other future doctors and potential classmates.
Toppel can remedy your stress.
At the Toppel Career Center we host mini-mock interviews which typically last 15-20 minutes where we ask you a handful of questions that may be asked in a real interview. Students who have utilized our services before have walked away with more confidence because they know they have received the much needed feedback and suggestions on what to focus on during their interview. Peer advisors go over the interview questions and answers and refer to a rating sheet to explain how you performed under mock settings. You can also schedule mock interviews with advisors that last an hour and require business professional attire, resumes, and have a recording option. In order to schedule a mock interview, you must have attended at least one interview skills workshop. Our website HireACane also has print materials from that workshop. The peer advisors also present on interviewing skills to different student groups or at the career center during various days in the semester. Last but not least, it is important to create, utilize and update your HireACane account that every student at the U has access to via their C number. On the main webpage of your account, a helpful icon titled Optimal Resume has mock interview software and thousands of questions that you have access to.
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