You should look forward to your interviews at professional schools as an opportunity for the admissions committee to come to know you and to understand your commitments and goals. Before the day of your interview, review both your standardized and the secondary application for that school. You should review the material the school has sent you, look closely at their website, and be prepared to discuss why you are specifically interested in their program.
Each professional school will approach the interview process in different ways, but they will all generally be working to understand your strengths and weaknesses in the following areas:
- Problem-solving skills. Throughout your interview you will be asked questions which can help the committee understand the way in which you approach decision-making. They will be working to insure that you are careful in problem-solving, attentive to detail, flexible, tolerant of cultural differences, and are accepting of opinions that differ from your own. The questions asked in order to give you an opportunity to demonstrate your abilities will generally be quite innocent, such as “Tell me about your family.” Or, “Why did you choose to attend Johns Hopkins University?” When asked a question around a complex issue, do not simply answer “yes” or “no” but give the interviewer insight into how you have arrived at that decision.
- Commitment to your chosen profession. You must convince the interviewer that you have made a mature, well-informed decision to pursue your chosen career. You must demonstrate an understanding of the demands and realities of a life in that profession and of your emotional, intellectual and physical ability to meet these challenges.
- Interpersonal skills. You must demonstrate throughout the interview day the interpersonal skills needed to be successful in the practice. Strong communication skills, awareness of the needs of others, and the compassion to respond to those needs must be evidenced.
- Academic readiness. The admissions committee will need to be assured that you will be successful in the school’s curriculum. If there are questions which rise from your academic record, be prepared to answer them openly and honestly.
The decision to grant you an interview commits the resources of the professional school admissions process to you for the interview day and, of necessity, eliminates another candidate from the interview process. If you are offered an interview, take the first available appointment and make plans to keep this appointment. Canceling an interview or not showing up causes great problems for a professional school, for our future applicants to that school, and often for your premed adviser, who then gets a phone call from that school’s dean asking for help in assuring that our other applicants will appear for interviews. If an emergency arises, we encourage you to contact one of us immediately to discuss the issues and the appropriate response.
RESOURCES ON THE AAMC INTERVIEWING WEBSITE
MORE ABOUT THE MULTIPLE MINI-INTERVIEW
A great overview or the Multiple Mini-Interview is on the MD admissions website of New York University School of Medicine. The MMI is a series of 8 interview stations consisting of timed (six-minute) interview scenarios. Applicants rotate through the stations, each with its own interviewer and scenario. The MMI allows the Admissions Committee to assess applicant characteristics and attributes we believe are important components in becoming a competent and caring physician. While this is a relatively new interview format in the United States, it has been used successfully for about ten years in medical schools throughout Canada and Australia. Allopathic, osteopathic, and dental schools in the US and Canada currently using the MMI are at: PDF Document: Multiple.Mini.9.15.schools. Analogous to the vast majority of schools who use the MMI, the website goes on to address:
- What are the problems with the traditional interview?
- What is the evidence for the MMI?
- How long does each station last?
- How many stations will there be?
- How long does the entire MMI process last?
- Where do the mini-interviews take place?
- Who are the interviewers?
- What will I be asked?
- What do I need to know about the purpose of the MMI?
- How can I prepare for the MMI?
Download the following Aspiring Docs (AAMC) resource:
Also check out the great video from put together by Virginia Tech Carillon School of Medicine
And, if you want to investigate even more resources about the MMI, see:
- The Multiple Mini-Interview Preparation, Astroff Consultants Inc.
- The Multiple Mini-Interview for Medical School Admissions, Carleen Eaton, MD
- New for Aspiring Doctors, the People Skills Test, Gardner Harris, 2011, New York Times
Tips for MD-PhD Applicants
The MD-PhD interview process will differ from an interview for an MD program. Here are some tips and information to keep in mind if you are invited for an MD-PhD interview:
- Identify labs that interest you at the interview school. Email the PIs directly to tell them you are coming for an interview and that you would like to meet with them when you visit. We encourage you to establish dialogue with these faculty early on.
- Become informed about research projects in the labs you will visit during your interview. (You can ask ahead of time which labs you will visit.) The best way to find this information is to search the NIH RePORTER (report.nih.gov) database, which enables you to search grants by PI to see all of their funded projects, along with abstracts of the grants. PIs will be impressed if you are truly informed about their work!
- Practice presenting your research projects to your colleagues and classmates in precise but in-depth 5 – 6-minute presentations. Practice answering questions from them as well. You should be able to explain your research with ease.
- Be sure to state the hypotheses and focus on ideas rather than details.
- You should be able to explain any underlying methods and how they work if asked.
- Know the details of the MD-PhD program and any PhD programs of interest by reviewing their website and other resources. You should be able to answer the question “Why did you apply to our school?” in a compelling way. Doing your due diligence ahead of time will demonstrate that you are truly interested in their program.
- Remember that the MD portion of the interview is important. You must have a convincing rationale for why you also want the MD component for your training and career.
- If you can, reach out to any JHU alumni who have matriculated to this program. Find out why they chose that school and use that information to inform your interview.
In addition, you’ll need to be prepared in the same manner as other MD applicants:
- Refer to the aamc.org for a complete list of interview suggestions. https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/applying-medical-school-process/medical-school-interviews/
- Know your entire AMCAS application very well, including the details of your essays and smaller research endeavors, in order to best be prepared for any potential questions.
- And finally, be nice and appreciative to everyone you meet during your interview.
CASPer (Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics), a 90 minute web-based test, is a component of the application process used by certain medical schools. CASPer is an online test used to help screen applicants as part of the medical school application process, as one of several criteria assessed in determining candidates’ invitations to interview. Some resources:
- How to Maximize Your Chances of Success on CASPer
- Student Information Flyer on CASPer
- The resources page on TakeCASPer.com
Tips From MSAR
Know What Type of Interview to Expect
It will also be helpful to be ready for any number of different interview formats. At some schools, interviews are held with individual admission committee members; at others, group interviews are the norm. In addition, while most interviews are typically held on the medical school campus, some schools have designated interviewers in different geographic regions to minimize time and expense for applicants. (Information about a school’s interview policies and procedures is usually provided to applicants in the initial stages of the selection process.)
Be Comfortable with Different Interviewing Styles
You’ve probably had some experience interviewing for summer and part-time jobs (and possibly for your undergraduate school), so it won’t surprise you that interviewers have their own styles and follow different formats. Some follow a structured design, asking questions from a predetermined list and assigning numeric scores to each answer. Others prefer a more free-flowing arrangement and provide the applicant with a greater degree of open input. Still others fall somewhat in the middle. Again, be ready for any approach.
Do Your Research
Investigate the school thoroughly by reviewing its profile on the MSAR Online, its web site, the information packet sent to you, and any articles you can get your hands on. Try to talk with current students to get an accurate sense of what the school is like from a student perspective. You’ll want to impress your interviewer with not only your potential for success but also your interest in his or her specific institution. You can demonstrate these qualities through the answers to the interviewer’s questions as well as by the questions you ask.
Since most admission committee members are experienced interviewers who want to learn about the “real” person, you should be forthright and open in your meeting and not try to “game” the interviewer. If you’re apprehensive about the process, find a trusted advisor or friend with whom you can conduct mock interviews to help build your confidence.
Remember, the interview provides applicants with opportunities to discuss their personal histories and motivation for a medical career and to draw attention to any aspects of their application that merit emphasis or explanation. Make certain you present yourself in the best possible light by preparing thoroughly for your meeting. Think about how you conduct yourself among current students and staff during informal meetings, too. These interactions still create an impression of who you are and how you present yourself may come up during a post-interview discussion.
Know Your Interview Rights and Responsibilities
Although interviewers are instructed by admissions officers and guided by federal statutes on what are unfair or discriminatory pre-admission inquiries, there may be an occasion when an interviewer asks an inappropriate question. (See examples below.)
You have the right not to answer what you sense is an inappropriate question. If such a question is asked, try to relax and provide a thoughtful and articulate response (two essential characteristics of a good physician). You may also respectfully decline to answer the question and explain that you were advised not to answer questions that you sensed were inappropriate.
You have the responsibility to report being asked an inappropriate question to help prevent further occurrences. Medical schools have the responsibility to establish procedures that enable applicants to report such incidents in a confidential manner. Medical schools should inform applicants of these procedures prior to interviews and assure them that reporting an incident will not bias the applicant’s evaluation.
If a medical school did not inform you of its procedure and an incident occurs, use these guidelines. If possible, report in confidence the interviewer’s name and the interview question(s) that was asked to an admissions officer during the interview day. Otherwise, e-mail this information to an admissions officer within 24 hours of the interview noting the date and time of the incident. Furthermore, you have the right to ask if another interview is deemed necessary to ensure an unbiased evaluation of your application to that medical school.
Some interviewers use the interview to assess how well you function under stress and may purposely ask challenging questions to observe how you respond under pressure. How you communicate will be a critical part of the encounter; however, this does not give an interviewer the right to ask you inappropriate questions in their attempt to challenge you during the interview.
Examples of inappropriate questions:
- What is your race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, marital status, opinion on abortion and/or euthanasia, income, value of your home, credit score, etc.?
- Are you planning on having children during medical school?
- Do you have any disabilities?
- Will you require special accommodations?
- Have you ever been arrested?
- Have you ever done drugs?
- How old are you?
Sample response to an inappropriate questions:
Q. What are your plans for expanding your family during medical school?
A. Can you please clarify your question? I want to make sure that I’m providing information that is most relevant to my candidacy.
Q. Have you ever done drugs?
A. I am uncomfortable discussing my medical history and possible use of prescription medications during this interview.
ADVICE FROM A MEDICAL SCHOOL DEAN
According to Quinn Capers IV, MD, “In my position as Associate Dean for Admissions in the College of Medicine at The Ohio State University, I have screened thousands of applications, presided over admissions committee meetings in which the disposition of, collectively, hundreds of student applicants have been decided, and personally interviewed many applicants to our College. One of the most frustrating experiences in this job is to watch a student with excellent credentials, who I strongly suspect will make an excellent physician, go down in flames in the interview. It is clear that some students have been coached on the interview process and others have not. It is definitely an advantage to put some serious thought and preparation into the interview, since medical schools generally only extend interviews to students who appear to have the right stuff to succeed. Translation: if you get offered an interview, there is a chair in that school’s first-year medical school class with your name on it. Based on your performance in the interview, you will either claim it or give it away. With that in mind, here are some tips that I think will be helpful to you on your upcoming medical school interview. To read his “tips” for a medical school interview, go to:
Finally, fun interview M&M’s (myths and misconceptions)
Medical school applicants share misconceptions about the functions and nature of the medical school interview. Many applicants are convinced that their information was based on true stories which fully explained the success, or lack of success, of previous applicants. It is hoped that debunking some of these myths, in a spirit of fun, will reduce some of the anticipatory tension which surrounds preparation for the medical school interview.
MYTH #1: Only applicants dressed in black or navy blue suits and ties will be successful in gaining admission.
REALITY: It is important to dress appropriately, but it is certainly not necessary for everyone to arrive for the interview dressed in the same conservative uniform. I have wondered at times if there is a mail-order catalogue which is selling the medical school interview uniform to our nation’s applicants. How is it possible for so many of them, men and women alike, to be dressed so similarly? Be yourself. Dress professionally but do not feel that you have to wear a black suit with a white shirt. I am NOT suggesting jeans, but there is nothing wrong with a gray suit with a pink tie.
MYTH #2: Never bother others by taking a school up on its offer to stay with medical school students overnight.
REALITY: Students volunteer to host applicants because they are genuinely interested in sharing information about their school and community. These student hosts are not coerced into offering a space on their couch. This is a great way to gain insight into a medical school. Be pleasant and polite and full of thanks, but do not stay in a hotel when you have a chance to get an inside guide!
MYTH #3: During the interview day speak only when spoken to and never ask unsolicited questions.
REALITY: The interview day should be full of a series of conversations and opportunities to get to know some interesting people and for the school’s representatives to get to know you. Enjoy the day and approach your interviews with an open and engaging attitude.
MYTH #4: No one will ever really ask “why medicine as your career choice?”
REALITY: The answer to this question must be revealed in some way during the interview. If the response during the interview is “well, I don’t really know,” OR “I can’t really put it into words,” the committee response will be very clear: “NO!”
MYTH #5: One must be nice to the doctors and deans during the interview day but can “let you hair down” with the students and support staff.
REALITY: Committees can only assume that someone who is rude to secretaries and other students may respond to patients in the same manner. If you have to work so hard to be pleasant perhaps you could consider another career choice.
MYTH #6: During an interview never admit to having faced difficult experiences in life.
REALITY: Admission committees would much rather accept students who have learned from an experience of failure or frustration rather than someone who has yet to have this learning opportunity. Be straightforward about any difficulties and stress what you have learned from the experience which will ultimately make you a better physician.
MYTH #7: Never say “I don’t know anything about that subject.” Instead fake your way through a vague response and the interviewer will not notice.
REALITY: Just as a physician needs to say “I don’t know” at times, so does a medical school applicant. Be honest about the limits of your knowledge, perhaps express an interest in researching the answer after the interview, but never simply pretend to know something about an issue. This approach will be discovered.
MYTH #8: If an interviewer asks inappropriate questions during an interview, it is important not to tell anyone at the school since this might hurt one’s application.
REALITY: Committees are aware that even the most aggressive training programs for interviewers sometimes fail. If the school provides an ‘end of the day’ evaluation form, be honest and specific in discussing concerns. If no evaluation format is provided, appropriately share concerns with the Dean or Director of Admissions. Do not just pretend the inappropriate questions were not asked. The committee genuinely wants to get to know you and can best do this with a fair interview process.
MYTH #9: In preparation for the interview carefully practice “canned” answers for any possible questions.
REALITY: Remember the ideal interview is a conversation. There is nothing more frustrating for an interviewer than talking with a candidate who is simply responding to specific questions with general, rehearsed answers. Engage in the conversation and enjoy the opportunity to discuss your vision and goals.
The University of Chicago Health Professions Handbook, The Office of the Dean of Students in the College. and Newsletter of the Central Association of Advisors for the Health Professions by Sylvia Robertson, Assistant Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid, Pritzker School of Medicine.