“Why do you want to be a doctor?” To some applicants, this is one of the trickiest questions to answer during medical school interviews. In the bottom of our hearts, we want to help people, specifically individuals’ health. Really, we do.
The reality is, “To help people” is a generic answer, and interviewers will be unimpressed. Our Cracking Med School Admissions team offers you medical school interview tips for being able to craft memorable, specific answers for general medical school interview questions.
Common General Medical School Interview Questions Include:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why do you want to be a doctor?
- Why did you choose to pursue medicine?
If you want a list of dozens of frequently asked common interview questions that we have compiled from previous applicants for the last 5 years as well as other medical school interview tips, purchase and download our Cracking Med School Admissions book.
3 Medical School Interview Tips to Answer General Interview Questions
Re-enforce the themes in your application
Remember those themes you conveyed in your AMCAS and secondary applications? It’s time to bring them out again!
Let’s say your main undergraduate activities have been (a) clinically working with children with cancer (b) bench research in an oncology lab.
Then to answer a question such as “Why do you want to be a doctor,” you can narrow your answer to your oncology interests.
Give an example of your experience and activities
When you are asked these general medical school interview questions, you want to give a brief summary of the activities and how you made an impact. Let’s continue with the example of an applicant interested in oncology.
Interviewer: “Why do you want to be a doctor?”
You: “Throughout my undergraduate years, I’ve been very interested in oncology. I’ve found it to be very rewarding to comfort patients when they receive a very scary diagnosis, and I enjoy helping describe various treatment options. At the Children’s Hospital, I volunteered at the Pediatrics Oncology Department. I helped develop a program where we spoke with parents’ families describing what to expect with chemotherapy. Additionally, I want to translate my patient experiences to the lab when I can develop new targeted cancer therapies.”
Remember these elements to include in your answer:
- Your themes (in this case oncology)
- Activities / Examples that exemplify your themes
- What motivated you to go into this field
- The impact you’ve had (if relevant)
If you need help figuring out the themes of your application or practicing interview responses, email our Cracking Med School Admissions team at email@example.com
Lead with activities that you want to discuss during your interviews:
Time is limited. You may have only 6 minutes during an MMI or slightly longer during a regular one-on-one interview. You can help direct your interviewer to discuss the topics and activities that you want to discuss in further detail. So don’t find medical school interview questions like “why do you want to be a doctor?” or “Tell me about yourself” daunting. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to talk about your strengths.
For example: let’s say your application focuses on two areas: bench research and global health. But, you want to highlight all the global health work you’ve done in the past year while living in Peru. Then, when you answer the medical school interview questions, focus on your Peru activities. Remember, it’s okay to leave out some of your activities during an interview. It’s better to have an interview focused on your specific strengths and interests rather than a superficial overview of your entire application.
Want more tips:
Read our other blogs on medical school interviews —
Our Cracking Med School Admissions team hopes that this helps jump-start your interview prep. We have helped several students over the years greatly improve their interview skills.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about interviews or would like to practice with us!
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.
Need Help Preparing for your Medical School Interviews?
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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