Saturday, 16 March 2013

MedTalk Series - Medical School Interviews

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any medical admissions/interviewing committee and as such, the advice and suggestions listed below are my own  and should only be used as a guideline for your own interviews. Please be advised that I have not and will not disclose any of my own interview questions due to confidentiality.

CONGRATULATIONS! If you're reading this post, then chances are that you have gotten an invitation to interview for medical school! This is a huge accomplishment in itself as you are one step closer to getting into medical school. The question now remains - how do you impress your interviewers and show them that you are the ideal candidate for their medical school? As a first year medical student, I know the stress and anxiety that comes with interview preparations as I myself was in your shoes just last year.

Before The Interview

Review Your Application

You spent months perfecting your application to medical school and no doubt the admissions committee saw something in that application that made them want to give you an interview. As such, you should be reviewing  all the extracurricular activities and achievements you listed in that application as the interviewers will most likely ask questions based on these things. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What characteristics/skills did I develop from these activities and how will they make me a great medical student/future physician?
  • What did you learn from these experiences? Did it highlight any strengths? weaknesses? If it was a negative experience, how did you handle it?
  • Why did you pursue the activities that you did and what does this say about you as a person?
There are also the inevitable questions such as:

  • Why do you want to be a doctor? Why not a nurse?
  • Why medicine?
You should already have a coherent answer to these questions if you're serious about applying to medical school.

Furthermore, medical school interviews are meant for the interviewers to get to know YOU. Thus, questions that enable the interviewers to gauge what kind of a person you are will most likely be asked. Consider the following questions:

  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • Tell me about a time you were stressed and how you handled it.
  • What do you like to do in your spare time?

Find Out More About The Medical School

In my opinion, a medical school interview is just like a job interview. Whereby for a job interview you are convincing your potential employer that you are the right person for the job and that the company is the right fit for you, similarly, you want to convince your medical school interviewer(s) that you would be their ideal medical student and that their program would be the right fit for your learning style and personality. As such, spend a bit of time researching the medical school you'll be interview at. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you are finding out more about the medical school:

  • What is the curriculum like? Is it semestered? Is it in blocks? Is it longitudinal?
  • What facilities are available for medical students? What observorship/mentorship programs are available to students? What types of research opportunities are available?
  • What's the division between PBL and didactic learning styles?
  • How much exposure do students get on the wards in their preclerkship years?
It's also important to ask yourself whether or not you would be happy at the medical school if you were accepted. Would you be content with moving to that city? Could you see yourself living there in the long term? These questions are just as important to consider when preparing for your interviews

Ethical Scenarios and Current News

While I know that many students read "Doing Right" in preparation for their interviews, I actually found that it didn't help me. The basic key points to keep in mind when answering ethical scenarios is to always consider both sides of the argument rather than giving an absolute answer. This way, it shows the interviewers that you are considering the pros and cons of the situation. Keep in mind the concepts of Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-Maleficence, and Justice. A good resource that I found useful when preparing for those trickier ethical questions (ex: religious implications for medical treatment, euthanasia, abortion etc.) was the CMAJ Bioethics for Clinician Series 

It's also a good idea to have a general sense of the major issues affecting the healthcare system. Andre Picard from The Globe and Mail has some great columns. The latest Drummond Report is also a good read (but by no means necessary).

Practice Practice Practice...But Not Too Much

Ask your friends, professors, mentors, and family members to help you with your interviews. It's also a good idea to see if your university organizes any mock interviews. However, I would not recommend over-preparing for the interview as this can make your answers sound rehearsed and not genuine which can have a negative effect rather than a positive effect. 

Interview Day

Interview day can be very stressful and a million thoughts are probably racing through your head. I have listed some suggestions of what I did to keep myself level-headed (or relatively at least) on my interview day:

  1. Smile. Whether it be meeting other interviewees, current medical students, and interviewers, a smile can go a long way.
  2. Don't be fazed by how many interviews other candidates have. I know this is easier said than done but just know that the fact that you made it to the interview stage means that you are just as good as the other candidates and you shouldn't be doubting yourself.
  3. Don't be afraid to ask questions! During orientation, a lot of current medical students as well as staff will be around to answer any concerns and/or questions you may have. This is your chance to find out more about the school (if you still had any questions) and to really see if the school is the right fit for you.
  4. I've heard a lot about "cold" interviews whereby the interviewers show absolutely no facial expression. Don't let this faze you as this could be a tactic to see how well you think under pressure. Just smile and answer the question to the best of your abilities. 
  5. If you need clarification on a question, or a bit of time to think about your answer, don't hesitate to ask! It's always better to answer a question the right way rather than answering a question you thought they asked you. It's also good to pause and think about your responses as this enables you to gather your thoughts and speak coherently.
  6. If you don't know the answer to a question , don't be afraid to say so. I remember doing this in my own interview and I don't believe that it negatively affected me in anyway. It's better to be honest about not knowing a concept/event/issue than trying to answer it ambiguously. 
  7. Most interviews will end with "Do you have any questions?" It's always a good idea to have one question on hand as this shows your interest in the school and highlights that you actually did your research about the school's program.
Good luck to those of you who have interviews in the upcoming months! Don't hesitate to comment if you have any other questions you'd like me to address in regards to interview preparations!

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