Original post written March 4th, 2014 here
Interviews are a pretty big deal. Seeing as how (at least I personally think) interviews were my strongest part during the application process, I want to share some of things I learned while I did my own interviews. Everything I mention happened to me (or a close friend) at some point during this process.
Remember, these are what I have concluded. This is not a rulebook, rather suggestions. Always be you because that’s the most important thing.
Being granted the honor of an interview
- Most interview invites come through email and read INTERVIEW INVITE.
- If your inbox hates you, like it hates me, these emails will be in your junk mail.
- There is such thing as pre-interview hold. This is a medical school’s way of saying “You are pretty good and applied early, but we totally want to see what else we can get.” This is crap.
- Some schools offer dates for you to choose from to come interview. Others say “This is your day to interview. It’s in a week.”
- If you are put in this position, you are allowed to call and request another date. Just know a lot of schools that assign a day generally have less interview days than places that let you pick. And the golden rule is the early the better.
- Get a damn suit. Do not wear an outfit from American Eagle you think looks like a suit.
- Get your suit in a reasonable, neutral color. Do not think that a bright red ensemble is okay. It isn’t.
- If your suit is a little long, or loose get it tailored. It’s worth the little bit extra to not worry about being swallowed up by your jacket.
- I got it, suits are expensive. But outlet malls and stores are fantastic places to get really nice quality attire without breaking your quickly depleting bank account.
- Get comfortable, but dressy shoes. You will be walking around for a fair amount and watching some poor girl topple out of her heels should be left for downtown at 2 am.
- Ladies, when wearing makeup less is more. Throwing all of Sephora on your face is a poor idea.
- Also ladies, if you wear a skirt, SHAVE. Or at least wear pantyhose, there is no way to make leg hair look kept (which is why dress shorts don’t exist for men)
- Gentleman, unless your facial hair is well-kept, clean, and flatters your face YOU SHAVE TOO.
- Don’t get your hair cut right before your interview. A trim is fine, but a new style is a bad idea. You will end up in front of the mirror freaking out because your hair has never done this crazy shit its doing right at the exact moment.
- Save, save, SAVE! Unless you can somehow get to every location you are offered an interview at by teleportation, traveling, hotels and food will drain your bank account faster than sugar-free haribo gummy bears will drain your colon.
- If you have to fly, make sure you get to your location at minimum the night before. Coming the morning of is literally the worst idea ever.
- Most schools will have recommendations for hotel to stay in. Follow this advice.
- If you are driving long distance find someone to come with you. Otherwise you sit in the car for 6 hours thinking about every single thing that can go wrong. Like your interviewing having a heart attack, or you throwing up in the middle of the tour.
- Discern if you want this person to be a parent (if you’re in that age bracket to do so). Base this on how long you can stand your parentals talking about your potential new doctor-ness or any related topics.
- Know when the doors to the school open. Showing up an hour early to find out you have to wait outside in 95 degree weather in your suit is awesome.
At the interview, but not interviewing yet
- You should show up at least 30 minutes early to your interview time. There’s usually paperwork you have to fill out as well as food.
- If they offer you break or lunch food, eat something. Some interviewing days only last 3 hours, but other days they can go for 7.
- And if you are wearing any light clothing at all, do not, I REPEAT, DO NOT try your chances with the coffee. Your nerves should be able to keep you awake.
- Be mentally prepared for things to get weird. Like you can walk in and they make you write an essay. Or you can’t find the 7th floor.
- You’ll be told a ton of information about the school ranging from curriculum to specially faculty to awards. This is them trying to convince you that you are a good fit, even though they haven’t decide if you are a good fit for them.
- This will be a chance for you to talk to real live medical students! Don’t be afraid to ask them all of your questions, which is why they volunteered to be there in the first place.
- Some school will give you a packet which has finaid info, school booklet, other misc. items, and if you’re lucky the names of the people you will be interviewing with. If they are faculty, make sure to ask the medical students about them.
- At some point during the day, before or after the interview, you will tour the campus facilities and get to see classroom, labs, places to study and many other exciting things. If you have multiple interviews, you may take these sights into more account than you thought previously.
- This is the time to find out the little nuances of the school. Is there a dress code? Does the school stay open 24 hours? Where can you get food?
- When it comes time to start interviewing, most candidates have different times. So you may be first, or you may be last. Just keep yourself level headed the best you can.
The main event
- There are plenty of places you could have your interview at the medical school. You could be in someone’s office, a board room or even a completely glass study room. You know, so everyone can SEE YOU.
- Interviews typically range from 15 to 45 minutes. There is no time span that means you did well or poorly. It is what it is.
- If your interview(s) take a second to think of another question or discuss something, gather yourself back up. Are you slouching? Have you been umming a lot? Are you swinging around in the swivel chair from hell? Assess and recompose.
- Be ready with the questions you know will be asked, like what do you want to be a doctor or Tell me about yourself? The way you answer will generally set the pace of what questions you are asked after that.
- Play off the mood of your interviewer(s). If they seem grumpy or uninterested, speak with a lot of confidence but keep a serious tone. If they are light hearted, getting a laugh out of them will help you be remembered.
- And that is something you want. To be remembered. If the interviewer(s) remember you as someone interesting, your chances of getting in will sky rocket.
- Bad grades or a lower MCAT score are hard to discuss, especially without making it seem like you are making up excuses. A good way to combat this is to make it known this is a weakness and you have found way since then to overcome those weaknesses.
- Make sure that you have a good understanding of the mission statement of the school. This is important when you are asked about how you “fit”.
- Play into your interests and strengths. Had an uncommon major? Played a sport for 10 years? Lived overseas? Bring out that ammo and link them to how they could make you a good physician.
- Have questions ready to ask when they are done questioning you. Have at least 2 because you will most likely have at least one of them answered beforehand. And if they answered all you questions let them know! Just say “thank you, but X person answered them all already!”
- In a move mostly to throw you completely off and make you falter, your interviewer(s) might ask you something completely knowledge based, such as a clinic question or the Henderson-Hasselbach equation. If you know the answer, damn child. But if not you are allowed to say “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer.” Don’t sit there in your short interview time drowning.
- Group interviews can be a lovely experience or straight out of a house of neurotic premed horrors. This all depends on the people who are grouped with. You have no control of this measure of fate. Be able to answer your questions in 30 seconds quips, so your interviewer(s) can get a sense of who you are despite the situation.
- Some interviewer(s) will give you their business card. First, keep your excitement down to an eager thank you, because this is a good sign. Second, make sure you send a thank you email directly to them. You will look professional, grateful and your interviewer(s) will remember you.
- Be your best self during all of this! Be genuine and show them who you really are.
- Say thank you to EVERYONE.
Home sweet home
- Get back home after your interview, and pass out somewhere in your house and forget about it. Dwelling over every little mistake is bad for your health and a future doctor shouldn’t be doing unhealthy things.
- In most cases, but not all, your acceptance will come either by phone call or snail mail. Snail mail is way worse.
- Being on hold or waitlisted is not a death sentence. Be patient.
- Being rejected is also not the end of the world. Chances are if you got one interview, you will get more.
- In the very likely chance you have been accepted celebrate! You did it and no matter what happens from here on out, guess what? YOU’RE IN!