I don’t think anyone goes into an interview supremely confident. If you do, please let me in on your secret. My first interview was the most intimidating interview I ever experienced. I walked out of it overanalyzing every word I said and every moment the interviewer peered over the top of his glasses to stare at me before jotting down notes. Here are a few tips from my experience so you can learn from them. Just note, my thoughts are not the be all and end all, so please use your best judgment throughout the process. If anything, hopefully my experience can make you feel better about your own interview!
1. Though it is completely against human nature, DO NOT BE INTIMIDATED and STAY CONFIDENT! They will try to intimidate you sometimes. The first interviewer tried to intimidate me, and it definitely worked. First we chatted cordially for a minute, then he put his game face on. Stern eyes. No smile. I freaked out. But don’t. It’ll be ok. Just breathe. After not smiling throughout the whole interview, he smiled at me while we talked about his hobbies. When the interviewer smiles at you AFTER the interview, but not during, it’s a pretty good chance they put on their game face to intimidate you. It doesn’t mean your interview went terribly or that the interviewer thoroughly dislikes you.
2. If the interviewer asks, “Is there anything else?” don’t feel obligated to give them more. My interviewer asked, “Is there anything else?” after every single answer I gave him. I’d list a few strengths and he’d ask, “Anything else?” I’d give him some weaknesses, and he’d ask the same thing. I told him about my greatest challenge, and he asked the exact same thing. You get the picture. If your interviewer does this, do not feel obligated to keep adding more to your answer. If you can discuss a few more of your strengths, do it. If you honestly cannot think of anything else, do not be afraid to say that you cannot think of more at the moment. The interviewer may not be asking this question to see if you actually have more to contribute. They may be testing your confidence in the answers you have already given and ability to stay cool under pressure. Be confident enough to know when you can add more to an answer or when you are finished with your answer.
3. Pack light. Some fellow interviewees brought huge books into their interview. You will have no time to read a novel on interview day, and I doubt the interviewer will think you’re any smarter because you brought a big, scholarly book to your interview, so don’t do it. If you’re invited to interview, they know just how smart you are, and you don’t need a book in hand to tell them that. I brought in a portfolio (similar to this one) and a small purse. The portfolio isn’t even necessary, but I found it useful to write questions and jot down notes at the end of the interview.
4. Prepare questions ahead of time that pertain specifically to that school. It’s ok to ask questions like, “What’s XYZ school’s biggest strength?”, but this is a vague question that you could apply to any school. Ask the interviewer about a specific program that school has so they know you did your homework and that you’re interested in their school. Does the school specialize in rural medicine? Ask about it. Do they have a faculty mentor program? Ask about it. Write these questions ahead of time.
5. Going along with number 4, do prepare for the interview. Brainstorm some of your strengths and weaknesses in a word doc and save them! You’ll want to look back at those for future interviews. Brainstorm some challenges you’ve faced etc. If you search online, you could find some sample interview questions to get some ideas. Research the school and programs. Talk to current med students if you can. They may be able to give you hints about your interviewer’s style and demeanor so you aren’t surprised.
6. You don’t have to have an answer for everything. I repeat. You do not have to have an answer for everything. One question was about a moral dilemma in my life and my response to it. At the moment, I sat there, mind racing for what felt like ages. I could not think of a single moral dilemma I had faced. Finally, the interviewer told me it was ok if I couldn’t think of one. So I calmly said I could not think of anything at the moment. Inside, I was imploding, thinking that I completely blew this interview. A few weeks later, I was accepted into this school, so this seemingly blown moment was not a make or break deal. If you have an answer, it would probably be better, but if there’s just this one question that you simply not come up with an answer, don’t sweat it. The interviewers know you’re human. You’re not perfect. Even when you are a physician, you won’t know the answer to everything.
7. Don’t argue with the interviewer. One fellow interviewee told us that she argued with the interviewer. I don’t know the nature of the argument, and I do not know if she got into the school or not, but I wouldn’t recommend it. For example, when asked a question about health care, it is ok to state your opinion and probably a good idea to note positive aspects of both sides of the topic. When you state your opinion, you may get pushback from the interviewer. Keep cool and calm. They’re probably testing to see how you react to pressure.
8. For women: wear comfortable shoes or bring them to change into. The tours will be a lot of fast-paced walking. I’m short, so I wanted to wear high heels for the interview and flats to walk around in. Trust me, I brought flats, and it was the best decision I made all day.
9. Attire: pantsuit or skirt suit. Don’t feel obligated to wear a black suit. Most people wore black, but if you wear navy or grey, you’ll stand out in a positive way. Also, wear a pop of color underneath your suit. This pop of color helps you stand out as well. Hopefully the interviewers will remember you better.
10. Believe in yourself. You made it this far. You struggled through pre-med classes, finished the AMCAS, competed secondaries, and now you’re in interview season. You are qualified, so let them see how wonderful, dedicated, and passionate you are.