My first ever med school interview was not good at all. I was so nervous that it was actually quite bad one in my memory. It is natural to be a little bit nervous before anything important, but if it is preventing you from doing your best, then you should really do something about it.
- Interviews are set up to get to know you in person to check if the person you portrayed in your application is actually you. So you must know your application inside out. It should not be hard if you were truthful in your application. If you did research, then you should be able to talk about what you did. Having done my PhD, I know it can be tricky to explain basic science projects to people who are not in the field sometimes. It is a skill that requires practice. So practice talking about your research. Another example, if you said you like to read, then you should be able to answer about the last book you read. Told you anything on your application is a fair game!
- It can be hard even just to be yourself under pressure. Unfortunately, medicine is a field that requires you to perform at your best under extreme pressures, and interviews to some degree are set up to assess your performance under pressure. It is a skill you need to learn sooner or later.
- The interviews are there to ensure you are fit for that particular school. If they think you might not be happy at that school, then it would raise a red flag. You should make sure to read the mission statement of the school you are interviewing at. For example, If the school's mission statement is to produce primary care physicians and you are set on becoming a neurosurgeon. You might not be an applicant that they are looking for. In addition, the school might not even be fit to prepare you to match into neurosurgery residency. So if you are set on something for sure, you should also make sure you are applying to school that are equipped to place you where you want to be in the future. In that sense, this aspect of interview is beneficial for both parties.
- Prepare short and sweet answers for open ended questions like Tell me about yourself? or Why do you want to be a doctor? Both questions want to know why you want to be a doctor over anything. The trick is to be able to answer it with a coherent and compact story. Theses questions have tendency to drag out tangent stories that put people to sleep if you are not prepared. Practice with a friend and get a feedback on if you went off topic or dragged out your answer.
- Prepare for obscure questions like What would you be if you were an animal, fruit etc? These are questions that are unlikely to come up, but when they do they can trip you. It is better to be safe than sorry.
- Know your weakness. The hardest question of any interview is when they ask you about your weakness. You can't try to spin a good character to be a bad one. For example, I work too much (really?). Come up with something that is honest and unpretentious, but harmless. You can't possibly say you can't be around patients for example. FYI: if you really can't be around patients, then you should not be in medicine anyway.
- I personally never had to use it, but I was told many times that you should know a little bit about major news events to be able to carry out conversation on the topics. Also interviewers could ask you how these events are relevant to medicine. For example, currently it could be presidential elections, Syrian refugee crisis etc..
- Most people ask you if you have any questions at the end of the interview. You should prepare a question that is preferably unique to the school. It will let them know that you are interested in the school enough to learn more about it. And it also ends the interview on a positive note.
- The hardest question I got when I was on the interview trail was "What is the most important ethical dilemma you see in medicine?" I was not prepared for this question at all. At the time, I was dealing with my grandparents' battle against cancer and brought up issues with lack of end of life care and excessive treatments that are unlikely to be beneficial in cases of terminal cancer patients. The interviewer tried to sway my position, but I stuck with my original statement. I suggest you stick with one answer with ethical questions even if the interviewer is playing the devil's advocate. There is no right or wrong answer with ethical dilemmas, so it pointless to worry about whether or not you picked the right answer.
- Do a practice interview with your school's career advisory department or health advisory committee. Practice is the key to good interviews. After doing a few interviews, I got the hang of it and interviews came naturally to me. I am sure it will be the same for you. I found most interviews to be similar. They for sure ask about things in your application that makes you unique. I got many questions about my PhD and my move from Mongolia to the States.
It is hard to prepare for interviews in general. I googled general sample interview questions as well as med school interview question samples. I thought about the questions that I personally found hard to answer. I am not sure if it helped, but it made me feel better that I tried to prepare for my interviews. On the final note, just be yourself and you will be fine!