5 Tips for Virtual Interview Success


There are many benefits to attending medical school interviews in person, but sometimes, interviews must be held virtually. This poses many unique challenges, and although virtual interviews save time and money, it can be difficult to illustrate who you really are through a computer screen.

In this post, we cover 5 critical tips for success during virtual interviews.

Attending interviews in person? Read our complete medical school interview guide and interview attire advice for what to wear on the big day.


1 | Dress Up As You Would for an In-person Interview

You want to present yourself as professionally as you would if you were able to interview in person. This means wear a suit, a conservative blouse or collared shirt, a tie, and even though you may be seated, make sure to wear the dress pants too. You never know when you will need to get up during an interview, and you don’t want to get caught in pajama pants.

Whether or not you wear professional shoes is optional, but it can help you get into the groove of feeling ready and on top of your game. The main idea here is to wear whatever is least distracting. Leave the interviewer thinking about what you said, not what you wore.

Learn more about what men and what women should wear for interviewing.


2 | Have a clean background

This is a new problem for interviewers to navigate. Some people recommend using a blank or white wall as your background. Others opt for the strategically placed piece of art or house plant. I personally went with a blank background.

I even had one interviewer comment that he was taking a poll on background types. He noted it was obvious when people placed a specific book or piece in the background as a conversation starter.

Whatever route you choose, make sure the background is professional and not distracting. You want your interviewers to remember you—not the dying houseplant propped up on an old crate in the background.


3 | Use a Webcam at Eye Level With Good Lighting

Many interviewers have opted for the webcam built into their computers. Others have bought HD webcams and ring lamps. Both options will work, but I recommend splurging on an HD webcam.

Every pixel the interviewer gets of you makes you more human and more relatable. You and the interviewer are often separated by great distances, and you don’t want to feel even more distant because your camera won’t focus on your face. You also need to make sure the placement of the webcam is at eye level to make the conversation feel slightly more realistic.

There is some debate on whether you should look at the camera when you speak or at the picture of the person you are speaking to. I originally planned to look into the camera to make it appear to the viewer that I was looking directly at them, but in practice, this was challenging. I found it easier to make the video window smaller and center it at the top of my screen so that my eyes were only slightly diverted from the camera when looking at the interviewer.

It is also critical to assess the lighting in the environment that you plan to interview in. One thing I didn’t consider earlier this season was that some interviews are scheduled well before sunrise. To ensure that the lighting remains balanced once the sun comes up, be sure to place your light source in front of you, and avoid harsh, direct light that will result in shadows and facial discoloration.


4 | Mute Distractions, Including Phone and Computer Notifications

Just because you are in your own home does not mean you can keep your cell phone on you. Keep it nearby so that if you have a technology mishap you can call the program coordinator, but be sure to place it on silent.

You don’t want the buzz of a notification throwing you off mid-sentence. Additionally, you need to silence your laptop so that email notifications do not pop up while you are trying to speak.

Most people wear headphones or earbuds to eliminate feedback. Be sure to test out the microphone on these devices before your first interview.


5 | Practice Content, Tone of Voice, and Body Language

Review your application so that you feel comfortable talking about anything you wrote down. This is your time to showcase yourself. Mention anything that isn’t obvious in the written application that you want each program to know. Examples include any ties you have to the region the school is located in and an interesting story that showcases who you are.

Be careful about your tone of voice, as this can change how the interviewers feel about you. Be confident, but never cocky. Be interested, but never needy. It’s a tough balancing act that will only get easier with practice.

Lastly, remember to practice your interview body language. Even though they can only see part of your body, it’s still a good indicator of your comfort and confidence levels. Poor body language, such as slouching, fiddling with objects, or looking at a watch or clock, will send a message that you are unprepared, nervous, and uninterested.

Learn How to Improve Your Medical School Interview Body Language.


It’s All About Finding the Right Fit

One of the biggest differences between in-person interviews and virtual interviews is the lost opportunity to physically see the city and facilities. This is the place you may potentially spend the next 3-5 years of your life, so it can seem scary to choose a program without ever stepping foot in the same state. Most programs address this by making fun videos of the town and hospitals.

Ask questions about living arrangements if that is important to you. Ask questions about what residents do for fun to get an idea if this is a place you could picture yourself living. Residents are looking for the best fit and will be honest and non-judgmental of all questions asked during pre-interview virtual “socials.”

These are also a great opportunity to see how residents interact with each other. Do they seem happy and excited to see each other? Virtual socials with breakout rooms provide the opportunity to get to see the program in a less formal light and ask some of the harder questions. These insights will be valuable when making challenging decisions about your rank list.

While it may feel more difficult to forge a connection with a person that is not in the same room as you, this will become easier with practice. The key is to be yourself! By the time you are selected to interview, they already think you are a great potential candidate. The goal of these interviews is to see if you are a good fit for their program. You have already accomplished so much to get here.

Med School Insiders offers mock interviews with former interviewers who have served on admissions committees and interviewed hundreds of applicants for both medical school and residency. We also offer a thorough course on How to Ace the Medical School Interview, which covers all of the details, from making a cheat sheet to addressing the most common interview questions.


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