Medical School Interviews: What To Do Before, During & After

Medical School Interviews: What to Do Before, During and After

medschoolcoach

Posted in: Pre-Med: Applying

Whether you are excited for interview season, or view it as yet another daunting aspect of the medical school admissions process, a bit of preparation can go a long way in providing you with the tools and confidence needed to shine on interview day.

A little anxiety is normal and expected, but try not to stress too much. Remember, you were extended an interview invitation for a reason – you are a candidate this medical school wants to learn more about! So relax and know that you belong at the interview — because you do.

What does it mean if you get a medical school interview? If you get a medical school interview, it means that you’ve likely met the requirements for admission to that medical school. All that’s left is to win them over with your personality, communication skills, and character.

What percentage of med school interviewees get accepted? The percentage of med school interviewees who get accepted varies from program to program. Some schools accept up to 50% of the applicants invited for an interview, while other schools accept between 25% to 30%.

It’s important to also keep in mind that the interview day is not strictly for medical schools to interview applicants, it’s also a day for applicants to interview the medical schools. Whether you are asking yourself “What can I do to make this school of medicine want me out of the other 700 applicants?” or “How will I know if this medical school is right for me?” our medical school interview tips will help.

Preparing For The Interview

Research The Interview

Do you know anyone who has interviewed at the school? Or perhaps you know a student currently in the program. If so, reach out to express your interest and seek his or her insight on the application process, interview experience, and the program itself.

If you don’t know anyone, do a quick internet search to see if there is any information on the interview structure available.

Seek answers to these questions:

  • Will it be an in-person interview or virtual?
  • Will you have an individual or group interview?
  • Have the interviewers already seen your application or are they blind to your application when they meet you?
  • Will the interview format be a traditional interview or Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI)?

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 research the interviewer’s medical career and interests. Your familiarity with your interviewer is advantageous for asking pertinent questions and generating interesting talking points.

The more insight you have on the structure of interview day, the more tailored your preparation can be. But if you cannot find answers to every question above, don’t fret, and keep reading.

Learn About The Program

Gaining background information on program-specific details will help you ask your interviewers informed questions, improve your interview performance, and project your sincere interest.

Most information about a school can be easily found on their website. This is a simple way to locate interesting details, like information about their curriculum, teaching methods, student body and more. You should also strive to know about the school’s:

  • Resident placements
  • Mission
  • Student initiatives
  • Facilities
  • Hospitals for clinical rotations

Find out what key aspects form the school’s most prized assets or reputation. This will go a long way in showing the interviewer why the school is the perfect fit for you.

Prepare a series of thoughtful questions that cannot be answered by visiting the FAQ section of the institution’s website. Asking more meaningful questions will show your true interest in studying healthcare at their school.

Review Your Application

As with all interviews, your interviewer will go through the documents you presented during your medical school application and ask questions based on the information you made available. It can become a huge pitfall if you don’t review your application, since you likely submitted it months ago and your memory of the details may be hazy.

Go through your AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) application, especially the sections on:

  • Shadowing
  • Research
  • Other extracurricular activities
  • Your personal statement

This will be featured during the interview, whereas things like your GPA and MCAT are unlikely to be focuses of your interview day.

If you have any research experience as a pre-med student, be able to discuss the specifics, including how far the project has gone up to date. Remember to think about your research in multiple ways – what was the question you were trying to answer, what was the hypothesis, and what was the outcome. Try to explain your research in terms no more complicated than you’d use for a high-school student. Even though many of the people your interview may be MDs or DOs, they do not all have a background in the niche topic your research is likely in, but do have a general scientific and medical understanding. If your work involves clinical work, be sure to understand the disease process, and treatment options

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. You can begin at any point in your life as long as you are concise and modest.

Phrase your answers with the understanding that the program has your secondary application. They know your competencies. Most interviewees briefly cover important undergraduate and/or graduate work, and explain why medicine is their passion.

Prepare To Be Questioned

Start preparing for the interview by reviewing common medical school interview questions. You will notice many questions are similar. Come up with concise answers that directly address the question at hand. Use real world, personal examples to enhance your credibility and substantiate your claims.

When using examples, implement the STAR method: Briefly describe the situation or task, the action you took, and the results you achieved. Check out the example demonstrating the star method below.

Example Interview Question and Answer

Question: What is your biggest strength?

Answer: I think my biggest strength is resilience. Last year, I was asked to [insert task]. It was difficult because of [insert dilemma]. I approached it by [insert your tactic that demonstrates resilience]. With this approach, I was able to [insert how you accomplished task A]. I believe that this quality will help me to contribute to your program in a meaningful way by [insert why you would be valuable/add to their program].

You don’t need to write out a response, word for word, for each question. Prepare just a few bullet points to avoid sounding overly prepared or robotic.

For each practice question, come up with one example related to the field of medicine, and a 2nd, more personal (non-academic) example. Try not to repeat your examples. This exercise will likely be harder and more time intensive than anticipated — but well worth it. You will learn a lot about yourself and create a plethora of invaluable examples you can have at your fingertips throughout the interview season.

If you have multiple examples for any one question, choose the best example. Remember, it’s not about giving an example — anyone can do that — it’s about providing the best example, so do your best to identify it and be ready to share it on interview day.

Another common interview pitfall is not being prepared to answer questions concerning end-of-life matters. Your interviewer may ask you to share your views on medical ethics issues like euthanasia, abortion, or stem cell research. Know that interviewers will judge your ability to make an educated, coherent, and informed opinion, rather than judging your stance itself.

Practice (But not too much!)

Much communication is nonverbal. Even if your content is ideal, do not underestimate the power of your delivery. How you share your examples will likely be at least as important, if not more, than the actual words you use.

Have a friend or family member read you some med school interview questions. Get used to discussing your answers rather than just writing them down. Get comfortable.

As you go through interview season and hear feedback from interviewers, you will get a good sense of which responses are best received, so you know which to continue using in the future.

While it’s important to make sure you practice, it’s also important not to sound too rehearsed. Anticipate some questions, then think in terms of themes you’ll talk about rather than memorizing specific sentences. Remembering a couple of key words is much more efficient and safer than trying to memorize a speech.

If you’re interested in mock interview preparation, reach out to us. We can help you prepare!

Review Current Events in the Medical Field

In the world of medicine, research is everything and many discoveries can be made within a short period of time.

As a prospective medical student, you should be up-to-date with the current research and discoveries that pertain to the world of medicine. Reading medical journals, blogs, or even talking to researchers and resident doctors you meet while working or volunteering are all great sources for current medical events. You should review publications such as the NYTimes for an understanding of health policy.

Sharing this information during your interview is a good way to impress your interviewer. He or she will take note of your ability to form personal opinions on relatively new information.

On Interview Day

Dress Appropriately

It is important to dress professionally for a medical school interview. Wearing a suit or business attire conveys a level of professionalism and respect for the interview process. It also shows that you are taking the opportunity seriously.

In terms of specific clothing items, it is generally best to wear a suit jacket or blazer, with dress pants or a skirt. A collared shirt or blouse is also appropriate, and it is important for the shirt to be clean and wrinkle-free. A tie is not required, but you can wear one if you’d like.

Pay attention to your appearance and make sure you are well-groomed. Make sure your hair is clean and styled, with minimal makeup and jewelry. In general, aim to present yourself in a polished and professional manner.

Finally, it is important to be comfortable in your clothing choices, as this will allow you to focus on the interview itself rather than worrying about your appearance. It is also a good idea to dress in layers, as the temperature in the interview room may vary.

Show Your Personality

Don’t let the interview setting detract from your personality. For example, if you are a funny person, feel free to insert some humor (in good taste), as you address the interview questions.

After all, you’ve made it to the interview — your application already demonstrates that you possess the skills to succeed in that particular program. Much of the interview is actually about finding a good personality fit. Do not underestimate the power of your personality.

Smile, relax, make eye contact, and enjoy your moment.

Be Friendly Towards Everyone

Take the opportunity to befriend the fellow applicants; it will make the day more fun and less stressful. You may end up making a lifelong friend, whether you end up in the same medical program or not.

Another substantial part of the interview process is interacting with current medical students. Keep in mind what you can gain from these interactions. If a school incorporates a current medical student interview, you should feel lucky!

Sometimes this interview is in a formal one-on-one setting and in other cases it’s more casual, over lunch or a tour. They are likely evaluating you in similar ways to the other interviewers and attend the admissions committee meetings, as well.

While it is important to be on your best interview behavior with the medical student interviewer like the rest of your interviews, it is also important to find answers to the big questions. Many students will be accepted to multiple schools. At the end of a long interview season, it will be hard to remember the pros and cons of each institution, so make use of any time with current medical students.

Insights To Gather During Your Time With Current Medical Students:

What do they have to say about the professors and physicians who teach them? Of course they may feel like a specific test was more difficult than anticipated or a professor covered too much information in one hour. Every medical student feels this way at some point.

But are the instructors reliable? Do they respond to emails and genuinely care about the medical education of the students? Are they responsive to students’ concerns?

Are there enough volunteer and research opportunities? Medical school is not only about studying. During your first two years in particular, you will want to participate in other meaningful activities during study breaks.

Maybe you want to volunteer at a health clinic or help teach science classes to grade school students. Perhaps you are interested in research and want to get involved right away. Does it sound difficult for the students to get involved at that institution?

How do the students feel about their grading system? Every school is different. Some put the students in competitive positions against each other and some don’t rank the students at all. Some people thrive off of competition and others are turned off by it. Think about what would be a better fit for you. Know what you are looking for and get an idea of how the current students feel about it.

Is there a community atmosphere? This is something you need to gauge yourself. Watch the students interact with each other. Even though they may be in a competitive situation, do they have advice for each other? Do they seem comfortable together? Do they talk about weekend plans and ways to take a break from studying together?

Medical school is stressful and having a sense of community at the school is important. Try to picture yourself with the current students. Would you fit in?

After the Interview: Send a Thank You Letter

The faculty members who serve on the interview committee have volunteered their time to do so. Sending a thank you note to each interviewer you meet is essential. They will be among your strongest advocates communicating directly with admissions officers.

A thank-you letter for a medical school interview should contain a few key elements. First and foremost, it should express your gratitude for the opportunity to interview and for the time the interviewers spent with you. You should also mention specific aspects of the interview that you enjoyed or found particularly valuable.

In addition to thanking the interviewers, it is also a good idea to mention any additional points that you would like to highlight or clarify. This could include any relevant experiences or qualifications that you may have omitted during the interview, or any additional information that you think might be of interest to the admissions committee.

Overall, the tone of the letter should be professional and sincere. You should aim to show the interviewers that you are truly grateful for the opportunity to interview, and that you are still interested in attending their medical school.

Here is an example thank-you letter for a medical school interview:

Dear Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones,

I wanted to express my sincere gratitude for the opportunity to interview at ABC Medical School. It was a pleasure to meet both of you and learn more about the program.

I particularly enjoyed the discussion we had about the clinical experiences available to students at ABC Medical School. It is clear to me that the program places a strong emphasis on hands-on learning, which is exactly the type of medical education I am looking for.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to clarify a point I made during the interview about my involvement in research. I mentioned that I have participated in several research projects, but I neglected to mention that I have also presented my work at two national conferences. I hope this additional information will be helpful in your decision-making process.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to interview and for your time. I am extremely interested in attending ABC Medical School and hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely, [Your Name]

Be sure to visit ProspectiveDoctor’s Thank You Note Generator for a fool-proof way to communicate with your medical school interviewer.

Get Help From the Experts

If you’re looking for help getting into the school of your dreams that will set you on your path to becoming a good doctor, schedule a meeting with our enrollment team to talk about our advising services.

 

Read next:

How Can a Pre-Med Standout? We Ask Dr. Butty | MedSchoolCoach

How to Show Diversity As an Applicant | MedSchoolCoach

 

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