Grad School Preparation

Interview Tips

Homework to do before the interview:

  1. Describe your desire to enter the medical profession using as many verbs as possible.
  2. Cite three key points that make you qualified to be a medical/dental/veterinary/nursing etc. student. Do not generalize, using terms like "I like to work with people." Clearly define points that make you the strongest possible candidate by using statements related to your volunteer or research experience like I have spent 120 hours in the pediatrics ward of a small hospital and have a good idea of the demands of a hospital pediatrician.
  3. Note three anecdotes that illustrate your capabilities to enter this profession. Make sure the stories support the three key points cited earlier, describing skills you used to achieve a goal. Describe how you completed a medically related experience, research project, or anything that projects your skills and achievements.
  4. List three questions you would ask the interviewer if you could. These can be general field-related inquiries or related to the school interviewing you, but they must reflect a sincere interest in the profession.
  5. Practice, practice, practice! Have someone ask you questions, record your answers, and listen to yourself. Rehearsal, not memorizing answers, will magnify the volume and meaning of words you speak in the interview. You do not want to get to the point that your answers are no longer fresh and spontaneous, but you do want to have definite ideas about how you would answer some of the more standard interview questions.

Tips for the actual interview:

  1. Dress so that your attire is not an issue! Wear a conservative well-pressed suit in solid colors or with a very subtle pattern and polished dress shoes. If you have doubts, err on the side of being conservative. You may wish to consult someone in the Career Center on this subject.
    • Women: Wear a suit or dress with skirt below the knee when sitting and hose with conservative shoes. Slacks, tight skirts, or any skirt above the knee when you are seated will NOT make points for you. Keep jewelry simple; dangling earrings are a distraction. Only wear one pair of earrings, no nose/eyebrow/lip rings, etc.
    • Men: Wear a suit if you have one or a sport coat and slacks with a tie (plain or non-flashy pattern) and plain shirt. Wear dress socks that match your outfit and dress shoes. Take out all ear/eyebrow/nose/lip rings. Do not wear rings on your fingers except a wedding or class ring.
  2. Be sure that your hands are clean and your finger nails are well scrubbed and manicured. Give the interviewer a firm hand shake, but don't crush the person's hand (particularly if it is a woman) or let the person feel as though you have just handed him/her a dead fish. Keep your hands on your lap during the interview.
  3. Wait to be seated until invited by the interviewer. Once seated cross your legs, and try to keep you legs relatively still.
  4. Keep eye contact with interviewer(s). If you cannot look them in the eye, focus on their chin or forehead so that they feel like you are looking at them rather than around the room. Lack of eye contact is sometimes misconstrued as a lack confidence in yourself.
  5. Be careful about your use of language. THINK before you answer. The interviewer wants to hear a well formulated answer to his/her questions. Focus on the question without being wordy or trying to avoid the question while continuing to talk. Don't feel that you have to fill every minute of the interview with talking. You can think in silence.
  6. Be wary of repeating words and phrases over and over i.e. "like", "hopefully", "you know", "interestingly enough". "Like I said" is incorrect grammar; "as I said" is correct if you need to use the phrase.
  7. Be honest and straight-forward. Every interviewer hears many students say that they wish to be physicians, nurses, etc. to "help people." There are many ways to help people – other health professions, social work, clinical psychology and teaching. What is there about MEDICINE/DENTISTRY/etc. that attracts you? Cite by example and connect your skills to the roles of a physician/dentist/optometrist/etc. Be prepared to tell when you used particular skills to achieve specific goals.
  8. Keep energy level and enthusiasm high throughout.
  9. Be consistent. Think about earlier responses and rephrase them to elaborate upon information cited. Use examples to support your claims. Don't try to convince the interviewer he or she is "wrong." Provide as much information as you can to support your claim that you can make it in the profession.
  10. Do not introduce topics into the conversation unless you are prepared to be questioned further on those subjects. An interviewer may give you rope enough to hang yourself. If you have done a research project, be able to explain the experiment and give results and conclusion.
  11. Be knowledgeable about the school interviewing you. What are its strengths? What do they specialize in? If possible, know something of the work that has been done by the professors there. If you have an interest in a specialty (e.g. cardiology, primary care, exotic animals) for which they are particularly well known, be prepared to talk about it.
  12. Ask questions throughout, not just at the end when invited to do so! A lack of questions is interpreted as a lack of interest in their program.
  13. Don't get visibly upset with anyone at any time! Remain poised and alert with administrative assistants and students as well as the more formal interviewers. People have lost an opportunity to attend a particular school for something they said to a current student at lunch. You should be in interview mode from the moment to step onto the campus to the moment you leave to return home.
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