DaVinci's Man

Interviews: Preparation

General Information   Preparation   Sample Questions   Impermissible Questions

This is the final hurdle and usually one of the most important parts of the application process, especially when competitiveness for admission to medical school is near an all-time high. You should prepare for the interview with as much care as you get ready for an important examination, and you should go into it with a game plan, i.e., with a well-thought-out plan of how you can best present yourself. At many institutions, someone who has interviewed you will be expected to act as your advocate before the full Admissions Committee so it is within your interest to provide him/her with the best ammunition.

Interview formats are incredibly diverse. In addition to the traditional mode of casual (or occasionally confrontational) conversations, many now include role playing, mock patients, or hypothetical scenarios such as the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI, first used in 2005 and described in detail by McGill University). Check out the Additional Links below to learn more about MMI's and other non-traditional interview formats. However, the universal goal of all interviews is to assess your interpersonal skills. This is your opportunity to convince the school that you are the type of person who can make a cmplete stranger feel comfortable divulging the most intimate parts of their lives to you - someone they may never have met before in their life.

I. In order to present yourself in the best way possible you need to be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. Thus, you will want to be familiar with:

  • All parts of your application; your personal statement and your responses on the secondary are often the basis of the interview, whether the interview is blind or open, and you should bear this in mind when writing them. You do not want to lead the interviewer into areas where your knowledge is limited or which might prove embarrassing to you.
  • What interviewers are mostly looking for:
    1. Would anybody go to you for professional help?
    2. Do your answers support the image created in your application? Interviewers are very unlikely to question particular grades in your academic record, but it could happen.
    3. Are you honest?
    4. Are you someone they can live with for four years?
    5. Do you communicate well?
    6. Are you stable and self-confident?
    7. Are you well motivated?
    8. Are you knowledgeable about the demands of the profession and how you can meet them?
    9. Are you an interesting person?

II. The Health Careers Office can help you in several ways:

  • Micro-interview (a videotaped mock interview);
  • Reports on schools based on feedback from students;
  • Names and e-mail addresses of students or alums who can give you advice;
  • Advice regarding scheduling, canceling, or combining interviews;
  • Advice regarding regional versus on-site interviews.

III. The key to all interviews is to be professional in appearance and behavior while still being yourself.

  • Appearance: Dress, haircut, make-up, cleanliness; if in doubt, be conservative and dress professionally. Remember that you do not want to make a statement with your dress, jewelry, hairstyle, perfume or deodorant.
  • Early arrival: Don't put extra pressure on yourself by cutting your arrival too closely. Also, assume you are "on camera" as soon as you arrive at the campus or hospital.
  • Good behavior: Secretaries, student-hosts, student-interviewers should all be treated as having input.
  • Knowledge: You want to be informed about:
    1. The institution you are visiting; there are brochures in the Health Careers Office, Career Services, or the library, and you may wish to write away to the institutions for their catalogs, especially if you are applying for the MD/PhD. Also make use of institutional websites.
    2. Current issues in the profession (malpractice insurance, public health, HMO's, managed care, patient's bill of rights, universal health care, maldistribution of physicians, educational costs, AIDS, hospital mergers, assisted suicide, genetic and stem cell research, conflicts of interest). You will certainly want to be aware of developments that warrant front-page newspaper coverage, and you should get into the habit of checking stories about medicine that hit the front page. You may also wish to look at the Health/Science section in the Boston Globe and the Science Times and Health sections in the New York Times. Other interesting items can be found in the health and/or science sections of weekly news magazines (Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report) and monthly magazines such as Discover, Scientific American, and Science. All of these highlight important articles that appear in the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, Nature, etc. Many of these are available in the Carlson Science Library. Remember, physicians frequently have narrow interests, and they may feel more comfortable talking about medical issues.
  • How you feel about yourself is important; if you go in thinking your whole life depends on your interview, you'll blow it.
  • Nervousness: It may well happen, especially in your first interview, and need not be a problem if you get over it fairly rapidly.
  • Eye contact: It is important that you make eye contact because, if you do not, this will often be construed as lack of self-confidence. You do not want to stare constantly at the interviewer, but most interviewers will be concerned if you have to turn away while framing answers.
  • Think before you answer. Although it may seem like a lot of "dead air time," it usually is not, and it is both appropriate and wise to take a few seconds before answering questions that require thought.
  • If asked an inappropriate question, try to avoid confrontation. But if you are unable to do so and do not want to answer it, politely ask the interviewer if there is some need for him/her to know the answer.
  • Do not bring up topics that might prove embarrassing to you.
  • Introduce yourself properly, shake hands, get the name of the person who is interviewing you, and use formal address. Remember this is a first meeting.
  • Somewhat analogous to a first date, remember that unless you seem sincerely interested in the institution, the interviewer will not be interested in you, but don't exaggerate your level of interest.
  • It is not a good idea to try to control or manipulate the interview, but you should make use of opportunities to present information about yourself that is favorable to you and relevant.
  • The best way to judge appropriate length of an answer is by maintaining eye contact and being sensitive to the interviewer. You do not want to go on so long as to bore your audience nor do you want to give monosyllabic answers so that the interviewer runs out of questions and takes you out onto thin ice.
  • Be understanding if questions seem strange; some interviewers are new or just not very good at it. If you don't understand a question, ask. Some common questions are:
    1. When did you first get interested in medicine?
    2. What specific field interests you? Need not be answered definitively.
    3. Where do you see yourself in ten years? This means professionally.
    4. Tell me about your family.
    5. Why did you choose this medical school?
    6. Why did you go to Clark?
    7. Which courses did you like (dislike) most and why?
    8. What will you do if you do not get accepted?
    9. How do you plan on financing your education?
    10. What would you most like to change about the profession? Be careful not to insult gratuitously.
    11. What do you most fear about medical school? Don't indicate your own insecurities or suggest you're afraid of the work load. They won't like it.
    12. Ethical questions: Remember your responsibilities to the patient, to the law, and to the profession. These often involve a conflict of values so it might be wise to indicate that you really do not know the answer, but indicate your best judgment.
  • Avoid trying to snow an interviewer, especially about research; you may be talking to an expert in the field or someone who thinks he/she is.
  • It is a good idea to ask questions about the institution since this shows both interest and self-confidence. But don't ask questions whose answers you should already know from their literature or website or from items presented in a general session or a tour, and don't ask anything that questions the value of the school, such as where their graduates get internships. It is generally not a good idea to ask when you will hear the results, as this may be interpreted as nervousness. You may ask about:
    1. Clinical clerkships away from the institution;
    2. Research opportunities;
    3. Joint programs and/or courses outside of the medical school itself;
    4. Cultural, social, and athletic opportunities;
    5. Their particular strengths: i.e., programs, curricular approach (traditional, organ systems based, problem based), specialties;
    6. Courses that you might still try to fit into your curriculum.
  • Don't try to give an answer which you think the interviewer wants to hear. A proper answer is one that you can logically defend, and you may be very wrong about where an interviewer stands on a particular issue.
  • It is not smart to duck questions by being indecisive. Sometimes that is appropriate, but remember that physicians need to make decisions.
  • If you feel your interview is a disaster (e.g., there is open hostility), it is generally a good idea to report it immediately and request another interview. This happens very, very rarely.
  • Report your interview to the Health Careers Office. We can often judge better whether you have handled yourself well or not and can provide constructive advice on how to take subsequent interviews.
  • You want to be self-confident but not arrogant, and you also want to avoid being defensive.
  • Interviews are less stressful if you know what to expect.

We can tell you something about the interviewing models used by each institution based on the information available in the Premedical Advisor's Reference Manual:

  1. Number and length;
  2. Who interviews;
  3. Individual or group.

Additional Links:

A Content Analysis of Interviewee Reports of Medical School Admissions Interviews
Be Authentic, Thoughtful for Medical School Interview Success
Canadian Medical School Interviews
Cases in Medical Ethics
Common Interview Questions
First Aid for Your Medical School Interviews
5 Ways to Ace a Medical School Interview The Medical School Interview
How to Prepare for a Multiple Mini Medical School Interview
How to Prepare for Your Dental School Interview
How, When to Write a Medical School Interview Thank-You Note
Interviewing Advice
Interviewing at Professional Schools
Interviewing Information
Interviewing 101: Putting Your Best Foot Forward
Interviewing Suggestions
Med School Interview Process Gets Overhaul (UC Davis School of Medicine)
Med School Interviews - Making Your Strongest Case
Medical Ethics Cases
Medical School Interview
Medical School Interview
Medical School Interview Advice
Medical School Interview Advice: Articles and Resources
Medical School Interview Feedback on Student Doctor Network (SDN)
Medical School Interview: Four Tips
Medical School Interview Information
Medical School Interview Questions
Medical School Interview Tips for Interview Attire
Medical School Interview Workshop Power Point Presentation (Harvard University)
Medical School Interviews
Medical School Interviews Advice
Medical School Interviews and Interview Questions - How to Prepare and Do Well
Medical School Interviews Information
Medical School Interviews: Interviewing Tips for Medical School
Medical School Multiple Mini-Interview
MMI: A New Hope (blog entry by OHSU medical student)
Multiple Mini-Interview (scroll down to "Frequently Asked Questions About the Multiple Mini-Interview") (U. of Kentucky College of Pharmacy)
Multiple Mini-Interview (scroll down to "The Interview Process") (Robert Wood Johnson Medical School)
Multiple Mini-Interview Article (On Your Mark, Get Set, Interview!) (Stanford U. School of Medicine)
Multiple Mini-Interview FAQ (Duke University School of Medicine)
Multiple Mini-Interview FAQ (Michigan State U. College of Human Medicine)
Multiple Mini-Interview FAQ (New York U. School of Medicine)
Multiple Mini-Interview FAQ (Western Michigan University School of Medicine)
Multiple Mini-Interview Format
Multiple Mini-Interview for Medical School
Multiple Mini-Interview for Medical School Admissions
Multiple Mini-Interview Sample Questions
Multiple Mini-Interview Video (Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute)
Multiple Mini-Interviews (U. of Arizona College of Medicine)
Navigate Challenging Ethics Questions in Medical School Interviews
New for Aspiring Doctors, the People Skills Test (NY Times article about MMI)
Prepare Answers to Frequently Asked Medical School Interview Questions
Preparing for Health Professions Schools Interviews
The Professional School Interview Overview
Purpose of the Interview
Sample Medical School Interview Questions
Sample Q/A for the Interview
31 Questions I Wished I Had Asked
Types of Medical School Interviews
Understanding the Medical School Interview
Veterinary School Interview Questions (Examples)
What Is the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)?

Travel Websites:

Some travel websites that may be useful when planning an interview trip:
BootsnAll Travel Network
Greyhound Lines Bus Service
Peter Pan Bus Lines

Suggested Health Professions Reading Lists:

Johns Hopkins University Health Professions Recommended Reading List
Medical Reads Recommended by Union College Leadership in Medicine Book Review Club
University at Buffalo Prehealth Advising Recommended Reading List
Xavier College of Arts and Sciences Pre-Professional Health Advising Suggested Reading List

Links to keep up-to-date with developments in medicine and health:

ABC News Health News
Academic Medicine
Aetna InteliHealth Health News
AP Health News
The Atlantic Health Articles
BBC Health News
Biomedical Beat
Boston Globe Health News
Bulletin of the World Health Organization
CBS News Health News
Chicago Sun-Times Health News
CHI Health Daily Health Highlights
CNN Health News
Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care
Dental Tribune
Detroit News Health News
Digital Library for Students of Medicine
Discover Magazine Health & Medicine
The Doctor Will See You Now Bioethics Articles
Doctor's Guide - Medical News
eLife Journal Articles
Emergency Medicine News
Environmental Health News
EurekAlert! Medicine and Health News
Free Medical Journals
Frontline Medical News
Gizmodo Medical News
Global Health Facts
Global Post World Health News Health News Links
Health Affairs: The Policy Journal of the Health Sphere
Health and Medicine Websites
HealthCanal Health News
HealthDay Health News Health News
Health News
Houston Chronicle Health News
Internal Medicine News
Internet Public Library Health and Medical Sciences Links; Science and Technology Links
U. of Iowa Health Library Index
Issues in Health Care Education
Johns Hopkins Health
Johns Hopkins Public Health News Center
Journal of the American Medical Association
Journal of the American Osteopathic Association
Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association
Journal Watch: Medical Journals and Research Articles
Kaiser Health News
The Lancet
LiveScience Health News
Los Angeles Times Health & Medicine News
MDExpress Medical News
Medical Education Online: An Electronic Journal
Medical/Health Sciences Libraries on the Web
Medical News Today
Medical Technology News
Medical Xpress Halth and Medical News
Medline Plus News
MedPage Today
Miami Herald Health News
Modern Healthcare Online
Nanotechnology Bio & Medicine News
National Academy for State Health Policy
National Health Policy Forum
National Institutes of Health (NIH) News
National Library of Medicine
Nature Medicine
NBC Health News
New England Journal of Medicine
The New Physician Health/Science News
Newsweek Health
New York Times Health News
New York Times Science News
NPR Health News
NPR Science News
Penn Medicine Magazine Health & Science News
Physician's Briefing
Physician's Weekly
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Good Medicine Magazine
Portsmouth Herald Health News
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Public Library of Science Medicine
Questia Online Library Science and Technology
Reuters Health News
Review of Optometry Online
The Sacramento Bee Health/Medical News
SciCentral Health Sciences News
Science; Health News
Science Daily Health and Medicine News
Science News
Scientific American Health and Medicine News
The Scientist
Scitable Science Library
Seattle Times Health News
South Florida Sun Sentinel Health News
Time Health News
Time Science News
TuftScope Journal
UPI Health News
UPI Science News
U.S. Global Health Policy
U.S. Health Policy Gateway
U.S. News and World Report Health News
Virtual Mentor Ethics Journal of the American Medical Association
Voice of America Health News
The Wall Street Journal Health News
Washington Post Health & Science News
Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine