Admissions officers use the medical school interview to identify candidates with maturity, empathy, and superior interpersonal skills. They already know your credentials. Now they want to know what kind of person you are and how you relate to others.
Interview policies vary, but most schools use a committee comprised of faculty members and representatives from admissions and student affairs. Some progressive schools ask upper–level med students to participate. Formats differ as well. Some medical schools have separate, one-on-one interviews; others interview by panel. At some schools you’ll interview alone, at others you interview along with a group of other candidates. No matter what type of interview you encounter, these essential tips that will help you prep for the best med school interview possible.
Unless you read tea leaves, there's no way to predict all the questions you'll be asked. But that doesn’t mean you can’t come to the table prepared for likely interview topics. Be ready to discuss your academic background, your extracurricular and leisure activities, your employment and research experience, your views on medical problems or relevant ethical issues, and why you want to become a physician. Practice crafting substantial responses to questions related to these areas along with concrete (and memorable!) examples.
Some schools use the interview to see how well you function under stress. They deliberately put you in an uncomfortable position to observe how you act and speak under pressure. Typical tactics include asking questions about sensitive or controversial topics, delving into extremely personal matters, rattling off a series of game show-like trivia questions or showing disapproval—through challenging remarks or negative body language—at almost everything you say.
If you find yourself in this position, try to relax. Interviewers don't expect you to have a ready answer for every question, but they do expect you to be able to think on your feet and give a considered response. If a question catches you off guard, don't be afraid to take a moment and formulate an answer before you open your mouth. If a question seems ambiguous, ask for clarification. By taking the time to make sure that your response is well-conceived and well-spoken, you will come across as thoughtful and articulate—two characteristics essential in a good doctor.
The best interview is a dialogue, with considerable give and take. Even while you prepare to show off your qualifications, approach it it as a conversation and not a Q&A. You should already know a lot about the school, so don't ask a question that you could easily find the answer to on their website or in their brochures. Instead, take the opportunity to learn more about faculty, research opportunities, access to internships, or anything that else that is important to you when considering a medical school program.
The tone of an interview is usually set in the first few seconds. Don't forget that you're there because you are being strongly considered. Be on time and look the part. Dress conservatively. Carry your documents in a portfolio. Make eye contact and use a firm handshake. Smile and be positive. In a group setting, where the committee talks with more than one candidate at a time, you will be observed not only when you answer a question, but also when your fellow applicants are speaking. Keep alert, and show interest. After all, you never know what you may learn that you can use in your next interview .
Don't forget to send a thank-you letter after each interview. You can write several individual letters or one that addresses the entire committee. It's a good idea to take a few brief notes right after you leave, such as the interviewers’ names and some of the topics covered in your conversation.
If the school is still not sure whether they want to admit you, they'll place you on a "hold" list. This means that they want to see what the rest of the applicant pool looks like before accepting you. If you're on the hold list, you can send in supplementary material to bolster your application. If you have recent academic or extracurricular achievements that didn't appear on your application, write a short (less than one page) description and send it to the school.