How to Prepare for Medical School Interviews
Medical school interviews are in full swing, and by now you’ve probably absorbed your own fair share of pain from preparing for these medical school interviews; you may have even already endured a few rounds of interviews.
Our team has done a multitude of medical school interviews. We have done interviews while working abroad and during a full-time job. We have experienced tough interview questions, and we have had several interview formats (group, multiple mini interviews, one-on-one).
We have helped dozens of our friends with their medical school interviews. Last year, our team even acted out scenarios to help friends prepare for multiple mini interviews.
What is our biggest piece of advice? Have fun! This is your chance to shine and tell people what you are passionate about. It is also exciting to hear about your interviewers’ experiences working with and teaching students at the school you are interviewing at.
If you want our Cracking Med School Admissions team to help you prepare for your medical school interview OR you have several invites but no acceptances…
Wonder How to Prepare for Medical School Interviews
1) Brainstorm answers to practice interview questions. The brainstorming process is important because if done correctly, it will aid you immensely in anticipating what will be asked of you. Scrutinize your own application as if you were the interviewer – what questions would someone have when looking at your application? What sticks out? Does anything need clarification? These are likely to be on your interview!
2) Leverage your social network! Do a practice interview once or twice with friends and mentors using the list of questions you’ve brainstormed. It is helpful to solicit feedback from multiple sources as everyone has a different perspective.
3) Read as much information as you can on the school’s website. You will want to know about the curriculum, student opportunities, mentorship opportunities by faculty members, student groups, research opportunities, leadership opportunities, financial aid, and the culture of being a student. Before each interview, identify aspects of the school that fit well with your application.
Finally, in order to answer, “Why do you want to go to School X,” chat with current medical school students to learn more about what it’s like to go to that medical school. For example, one of our students learned that Mount Sinai has take-home exams during the pre-clinical years by talking to students there. This schedule gave the students flexibility with personal obligations. You can learn valuable tidbits like this only from interacting with the student body.
The best way to prepare for medical school interviews is to know yourself and what you have done well – this may take additional self-reflection on your part. Anything on your application (primary, secondary) is fair game. Therefore, the most basic level of preparation involves knowing your written application backwards and forwards. In open-file medical school interviews, your interviewer will have your entire application available to them to read over before/during the interview. In closed-file medical school interviews, your interviewer will not have had access to your application. In both cases, KNOW YOUR APPLICATION WELL.
The night before your medical school interview, get a good night’s sleep, shower, brush your teeth in the morning, do all the routine things that help present yourself well. If you are staying with a student host, be courteous about the host’s schedule and coordinate the day together.
Common Medical School Interview Questions
We have compiled some common medical school interview questions and have sorted them out into categories. These questions will help you on your way to knocking the medical school interview out of the park!
Common Med School Admissions Questions:
Tell me about yourself.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
Talk to us about research you may have done.
What have you been doing since graduation?
Is there anything else I should know about you/tell the admissions committee?
What will you bring to the med school class?
When did you know that you wanted to go into medicine?
Why [Insert medical school here]?
Personal Background & Qualities:
What did you spend your time doing in high school?
Tell me about a time when you failed.
What is your family like?
What is the hardest thing you have had to deal with?
What do you like to do in your spare time? What do you like to do for fun?
What is a typical weekend like for you?
What do your parents do?
Where are you from?
Where were you born?
What would your friends say is your best quality? What would they say is your weakness?
After the Medical School Interview
Prepare thank-you notes for your medical school interviewers and hosts. These should be considered acts of appreciation, not ways to get an edge on admissions. The admissions process is long and tedious, and not just for the applicants! Now, pat yourself on the back. You’ll likely have more of these in your future, so becoming comfortable with your ‘interview hat’ on is essential.
Our team has both gone through and conducted hundreds of medical school interviews. We can help you with mock interviews via skype or phone, as well as with generating medical school interview questions to help you prepare. Remember to also buy our book for more detailed expert advice on the medical school interview process.
3 Interviewing Skills to Constantly Practice:
Interview Skill #1: Connect with your interview peers the morning of the interview
Why: It can be intimidating to start the morning off with complete strangers in a room, especially if these strangers are also vying for a spot in the med school that you are applying. Writing from our personal experiences, this can be especially difficult for introversive applicants. However, social skills can be. Think of it as a social warmup, an exercise to engage and connect with others, right before your actual interview. A little bit of enthusiasm goes a long way, and, while you may not be officially evaluated outside of your interview, the admissions directors and staff do take note of how you interact in a dynamic environment. A couple bits of advice:
- DON’T compare yourself to your peers. It’s easy to get caught up in the interview numbers game (e.g. “How many interviews have you gone to so far?”) Don’t fret! It’s not about the number of interviews you’ve gone to; it’s about the interview you’re in now.
- DO take the time to get to know your peers. The simplest way to human connection is asking questions. Use the FORD mnemonic: Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams.
So flash a smile, shake a hand, and open up to your peers! Besides, you’ll never know; they may end up becoming your future classmates.
How to prepare: Extend your daily interactions with your co-workers to connect with them a little bit more. The next time you order at your Starbucks, ask the barista how they’re doing. Connect with them on the why.
Interview Skill #2: Give a pause and breath before each answer
Why: We get it. Silence is never comfortable, especially during an interview. It might be tempting to just throw yourself into a response to avoid any semblance of an awkward silence. However, letting the question marinate is advantageous for three reasons:
- Even if you have the perfect answer for the question asked, taking a couple of seconds to think will allow you to slow down and navigate your response.
- If you DO have the perfect response the question, giving a pause will ensure that you’re not giving a canned response.
- If you do this for each question, you will have established a pattern. That way, if you get stumped over a question that you really don’t know, then you’ve built for yourself a safety net to regroup your thoughts. You may be nervous internally, but no one can tell externally!
How to prepare: Take time in your daily conversations to observe how long you take before responding. Lengthen those responses for a couple of seconds until it becomes natural. Then, try and lengthen the silence for 5 seconds, then 10. Do this until you’re comfortable.
Interview Skill #3: Practice your body language
Eye contact: How much is too much? Shift your gaze between four elements: the person’s eyes (one after the other), nose, forehead, and chin, occasionally shoulder if you want to break contact.
Try to make enough eye contact that you can remember their eye color.
How to prepare: Be cognizant of whether you are making good eye contact with everyone you talk to throughout the day – whether you’re chatting with somebody at a party or working with a groupmate for a class project.
Ask The Cracking Med School Admissions Team Questions about Interviews
Your Cracking Med School Admissions Team Advisers
Medical School: Stanford School of Medicine
Residency: Harvard, Emergency Medicine
What I did After College:
• Improved vaccine distribution in developing countries
• Worked with the World Health Organization in the Philippines
• Launched a national HIV Awareness Campaign in the Philippines
• Produced an HIV awareness commercial for MTV
• Worked full-time at a healthcare consulting firm, advising pharmaceutical companies
• Created a public health program in Stanford’s Emergency Department
Undergraduate: Columbia University
What I did after I graduated:
• Worked at two education non-profits, improving public & charter schools across the U.S.
• Coached students to master interview, debate, and speech techniques in the U.S. and Asia
• Advised students in China, Korea, and Japan with college applications to American Universities
• Developed mobile education content for iPhone apps
• Worked in investment banking, conducting industry analysis and advising technology companies
Medical School: Stanford School of Medicine
Residency: Pediatrics, Stanford
Masters: Masters in Medical Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies; Masters of Science in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
What I did after I graduated:
• Interned with the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland
• Founded and launched an NGO to improve the health and education of Ethiopian
• World Bank consultant who helped implement Ethiopia’s national nutrition program
• Partnered with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health to study child health practices in communities