Welcome to PDr’s Weekly Weigh-in! Each week, we ask medical students and physicians to weigh in on some of our most frequently asked pre-med questions.
This week’s question: What Med School interview tips should all applicants keep in mind?
Welcome to PDr’s Weekly Weigh-in! Every week, we ask medical students and physicians to answer to some of our most frequently asked questions about being pre-med, applying to medical school, and working as a healthcare provider. This week’s “Weekly Weigh-in”: What interview tips should all applicants keep in mind?
Take the time to answer two important questions
Edward Chang – MS1
There are two main interview questions that interviewees must be able to answer very well at every interview. The first one is “Why medicine?” and the other is “Why do you want to come to this school?” You may have answered both of those questions to a certain extent on your primary and secondary applications but the interview is your opportunity to show why you are passionate about medicine and why you are interested in learning medicine at your interviewer’s school.
Answer these questions honestly, passionately, and succinctly. You do not want to ramble nor appear insincere. Take significant time to think about both of these questions and how you want to answer them. Having an answer that you are going to repeat word for word is not necessary but you do want your answer to be well thought out, organized, and to the point.
When developing an answer to the “why our school” question, try to get inside information that you cannot find on the school’s website. Talking to a current medical student who attends that school would be a good bet. Also make sure your answer is consistently with who you are. It makes no sense for you to say that you want to attend X school because there are great research opportunities when you have not stated an interest in research anywhere in your application.
Know the impression you want to make
Emily Singer – MS1
When you walk out of the interview, you want to leave your interviewer with an accurate picture of who you are and why you are a great candidate for medical school, (especially the one where you happen to be interviewing). To do this, you must have a clear picture in your own mind of what exactly you hope to convey.
When you are preparing for interviews, write out 3-5 “most significant” attributes that qualify you for medical school. These are the words, sentences, or impressions that you want the interviewer to remember. Write out the stories that support each of these ideas and anticipate the questions that will allow you to discuss them. For example, you may want your interviewer to remember, “Justin has a passion for global health.” Supporting activities might include your undergraduate thesis on infant mortality in developing countries, your summer research in an infectious diseases lab, volunteer work at a free clinic, and leisure reading of anything and everything written by your personal hero, Dr. Paul Farmer, who has dedicated his life to providing healthcare to the world’s poor. Questions like, “Have you ever done any research?”, “What did you study in school?”, or even “What do you like to do in your spare time?” will give you “ins” to talk about your love of global health.
Before you can leave admissions committees with a strong impression, you must first be able to articulate your message to yourself.
Be honest with yourself, and about yourself. It demonstrates maturity
Evan Laveman – MS1
Throughout the course of your interviews you are likely to encounter questions or concepts that don’t explicitly pertain to you as a medical applicant. MMI formats especially have questions that don’t necessarily focus the applicant, and these questions may pull on subjects that you are not intimately familiar with such as health policy, patient confidentiality, diversity, and healthcare. If you are asked a question on a topic that you do not know about, absolutely refrain from trying to project a certain answer to your interviewer. If you try to pass yourself off as educated on a topic that you are clearly not too familiar with, it will only make you look weak to your interviewer. Doing this also speaks to your ability down the road to be honest with yourself about your comfort with material and procedures, which is an ability that is essential to the safety of medical practice. If asked a question that involves a patient being held as 5150, and you do not know what 5150 is, then do not try to bluff an assumed answer. Ask your interviewer what 5150 is (involuntary psychiatric hold) or see if they would like you to try and answer the question despite your lack of clarity about some of the information. Either way, admitting that you don’t know certain things to an interviewer can convey maturity and self-awareness.
Don’t panic, keep it organic
Evan Shih – MS1
Approach interviews with the mindset that these doctors interviewing you want to find some applicants who have a good head on their shoulders – someone that they would want in their class, or working alongside them at a clinic, or eventually treating one of their own family members. They can teach you the medical knowledge in the next 4 years, but it is much harder to teach personality, curiosity, and energy – traits that will shine during the interview. Your numbers and AMCAS have already shown them that you have the academic habits that they look for, so don’t worry too much about bringing up things you’ve already talked about in your app. One of my favorite interviews included 15 of the 45 minutes discussing the best reasons to raise a family in Nashville. In another interview, we talked about playing basketball with classmates, our favorite Peruvian dishes, and how uncomfortable the chairs were.
The bottom line is that many of the faculty that you will meet have been interviewing applicants for a long time by now, and they’ve seen plenty of applicants come through their door. They can sense when somebody has prepared certain anecdotes versus somebody who is genuinely thinking about the question and working with them to find the best answer. Feel free to ask them what they enjoy about the school, medicine, or anything else you wonder about. It will show that you are genuinely interested in the school, and give them a chance to take pride in their work!
||Read: Secret Tips to Interview Success||
Read next Weekly Weigh-In: Qualities of a Successful Med Student
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ProspectiveDoctor. Follow ProspectiveDoctor on Twitter, @ProspectiveDr.