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Preparing for the Medical School Interview

Whether you are excited for interview season, or view it at as yet another daunting aspect of the application cycle, a bit of preparation can go a long way in terms of providing you with the tools and confidence needed to shine–as you should :)–on interview day.

A little anxiety is normal and expected, but don’t stress out too much. Remember, you were invited for a reason. So relax–believe that you belong at the interview–because you do.

So if everyone is qualified, how do you stand out?

Below, I’ve shared a few tips that helped me prepare for interview season. I hope you too will find them to be just as useful as you embark on this next (and last!) segment of the application season:

Learn as much about the program as possible beforehand.

  • Do you know anyone who has interviewed at the same program? Do you know a student currently in the program? If so, reach out to express your interest and seek their insight on the 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.
  • Some questions to consider asking:
    • Will you have individual and/or a group interview?
    • Who will interview you? Have the interviewers already seen your application, or are they blinded to your application when they meet you?

Of course, it is 100% okay if you do not have the info above, but if possible, the more insight you have on the structure of interview day, the more tailored your preparation can be.

Do your prep work.

  • Do a quick Google search, or ask friends/mentors/advisors about commonly encountered questions that you may be asked.
    • Group similar questions together and make your life easier. 🙂
    • Make a master list of interview questions. At first, this may be overwhelming, but soon you will notice that many questions are similar but slightly different ways of asking the exact same thing.
  • Go through this list, and come up with concise answers that directly address the question at hand. When doing so, try to:
    • Use examples. Anyone can make any claim. Real world, personal examples enhance your credibility by substantiating your claims.
    • When using examples, implement the STAR method: Briefly describe the situation or task, the action you took, and the results you achieved. For example:

“I think my biggest strength is resilience. Last year, I was asked to [insert task]. It was difficult because of [insert challenge]. 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 enable 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 literally write out each response word for word. In fact, it is important to avoid sounding over-prepared or robotic–even a few bullet points would be just perfect!

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

If you have multiple examples for any one question, identify which example is best. Remember, it’s not about giving an example–almost anyone will be able to do that–it’s about providing the best example, so do your best to identify your best example, and then be ready to share it on interview day. 🙂

Practice (literally)

  • To anyone and everyone who will listen.
  • Much communication is nonverbal. Even when content is ideal, do not underestimate the power of your delivery. How you share your example will likely be at least as important (if not more) than the actual words you use
  • As you go through interview season and hear feedback from interviewers, you will get a good sense of which examples are best received–which ones you might continue to use in the future. Edit and revise your master list of questions/examples accordingly.

The day before your interview: relax!

  • Get a good night’s rest, stick to your evening and morning routine, and be excited.
  • If you tend to be an anxious person, sometimes driving by the location the night before can minimize anxiety.

The day of your interview–have fun!

  • Befriend fellow applicants; it will make the day more fun, less stressful, and you may make a lifelong friend (whether or not you end up in the same medical school class together)
  • Be courteous and respectful to everyone. Hopefully you do this already even when you are not in an interview setting. 🙂
  • 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 are at the interview- your application already demonstrates that you possess skills to succeed in that particular program…so much of the interview is actually about finding a good personality fit. Do not underestimate the power of your personality. 🙂
  • Smile, relax, and enjoy your moment!