Pearls for medical school interviews
Congrats on securing some medical school interviews! Isn’t it such an amazing feeling?!
If you haven’t applied yet and need more in depth information on the application process, check out our previous post on medical school applications (Tips for applying to medical school).
As we mentioned in our previous post, the earlier you apply, the better! Interviews are released on a rolling basis and you should optimize the amount of interviews you receive by applying early.
How should you prepare for interview day?
First of all, plan your outfit well in advance. It sounds trivial but first impressions matter! For women, you can wear either a dress, suit, or slacks. Personally, I (Catherine) wore a navy or black dress with a blazer, but wearing a neutral suit (skirt or pants) is great too and probably easier. Limit the amount of jewelry you wear, avoid wearing a watch, and try to wear your hair in the same way that you did in your application picture. For men, wear a neutral suit and keep your hair/facial hair styled in the same manner as your picture. And of course, always look professional and please iron your outfit and brush your hair!
The night before, research the program and jot down some notes about unique aspects of the institution that you can bring up in your interview. This shows the interviewer that you care and you aren’t just there solely to better your odds of acceptance to medical school. In terms of questions you may be asked, there are great resources online that can give you examples of sample questions so that you can prepare ahead of time. At the very least be able to answer the question “Why do you want to be a physician?” in a unique way!
Common questions include:
1. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
2. How do you handle stress?
3. What are your hobbies?
4. When was a time you had to deal with conflict and how did you deal with it?
5. What makes you stand out from other applicants? What do you bring to the table?
6. Why are you drawn to being a physician rather than another facet of healthcare?
7. Why do you want to attend our institution?
8. Tell me about yourself.
Try not to memorize your answers but rather, brainstorm possible examples and anecdotes you could use in response to some of the questions. There’s nothing wrong with practicing, but you also don’t want to sound robotic or too rehearsed. Put a positive spin on every experience you've had and talk about what you learned through the process. When talking about your greatest weaknesses, avoid saying "I'm a perfectionist" or similar statements. You also don't want to go too far to the other extreme either and put yourself in a poor light. Just be honest, talk about how you're working through it, and your goals for the future.
We’d also recommend looking up ethical questions that you might be asked because these can be common in interviews. Additionally, some institutions have implemented "MMIs" or multiple mini interviews. These typically consist of multiple, often 10 or so minute interviews, where you will answer ethical questions or just typical interview questions. These can be challenging but try to practice for these and just do your best. If you are told ahead of time who you are interviewing with, look up the interviewers and see if there’s anything you can talk about that you have in common (i.e. research interests, hobbies, department, etc.!
Tip: Consider participating in a mock interview if you have the chance to do so!
On interview day, we recommend bringing a professional portfolio/folder that contains any publications or documents that you can refer to or give to your interviewer if the topic comes up. Also keep some blank paper as well so you can take notes and jot down any important features about the institution. Turn off your phone! There is nothing worse than having your phone go off or trying to discreetly check it and someone think of you as disinterested.
Know your application backwards and forwards! If you did research, be ready to talk about your project in depth. If you did volunteer work, be ready to talk about your experience, your role, and how you were a leader. If you shadowed a physician, be ready to talk about the departments you rotated through and your experience in depth. You get the picture! Discuss what you learned in each of these activities and how it has furthered your medical career.
During the interview, try to answer each question professionally, always be truthful, and use examples to back up your answers. If the interviewer poses a tough question and you need a moment to think, ask for it! There’s nothing wrong with that and they will likely appreciate you being thoughtful about your response. Make sure to talk about each experience in a positive light (even if it was challenging or if you didn't particularly enjoy it!) and try to tie each experience to medical school and becoming a physician. Do your best to connect with the interviewer and find anything you have in common to talk about! This will naturally keep the interview moving and you will build a great rapport with the interviewer.
Don't forget that this is also your opportunity to get to know the school! Take notes, go to the social event that the school hosts if applicable, and get to know the upperclassmen that are helping out. This is a great time to ask students specifics about their experiences.
After the interview, you're welcome to send a thank you email or letter, especially if you are very interested in the program.
Remember, be professional, show interest, and come prepared.
Once you have the first interview under your belt, you’ll feel so much more confident!
Best of luck!