Preparing for Medical School Interviews

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Information and tips to help you prepare for the medical school interview, one of the most important phases of the application process.

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One of the most essential phases of the application process is a successful interview. There are different kinds of interviews, such as video interviews, in-person one-on-one interviews, and multiple mini interviews (MMIs). You’re being evaluated, but this is also an opportunity for you to evaluate the medical school, tour the campus, and ask questions.

What should I wear and bring to an interview?

Dress as you would for any professional job interview. A neutral or dark colored suit or a dress with a blazer would be appropriate.  Make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes since your interview will likely include a campus tour. In general, it’s best not to wear any distracting patterns, accessories, or strong scents, and to make sure nails and any facial hair is well groomed. It’s also a good idea to bring a water bottle, and a padfolio to take notes and stay organized with any papers or business cards you may receive.  Keep your phone turned off and inside your pocket or bag.

Randee Reid, admissions and residency officer at University of North Carolina School of Medicine adds, “There is nothing wrong with an applicant using color to accentuate their suit and/or dress, in fact, they should be able to express themselves; but, also bear in mind that you are applying to a graduate professional school. As the saying goes, ‘dress for the part.’”

What are some typical medical school interview questions?

Each interview is different, but it’s common to be asked, “Why do you want to be a doctor?” To answer, you may want to tell a story about an experience or series of experiences that have led to your decision. You also may be asked, “Why do you want to attend our school?” Make sure you’re ready to explain why that school is a good fit for you and your goals.

How can I prepare for an interview?

It’s a good idea to practice answering interview questions with a friend or mentor, but be careful not to memorize answers to the point where they sound rehearsed and no longer genuine. Be sure to ask your advising office if they offer interview training or mock interview sessions.

You should review your application so what you wrote is fresh in your mind, and do your research on each school and their mission. Be sure not to ask any questions that are easily answered by reading the school’s website, their Medical School Admission Requirements profile or in materials already provided to you.  It’s okay to bring notes with you so you remember what you wanted to ask and also to keep information for later to help you differentiate one school from another.

Example questions to ask your interviewer:

  • What makes your medical school unique?
  • What research opportunities are available for students?
  • What stress management resources do you offer for students?
  • Are there any financial aid or scholarship programs?
  • How have students at your school performed on the National Board Examinations?
  • How are students evaluated for their coursework?
  • Can you tell me more about diversity and the culture of your medical school??
  • What don’t people know about your medical school that you wish they knew more about?
  • How does your medical school work to improve the community?

After the interview is over, should I send a thank you note?

It’s always a good idea to email or write to your interviewers to thank them for their time. A legible, handwritten note is a nice personal touch that makes a good impression. It is also a good way to keep you fresh in their memory and differentiate yourself from other applicants. Read  Prospective Doctor’s Key Components of a Proper Thank You Note for tips on how to write your thank you notes. Remember to stick to whatever contact information you were given.

What do I do if I feel I have been asked a question that is inappropriate?

Although an interview typically is used to get to know an applicant better, some interviewers want to assess how well you function under stress and may purposely ask challenging questions to observe how you respond under pressure. How you communicate will be a critical part of the encounter; however, this does not give an interviewer the right to ask you inappropriate questions in an attempt to challenge you during the interview.

While interviewers are instructed by admissions officers and guided by federal statutes on what are unfair or discriminatory pre-admission inquiries, there may be an occasion when an interviewer asks an inappropriate question. You have the responsibility to report this to help prevent further occurrences. Medical schools have the responsibility to establish procedures that enable applicants to report such incidents in a confidential manner, and they should inform applicants of these procedures prior to interviews and assure them that reporting an incident will not bias the applicant’s evaluation.

If a medical school did not inform you of its procedure and an incident occurs, report the interviewer’s name and the interview question(s) that was asked to an admissions officer, in confidence, during the interview day. If that is not possible, email this information to an admissions officer within 24 hours of the interview noting the date and time of the incident. Furthermore, you have the right to ask for another interview to ensure an unbiased evaluation of your application to that medical school.

Examples of inappropriate questions

  • What is your age, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, marital status,  income, value of your home, credit score, etc.?
  • What is your opinion on abortion and/or euthanasia?
  • Are you planning on having children during medical school?
  • Do you have any disabilities?
  • Will you require special accommodations?
  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • Have you ever done drugs?

Sample responses to inappropriate questions

Q. What are your plans for expanding your family during medical school?
A. Can you please clarify your question? I want to make sure that I’m providing information that is most relevant to my candidacy.

Q. Have you ever done drugs?
A. I am uncomfortable discussing my medical history and possible use of prescription medications during this interview.

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