While everyone knows that MCAT scores and GPAs play an important role in medical school admissions, numbers can only tell so much of the story. What really allows you to differentiate yourself from the rest of your well-qualified peers is your interview, which is a make-or-break factor in your candidacy.
For your best chance of success, follow these 10 interview tips for medical school.
Before the interview
The key to success for any interview is preparation, and medical school interviews are no different. Before each interview, make time to do the following.
Review your application
Anything you’ve listed on your medical school application is fair game for an interviewer to ask about, so it’s crucial to be fluent with the details of your application prior to your interview. If you listed that you wrote a thesis in college, for example, you should be able to describe your work in minute detail.
Participate in mock interviews
Practice makes perfect—cliched but true enough to repeat. Participating in mock interviews with advisers or others will give you an opportunity to refine your responses and optimize your body language prior to your actual interview. While you can pay professional services to administer mock interviews, the option might not be in your budget. MIT, for one, offers a free set of sample interview questions.
Research the school
Having a familiarity with the school at which you’re interviewing can give you an enormous advantage on interview day. Not only can it help you decide if a school is a good fit for you, but it can also signal to interviewers that you’re strongly interested in the school. Prior to interview day, make sure to spend some time reading about the school’s curriculum, extracurricular and research opportunities and anything else that’s unique about the school. Be sure to pay special attention to how its offerings are well-suited to your particular interests and skills.
Many interviewers reserve the final few minutes of each interview for any questions an applicant may have. Having a set of two to three questions uniquely tailored to each school can help reinforce your interest to an interviewer.
During the interview
On interview day, your nerves are sure to be high, but a few simple actions will help you get through it. Be sure to follow these in-the-moment interview tips for medical school.
A medical school admissions interview should be approached like a job interview. Your personal qualities, not your wardrobe, should stand out. This is one time to play it safe with a classic, conservative outfit.
Strive to be friendly and respectful to everyone you encounter on interview day. Not only is this the right thing to do, but you also never know who will have influence with the admissions committee. Unprofessional behavior on interview day can doom an applicant’s candidacy.
With the stakes so high, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed on interview day. To perform your best, though, it’s vital to stay calm. If a particular question doesn’t go perfectly, don’t worry. At the end of the day, a few odd answers are unlikely to sink a candidacy on their own.
Additionally, while the interview is important, remember that it’s not the only component of your application. The admissions committee will evaluate every aspect of your application together.
Many interviewers have a significant amount of experience with applicants and can tell if answers are overly prepared. On interview day, your aim should be to have conversations with your interviewers where you convey your best personal qualities. To keep self-consciousness down, focus on connecting with your interviewer as a person.
After the interview
Just because you’ve left campus doesn’t mean that your interview is over. Don’t forget to take the follow-up steps.
Send thank-you notes
After your interview, be sure to send an email to each of your interviewers thanking them for their time. You may briefly include some details about topics you discussed during your interview. However, if the school explicitly requests that applicants do not send thank you notes on interview day, then respect their wishes.
Reflect on your performance
Following each interview, consider what went well and what went poorly. Were there any moments where you were caught off-guard? Were there times where you did particularly well?
Your goal in considering these questions should be to improve your interview skill set. If there were any particular questions or subjects you struggled with, be sure to craft stronger responses or spend time reading up on these subjects before your next interview. By the end of the interviewing cycle, your skills as an interviewee will have significantly improved.
Medical school interviews are stressful for everyone. But with enough practice, you’ll become more comfortable and perform better during them. Let these interview tips for medical school help you get there.