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Tips for the medical school interview from a former interviewer

Insider scoop on how to perform well on your medical school interviews

By Joseph Knox

If you’re reading this, hopefully you have secured some interviews to medical school or, if not, you are doing your due diligence and preparing ahead of time. If you have secured an interview, congratulations! The hard part is over. As a little background, I am a current medical student at a medical school in the Northern California and I served as an interviewer during my second year of medical school. While you will hear many different interview strategies, I encourage you to do your best to be open minded to feedback and only do what feels right to you. Being comfortable is essential and you don’t want to force interview tips that feel unnatural to your style.

With that being said, here are a few tips that I think make a candidate stand out.

  • Show passion– Many applicants have an inclination to weave their accomplishments into their interview but what really makes a student stand out to me when describing their activities is their emotional connection behind them. The activity doesn’t exactly matter to me, more the way in which you describe it. If you are going to describe your research to me, do not merely describe what you did but rather what motivates you. If you want to talk about research describe what about your research makes you excited to perform it. How does this passion motivate you to continue this activity given the time constraints of medical school? To give an example, one of my favorite applicants I ever interviewed discussed her passion for traveling the world when I asker her what she was passionate about. I could see it in her eyes and body language how much she loved this subject. The point behind this story is this: you do not need to show off accomplishments when asked questions such as “what is your favorite thing to do?” or “what is your greatest accomplishment?”. You just need to be genuine and convey things that matter to you. Your accomplishments got you the interview, now I want to know more about you as a genuine individual. Passion is incredibly important in medicine as it takes hard work and dedication to continue to be a well-rounded person with the rigors of medical school. Medical schools are looking for these type of individuals.
  • Be yourself– Easier said than done, right!? I know that interviews can be incredibly anxiety provoking and intimidating. How is it possible to be your normal self before the seemingly most important moment of your life? Having been through it all and having a peek behind the admission process, I will tell you that the admissions interview is only one facet of a large application. And while it is important, try not to stress about being the most impressive person ever. Medical schools are truly just trying to get to know you better and see if you are a good fit for their program. If you are an introvert, it is okay to be quieter and if you are an extrovert, it is okay to be louder. The importance is that you are comfortable being yourself. It is obvious to interviewers when applicants are trying too hard to come off a certain way and, trust me, this looks worse than being more reserved. I do not mean that you should be detached or casual, but it is okay to let your true personality shine through. We want to see the person behind the application. The interview is your only chance to show yourself as a truly complex, unique individual.
  • Show interest in your interviewer/the school– Come prepared with specific questions that pertain to that medical school. It is okay to ask general questions “how happy are students here?”, “how much free time is there to study” but be sure to include specific questions as well! Do your research online to see what the focus of the medical school is and demonstrate that you have done this through your questions. Spend significant time on this research, especially for your top schools! Interviewers can tell how much you know about the school and it is impressive if you are able to ask very specific and tailored questions. In addition, be sure to show interest in your interviewer! I always appreciate when applicants try to get to know me better. Not just my past accomplishments, but things that I like to do outside of medical school. Finding a common connection to your interviewer is a great way to score brownie points. And while it may seem obvious, I have seen many applicants seem one-sided in the interview in which they only wanted to talk about themselves.

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