In a medical school interview, a first impression is often the only impression you get to make. With just a handshake your aim is to come across as professional, confident, and trustworthy. After all the hard work you have put in to your pre-med journey, this is your moment to shine as the outstanding applicant you are. Follow these simple steps to not only make the best impression, but to feel confident on your interview day.
In an interview situation, it is important that your interviewer get a sense of who you are from you, not from your clothes. Even if you are not trying to make a statement, your top knot and hoop earrings might be more memorable than your three years of research or volunteer work. If your attire raises an eyebrow, your interviewer could spend the rest of the short interview distracted by your appearance and not get a sense of the true you.
To dress for success, we have broken down the interview outfit from head to toe. But first, let’s start with the key piece, the suit.
Suits – Business suits come in a myriad of colors and styles. For a medical school interview, chose a classic cut in black, navy blue, or gray. Skirt suits and pant suits are both acceptable, so pick whichever makes you feel most comfortable. Make sure to remove all tags, stickers, and pins before your interview. Cut the loose stitching inside pockets or along a skirt slit before you leave the house. If you are wearing an older suit, get it professionally cleaned and steamed. Don’t forget a quick run of the lint roller before you leave!
Shirts – Nothing low cut. Go for a simple oxford button up, or a nice blouse that does not wrinkle too easily. Stay away from loud patterns or colors. Remember that the men will be wearing shirts and ties with their suits, so you want to look just as professional as they do.
Always, always, always tuck your shirt in.
Belts – For men, belts are a necessity. But for women, you can take them or leave them. If you have a nice belt you like to wear with your suit, go for it. Otherwise, an unbelted look is fine.
Skirts – If you are going to wear a skirt suit, sit down and make sure the skirt does not ride up too high. Do not wear a skirt that is too tight. And, always wear panty hose.
Pants – Get your pants hemmed to fit the heels you wear most. Make sure to iron your pants or have them pressed before you wear them.
Shoes – Closed toe, low heel is the way to go. Too high a heel and you will be uncomfortable all day. Open toe and you risk looking unprofessional.
Bag – A medium size purse that will fit your portfolio folder (with extra copies of your resume and application) and any papers or handouts you receive that day.
Makeup – Simple simple simple. If you wear concealer or powder, go lightly. A little blush looks nice. Mascara helps you look awake. Avoid heavy eyeliner. If you want to use eye shadow, pick neutral colors and go lightly. If you chose lipstick or lip-gloss, pick subtle colors.
Jewelry – Small stud earrings, nothing dangling. Small chain necklaces or a single strand of pearls. It is okay to wear a necklace with a religious symbol like a cross, but make sure it is understated. Bracelets can be distracting if they make noise when you move. You will most likely be wearing long sleeves, so you probably don’t need a bracelet.
Hair – Make sure your hair is neat. You can always stick a brush in your purse and run it through your hair a few times before your interview. If you chose to wear it up in a pony, bun, or half-up, make sure it is secure and not falling out. Keep your hair out of your face and try not to touch it during an interview.
If you follow this list of do’s and don’ts, you will surely be dressed for success.
1. Don’t be trendy- you are not interviewing with Vogue and now is not the time to channel your inner fashionista.
2. Along the trendy lines, don’t try any fancy new hairstyles. Keep it simply down, half up, or in a low bun or ponytail. A simple headband can work as well.
3. Don’t wear anything with big logos. It is distracting and labels you as much as it labels the clothing item.
4. Don’t wear open toe shoes. You do not want your interviewer gazing down at your hot pink toe nail polish. Keep it conservative and wear closed toed shoes.
- Another shoe tip: Aim for a 1-2 inch heel. On some interviews, you will be doing a lot of walking and if you come in with 5 inch Louboutins, you will be left in the dust.
5. Don’t wear anything too short. Practice sitting down if you opt to wear a skirt. Aim for it to hit just above the knee when sitting. If it is higher than that, skip it.
6. Don’t wear anything too low cut or revealing. Practice bending over and make sure your shirt does not gape open. What if you drop your pen?
7. Don’t be messy or sloppy (obviously).
1. Do wear clothes that fit. Find a tailor you like and have them hem pants and sleeves.
2. Do keep your clothes wrinkle free. If you are traveling, use the hotel iron or hang your clothes in the bathroom to stream when you take a shower.
3. Do wear pantyhose. Especially if you wear a skirt. Black tights are fine too.
4. Do wear makeup. Studies have shown that a small amount of makeup makes you come across as more professional. Just keep it neutral and simple. No sparkles and no red lip.
5. Do wear simple jewelry. Small stud earrings and small necklaces can compliment a professional look. A single strand of pearls always looks classy.
After all that, what is the most important thing to wear to a medical school interview? A smile. A big smile and eye contact are more memorable than any fancy suit.
Andrea Tooley, MD is a resident physician in Ophthalmology at Mayo Clinic. She graduated from Indiana University School of Medicine in 2014. Andrea shares stories from her days in medical school and residency, healthy recipes, and workouts on her blog, AndreaTooley.com.
• The Ultimate Guide to Medical School Interview Success, a free guide
• How to Ace Your Medical School Interview, a free webinar
• The Men’s Guide to Dress for Medical School Success