An interview invitation means that a program has reviewed your application, and you’ve met some “minimum” they expect from potential matriculants. That being said, I’m a firm believer that the interview can hurt applicants more than it can help them. Here are some basic tips to consider during your interview trail! 🙂
WEEKS BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
Know how to discuss the “red flags” of your application. Whether it was a legal issue, criminal activity, cheating, or failing/remediating a course, accept the mistake and show the interviewer how you fixed it and what you learned. Never make excuses!
Consider the common questions applicants are asked. For example, pre-meds are often asked why they chose medicine as a career, what research experience they have, shadowing experiences, strengths/weaknesses, and everyone’s favorite… “tell me about yourself.” You should think about how you will answer these questions, but do NOT come up with a script. It sounds very robotic and distracting.
Have a critical group of friends listen to your responses in person. They should pay attention to body language cues which might be distracting (tapping your toe, excessive hand gestures, playing with your hair, etc.) and pay attention to whether what you’re saying truly has your voice instead of what the interviewer wants to hear. Finally, decide if what you say sounds presumptuous, arrogant, negative, or controversial. There are a lot of opposing viewpoints in healthcare (for example, topics like abortion), and it’s okay to have a viewpoint, but be humble to acknowledge and appreciate all opinions.
NIGHT BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
Visit the program’s website and learn about what’s going on in the department regarding new faculty, research, outreach initiatives, etc. Some of what you ask during the “what questions do you have for me?” part of the interview will stem from what you read on the website. This will show a deeper interest in the program, and it’ll also help you see how you can further the program’s established mission. Remember, interview day is a two-way street. Programs are looking to recruit new trainees while you are looking to find your “best match.” There’s no point of interviewing unless you would hypothetically attend that program, so be proactive and ask questions!
Re-read your entire application. Sometimes many weeks/months pass between submitting your application and actually attending an interview. It’s very easy to forget all the details you wrote about in your primary application, secondaries, CV, personal statement, etc.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
The basics of interview day are incredibly important – show up early, be friendly to everyone, be conversant (but not overpowering), dress professionally, maintain eye contact, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’ve prepared, the interview day is actually very enjoyable.
Whether you have a student or faculty interviewer, a one-on-one or panel interview, or any weird combination of circumstances you did not foresee, stay calm! If you have an interview that seems to be getting off track, politely steer it back to the goal at hand – conveying the unique qualities you bring to the table as an applicant.
It’s okay to pause and think about a response before jumping into a stream of consciousness. I’ve found that many applicants are uncomfortable with silence. Use these extra seconds to collect your thoughts and generate a structured stance.
Remain humble about your application and maintain a wide perspective regarding controversial topics. Applicants are often reluctant to confidently discuss ethical scenarios or opposing viewpoints. My advice is to explain the pros/cons of all the options and pick a side without denigrating the other.
Have questions to ask! It’s very awkward when we get to the end of an interview and applicants have nothing to ask. It shows disinterest.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
Thank all the students, faculty, administrators, and coordinators for the opportunity to interview. Get in touch with the admissions office and send personalized “thank you” messages (email or cards) to your interviewers. Don’t make these generic. Spend the time to make them unique, drawing off what you discussed during that particular interview.
Now the waiting game begins. Be patient, keep the programs updated with any updates to your CV, and enjoy the rest of your interview trail! 🙂