Congratulations on acquiring an interview! Although interviews can be intimidating, a few strategies can improve your confidence and how you are perceived. Your overall goal is to project positive traits and a calm demeanor so the interviewer can envision you efficiently adapting to their workplace. Interview preparation will enable you to showcase the best version of yourself.
Weeks before the interview, consider contacting the coordinator to find out who will be interviewing you. Most schools won’t disclose this information, but it is worth asking because this can give you the opportunity to briefly identify the interviewer’s research interests and see them online. Your familiarity with your interviewer is advantageous for asking pertinent questions and generating interesting talking points. In addition, gaining background information on their program specific details will help you ask informed questions and project your sincere interest.
During the interview, you will be asked a few standard questions, but the most common is “tell me about yourself.” This open-ended question allows the interviewer to hear what you think is important, and you can begin at any point in your life as long as you are concise and modest. Phrase your answers with the understanding that programs have your CV. Most interviewees briefly cover important undergraduate and/or graduate work, and explain what experiences motivated their career choice.
One approach that is discouraged during the interview is hardship stories. Using a wide perspective is critical to evaluate if your story merits mention. Even though the road to medicine is rocky for many, conveying your personal struggle may lead to poorer outcomes. The interviewer may hear you were overwhelmed and wonder if you have developed adequate coping strategies. Your story may divulge personal information that confesses alignment with a victim mentality. Interviewers tend to be older and have often experienced major struggles of their own. Also, consider that competing applicants that emigrate from developing and war-torn nations may have endured life-threatening trauma. If you decide to share, explain the strengths you gained and/or why you valued the experience.
More than half the interview questions can be predicted by a quick Google search. For these common questions, write 3-sentence answers or less on a cloud document (such as Google Drive) so that you can review strong responses before each interview. Resist the urge to write more as it is better to be concise than deliver a monologue. When practicing, answer the questions out loud and setup mock interviews with peers and colleagues. Solicit and use feedback to improve future mock interview sessions, and practice projecting a calm and friendly demeanor throughout. Stumping question may require you to pause before formulating a response. A brief silence can feel awkward, but remember that conversation pauses are normal.
To generate specific questions, conduct some online research of each program and listen carefully during the interview. A few generic questions are also helpful, for example, you may inquire about first year scheduling or research opportunities. The interview often ends with the question: Is there anything else you would like to let us know? This is your chance to emphasize why you want to go to their school specifically. When possible, give a personal reason and show your investment in the program through geographic and community connections.
To close, thank the interviewer for their time. Afterwards, record the interviewer’s name to send a thank you email and add newly-encountered interview questions to your cloud document. Using these tips to manage your expectations and preparation will improve your performance and confidence in the interview.
Dr. Marinelli is an advisor at MedSchoolCoach and former admissions committee member at UC Irvine School of Medicine. Her insight[...]
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