The Med School Interview: Get ready…for anything!
October 12, 2009
By Carleen Eaton, M.D.
“We spent forty-five minutes talking about fly-fishing!” Sound like a med school interview? When I hear from applicants that the interview digressed into a discussion of basketball, ballet or bird-watching, the next thing they usually say is: “I didn’t get to tell the interviewer about ___” (fill in the blank: my idea for a cure for AIDS, my poster presentation on gastroenteritis in chinchillas…you get the idea). Knowing your stuff is absolutely necessary, but don’t be surprised if the topics don’t stick to “typical” interview fare. If the interview is going in a different direction, well then, just go along and enjoy the ride. After all, you’ll be more excited talking about fly-fishing than reciting your clinical experiences for the tenth time, and the interviewer will still get the information they need. Here’s a rundown on how to be ready for any interview:
Buy a nice suit – and wear it to the interview – After telling me of their plans to wear khakis with a polo shirt or a casual skirt with a cute top, applicants explain that suits are too stiff and boring, it’s not their style, etc. My simple fashion advice: “Wear a suit!” A suit looks polished and professional and helps the interviewer to see you as a future physician.
Know your Medical School Application – You’ve spent the last four years taking chemistry, physics and bio, so what does the interviewer ask you about? The “C” you got in the “Intro to Synchronized Swimming Course” that you took your freshman year and hoped to forget. You could be asked about anything on your application. Be ready.
Keep on top of current events affecting healthcare – Proposed reforms to healthcare, the swine flu, the aging of the population; you should know at least the basics about topics such as these. Read news sources on the Internet or newspaper or watch the news, and dig a bit deeper, just in case.
Know the school – Be prepared to explain why you want to attend this school. Research the school and talk to current medical students or alumni if you have the opportunity. Does the school have problem based learning or a traditional lecture format? Do they emphasize primary care or specializing? Is it a major research center? The answers to these questions can help you convey your interest in a particular program.
So you’ve done all this and you’re ready to go. You show up looking sharp in your new suit, smile confidently and are ready to discuss the nuances of healthcare reform. You shake the interviewer’s hand, take a deep breath ….and get asked about the bird-watching hobby you had listed on your “Work/Activities” section. Great! Use your response to show that you are poised, personable and would have a fantastic bedside manner. Be prepared, but be ready to change course and succeed in any situation.