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.”
Why interview preparation is so important
Interview prep is required of all applicants, and here’s why:
- 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.
- An interview is a type of sales pitch.
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.
- 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, but your main mission here is to answer the question.
One way to ensure that you’re doing this 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.
- 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.
- The interviewer is not omniscient.
You might expect the interviewer to approach the interview with preconceived ideas about you based on your application, but this is not the case. Often, the interviewer will not have had time to read your application in detail before meeting you. Just as you would on a blind date – make a great first impression. Introduce yourself and describe your qualities and experience carefully, in a logical manner and with relevant details. Don’t assume they already know all there is to know because you wrote it down. This is your chance to present those details in person, to bring the facts of your application alive with three-dimensional authenticity.
- Clothes do not make the wo/man.
What you wear matters, of course, but you don’t want your clothes to distract from who you are as an applicant. The key is to neither overdress nor underdress, but to find a balance that lets you shine through. Don’t try to overdo it with designer accessories – you won’t impress anyone, and you also run the risk of seeming shallow or materialistic. Dressing too casually can give the impression that you have a casual approach to everything else and are not to be taken seriously. Dress simply and professionally. YOU should be the focus of the interview, not your clothes.
For more advice on what to wear, check out these resources:
The Women’s Guide to Dressing for Medical School Interview Success
The Men’s Guide to Dressing for Medical School Interview Success
- You are not powerless.
Most people believe that the interviewer is the person in charge in an interview. However, you are the one who will decide what you share about yourself and what the interviewer should take away from the experience. You are the most powerful person in the room. Ultimately, the way you present yourself and the information you choose to focus on will determine whether you are offered an acceptance or not. Feel the power and use it to your advantage!
Why you should view your interviews as an opportunity
In dispelling some of the common misconceptions about interviews, I hope that I have shown you what a great opportunity they are for presenting yourself and all you have to offer. With the right preparation you can confidently (not smugly!) dress the part, anticipate questions and learn how to answer them directly, focus the interview on whatever you choose to highlight, and use your personal power to pitch your brand successfully. Don’t wing it – bring it!
Ready to boost your interview preparedness? Schedule a mock interview with an Accepted consultant who will assist you with all of the points above and make sure that come interview day, you’re ready to roll with clear, confident, accurate, and impressive answers.For 25 years, Accepted has helped applicants gain acceptance to their dream healthcare programs. Our outstanding team of admissions consultants features former admissions directors, admissions committee members, pre-health advisors, postbac program directors, and doctors. Our staff has guided applicants to acceptance at allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) medical schools, residencies and fellowships, dental school, veterinarian school, and physician assistant programs at top schools such as Harvard, Stanford, Penn, UCSF, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, and many more. Want an admissions expert to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!