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Interview

Overview

You have made it past some severe screening and have been invited to an interview. By this time, your application has already been sifted and sorted a couple of times. Usually, medical schools weed out lots of applications and only invite about 20% of all applicants for an interview.

If you made it this far, the medical school typically considers you able to handle the rigors of medical school academically and your credentials look promising. Now, you just have to show them what type of person you are up-close. Mainly, they are trying to see if you will fit in at their school and if you will fit into medicine as a person.

In particular, the interviewer is going to evaluate your character, personality, communication skills, how easy it is to get along with you, how confident, honest and sincere you are, and if you are truly interested in medicine.

Read what successful applicants have to say about the interview.

Dress professionally and conservatively.
Complete suit and tie for men. Shave! A dress or formal business attire for women. You should look your best.

Be on time!
Give yourself plenty of time to get to the interview in the morning.
Even traffic accidents and detours can happen to your (or your cab driver). I had planned to be at an interview 30 minutes early and arrived only 2 minutes early due to an unexpected accident on the freeway that blocked traffic. Schedule extra time to be there early. It's better to sit around and wait for the interview day to start than to be late!

Make your flight and hotel reservations early for best prices and availability.
Before you book your travel, ask the medical school for hotels close by. Most of the hotels nearby have arrangements to give you a huge (sometimes 60% off) discount if you are flying in for an interview at the medical school. Also arrange transportation services (taxi or shuttle) the night before (ask the school or hotel for more info).



For preparation, review some of the information about the medical school you are about to interview with. You may be asked why you are interested in attending that particular school. These reasons can also include the fact that you like the area or town the medical school is in or the lakes and mountains (water sports, skiing, etc) which are close-by. So, your reasoning does not have to be limited to what the school itself has to offer.

Interview Day

If you have to travel far, you will want to get into town the night before, so you can relax and be ready for your interview day, which usually starts at 8 am or so and may last until 3 - 5 pm.

Interview day usually includes one to three interviews, conducted one-on-one, panel style, or with a group of fellow applicants being interviewed by the same panel at the same time. Most interviews are one-on-one or small panels.

Most of the time, interviews are conducted by basic science and/or clinical faculty members. Additional interviews may also be held with 3rd or 4th year medical students.

Other highlights of the interview day are typically a tour of the medical school and facilities, including cadaver labs and class rooms (where you will live for the next few years), lunch and/or meetings with current medical students, a financial aid presentation and other miscellaneous presentations.

You should be able to get a good feel for the medical school, the faculty, the students, facilities, etc. while you are there.
That is part of the reason you are there - to help you decide if you would like to spend the next 4 years there (or not).

Timing

Medical schools typically contact you by mail or email to invite you to an interview. Most likely, they will offer you several days to choose from, sometimes spread out over several months. If at all possible, try to take the first interview day offered to you. Get right back with the medical school to schedule your interview so that your interview slot is reserved right away.

Interviewing on the first day possible is advantageous to you since the medical school has not yet filled most of the spots available in the class. Also, the earlier you attend the interview, the earlier you will be able to receive an offer.

Read about the importance of timing and getting everything completed promptly and early in the application process.

Some Common Interview Questions

It is usually helpful to reflect on and work out some answers to common questions you may be asked in the interview. You don't want to memorize answers (or at least not make it look like you did), but if you have never thought about some topics, it is very hard to come up with a good answers on the spot.

However, if you are given a question you don't know the answer to, you can always state that you had never thought about that before or that you don't know the answer to the question. Honesty is best. Interviewers can see through insincere responses.

Some common questions you should probably answer for yourself (or rehearse with a friend) before you go to any interview are:

1. Why medicine?
2. Why do you want to be a doctor?
3. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
4. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
5. What do you do for relaxation?
6. How do you deal with pressure and stress?
7. What are your greatest qualities? (or your worst?)
8. If you could cure a disease, which would it be and why?
9. What is the greatest challenge facing medicine today? How would you fix it?
10. Tell me about yourself.
11. You wrote in your personal statement that....What did you learn from that?
12. Your application shows...What did you learn from that?
13. What will you do if you are not accepted? And again next year?
14. This physician says... about you in this letter. What did you do to convince him of that?
15. Tell me about your research project.
16. Tell me about your... activity.
17. What do you like to do?
18. Ask me a question now.
19. What do you see as your greatest challenge?
20. Why would you be a good physician?
21. What characteristics does a good doctor have?
22. What 3 things would you change about yourself?
23. Discuss your volunteer work, clinical experiences, shadowing.
24. Tell me about a life-changing experience you have had. What did you learn from it?
25. What is your favorite book or movie?
26. What are your thoughts about nationalized/socialized medicine?
27. What issues face our health care system today or in the future?
28. What is your specialty interest?
29. Why is there such a discrepancy between your MCAT score and your GPA?
30. What do you like most about medicine and being a physician?
31. How will your weaknesses affect you as a medical student and as a physician?
32. What would your best friend say about you?

Some ethical question examples are in another section later.

Some topics you should be familiar with

All of these topics often come up in interviews, so you should be familiar with these, at least:

1. Antibiotic resistance
2. Insurance and the uninsured
3. Health care costs
4. Abortion
5. Euthanasia
6. Drug costs
7. National healthcare/Socialized medicine
8. Stem cell research
9. Life support for persons in persistent vegetative state (example: Terri Shiavo)

Ethical Questions

First, let's clarify what ethical questions are for:
Interviewers want to see how you think, if you can navigate difficult scenarios. The answer you give, supporting one position or another is not as important as your reasoning. In fact, often, reasoning through both choices openly with them and stating that this is hard to resolve is the best way to go. It shows that you understand the dilemma and that you can navigate through it on both sides. What they care about is your reasoning.

Let's discuss some examples (the potential answers shown here are not the "correct" answers, because there are no correct answers - they are only potential answers to illustrate how these types of questions are handled). You may be able to come up with some better answers yourself. Use these as some thought-starters.

Question
Your patient's HIV test is positive. He does not want his family to know. His wife calls later that day to ask about the test results. Would you tell her? What if she is in danger of contracting the disease herself?

Answering this question
Good ways to handle this is through discussing the patient's wishes and his privacy rights (which reign supreme legally) and showing your reasoning why the patient's rights are very important here. Then, you may state "..however.. there are other implications on the other side of this as well..." and elaborate on the problems of responsibility in preventing problems for the wife. Show your thinking.

Question
Would you perform an abortion if a patient came to you requesting one?

Answering this question
This really is not a question about abortion, per se. It's about how you would handle the patient in this case. Do you respect the patient's wishes? An answer like "Absolutely not." is probably not going to go over well. However, if you are opposed to abortion personally, an answer along the lines of "I would not perform an abortion... I would discuss alternatives and let the patient think about them for a few weeks. If she still desires an abortion, I would tell her that I don't do those myself and provide a referral for her." As a physician, you don't get to decide for other people what they should do. You are a consultant. That's the point here. How do you resolve your personal convictions with patient's wishes if they are not the same?

Some other thoughts
Be aware of legal implications. Euthanasia (assisted suicide) is illegal in most places, for example. So, elaborating on how you would assist a patient would be a bad idea even if you support the idea in general. You may want to state "I don't know about the legal side of this issue, but assuming it would be legal, I would...". Then present your position. This shows you are thinking and would certainly obey the law.
In the first question above, there are legal issues surrounding privacy, for example.


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