This article is a guest post written by Admissions Helpers.
Once an applicant has submitted her application through AMCAS/AACOMAS and completed secondary applications, she can begin to prepare for the next step in the process, the personal interview. There are generally two formats applicants can expect, either the Multiple Mini Interview where an applicant will move from one station to another meeting with different interviewers, and the traditional interview, which can be considered a professional conversation that we will address here.
Many applicants make the mistake of trying to anticipate questions and rehearse responses. There is no way to predict exactly what questions will be asked and in fact interviewers are not looking for how much you know, as much as they are looking for an opportunity to learn other things about you to solidify an opinion of how suited you are to successfully pursue a career in medicine. Spending exorbitant amounts of time “studying” for the interview is counterproductive. However, you can take some steps to prepare.
The first step is to know your own application inside and out. Review all of your activities, education, volunteer work, and research thoroughly on both your primary and secondary application until you know your applications inside and out. Be prepared to articulate your involvement in outside activities and research. For example, if you were in a laboratory studying the genetics of prostate cancer you should be able to articulate the background, hypotheses, methodology, and results in away that shows a strong understanding of your project.
Also maintain consistency throughout your application and interview. If your personal statement talks about a single life-changing experience that influenced your decision to pursue medicine, you should refer to that experience in your interview when asked about experiences that led you to medicine. Your rationale for your interest in medicine and the experiences that define you should be consistent. Remember, you were selected based on the information on your application. Your responses pertaining to anything presented on the application should be consistent. Failure to do so can reflect negatively.
2) The interview is NOT a Test
Many applicants make the mistake of assuming they are going into a test and that interviewers will be scoring them based on right or wrong answers. Exerting tremendous amounts of energy preparing full answers to questions wastes precious time, energy and creates unnecessary anxiety. What you can expect is that you will engage in a formal conversation with one to three interviewers rather than being tested on your knowledge. Interviewers are interested in your point of view and how coherently you are able to respond. Allowing yourself the freedom to think and formulate answers that articulate your experience and strengths is the most productive way to create a positive impression. Your goal is to sound like someone who can think on their feet rather than to come off sounding rehearsed. The pitfall of spending hours memorizing or rehearsing is to flounder when asked a question that catches you off guard. The contrast in your delivery can have a deleterious effect. So, be prepared but leave the scripted narrative at home.
3) Brainstorm Key Points
This leads to the question, “How do I prepare if not by memorizing answers?” Know that your preparation has been all the hard work you have already done to arrive at the interview. Your goal is to articulate just that. However, you are also encouraged to search online for possible questions. They way to prepare for these anticipated questions is to think about what key points you would hit on in your response, while taking into consideration the information on your application and personal statement. Encapsulate ideas derived from your experience that will produce a compelling response.
4) Become Knowledgeable
It is also advisable to go into the interview with some current knowledge of what is going on in healthcare. Healthcare reform, ethical issues including euthanasia, abortion, and stem cell research are challenging topics that may come up during the interview. Current evens are also fair game and may come up on the interview. The New York Times is one credible source to refer to for staying up to date. Having an opinion or ability to comment will contribute to making a positive impression.
5) Dealing with anxiety
Feeling anxious is normal! Fighting it will only cause those feelings to escalate. You have worked long and hard for many years. Focus on exercise, meditation or relaxation techniques that will help to ease your anxiety. Your interviewers know you are anxious and are likely to be more forgiving than you might expect. Remember, even if they don’t show it, most applicants are nervous in spite of appearing cool and collected. So, take a deep breath and take it easy on yourself.
6) Pay attention to your non-verbal communication
As the old saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression,” and non-verbal communication counts! Pay attention that you are appropriately dressed and looking your professional best. You communicate confidence not only by what you say but also through a firm handshake, by looking your interviewer in the eye and maintaining natural eye contact. Finally, don’t forget to smile.