Think you know everything there is to know about interviewing and that interview prep and mock interviews just aren’t for you? “It’s sad to see an applicant do well throughout the entire application process, only to crash and burn during their interviews,” says Accepted consultant Dr. Barry Rothman. “Many applicants assume that an interview is something they can just wing, and that prep is simply unnecessary, but this is just not true.” Interview prep is required of all applicants, and here’s why:
1. We’re not all natural-born interviewees
Dr. Rothman continues to explain that while there are some people who may be able to wing it, the vast majority of us will need to brush up on our interview skills, practice answering questions, learn certain interviewing cues, review key stories or experiences so they’re fresh in our minds, etc. There are certain questions that you can learn to expect in a med school interview, and it can only help to have gone over those questions and to have practiced those answers.
And the truth is, even for the natural-born interviewees out there – those who are naturally confident and who are good at answering questions off the cuff in a thoughtful, interesting, and enthusiastic manner – some level of prep would still be beneficial. For MMIs in particular, applicants should practice by role-playing or doing a few mock interviews – it’s not your typical interview, and you don’t want to be caught off guard with any surprises.
2. An interview is a type of sales pitch
Consultant Jessica Pishko reminds applicants: The school doesn’t need you; you need the school. But over the course of the interview, it’s your job to convince the school that you’re so awesome, that they do, in fact, want YOU. Like in a sales pitch, you need to convey your value and your ability to contribute to their class/program. Show your compatibility with the school by expressing how your goals and work ethic and interests are in line with their offerings.
3. You need to actually answer the question
If they ask you why you want to attend this particular med school, and you respond with a detailed explanation of the research you did in college with a famous biochemist, no matter how impressive your story may be, you won’t be doing much to further your cause. “Yes, it’s definitely smart to go into an interview with some talking points ready, to reserve if there’s a lull in the conversation or to work into a question where some relevance can be drawn,” explains Jessica, “but your main mission here is to answer the question.”
One way to ensure that you’re doing this, Jessica explains, is to begin your answer by repeating part of the question. “The reason why I want to attend this program is because…” – that way, your interviewer will directly hear how you are answering your question. If after your direct answer, you want to draw in one of your talking points, that’s fine; just make sure that you then loop back to the original question, so that your additional story makes sense in the context of the question.
4. Confidence does not equal smugness
There’s a fine line between confidence and smugness, explains consultant Alicia McNease Nimonkar. Your goal is to exude confidence (by looking your interviewer straight in the eye, speaking clearly, smiling when appropriate) without coming off as smug (or cocky or vain or pretentious or rude or any other negative attitude). If you’re not sure which side of the line you fall out on, try filming yourself during a mock interview and then review your words, voice, facial cues, and body language.
Or arrange for a mock interview with an Accepted consultant who can assist you with all of the above.