Interviews can be a nerve-racking process. There’s no denying that. To be honest, most of us feel that way about interviews, at least in the beginning when we have less experience with them. Interviews are a key part of the medical school admission process, and thus it is only natural to have some apprehension about them. But rest assured! They are a very manageable process. With some thoughtful preparation, and most importantly practice, interviews can become more fun than daunting. Interviews are no different than any other portion of the medical school admission process in that they deserve time and preparation. They may be easy to overlook in this regard. But you won’t make that mistake. Here are the simple keys to success on interview day.

1. Know what questions you will be asked

This is the easiest place to start. There are a few key questions that you must be able to answer to succeed during a medical school interview. You can bet that most, if not all, of your interviewers will start with some version of these few questions.

    • Tell me about yourself.
    • Why do you want to become a physician?
    • Why do you want to go to this medical school specifically?

I would start by preparing a 1-2 minute response for each of these questions. You want to know what you are going to say, but at the same time let it flow and sound conversational. Try not to sound like you are reciting a memorized set of lines. Be yourself when answering these questions and be honest. It will show if you are, and certainly will stand out if you are not.

2. Know your application inside and out

This is absolutely crucial. Whatever you have written in your application is fair game for an interviewer to ask about. You don’t want to be caught off guard and unable to discuss something you previously did. This would be a red flag. Take some time to review your AMCAS application. In particular, know your research, volunteer work and extracurricular activities well. The most important is probably research. Often interviewers have a research background and can be genuinely interested in what you have to say regarding your prior research. This is a chance to wow them! Know the details of your project if they ask, but be able to deliver a succinct summary of your work. Provide a summary that can catch others’ interest and also be easily understood by someone without prior knowledge of that topic.

3. Brainstorm and prepare some questions you may be asked

It is impossible to anticipate every question that will arise on an interview. But in addition to the nearly certain questions listed above, there are some common topics that arise on interviews that it pays to be prepared for. I would recommend searching common interview questions online. Here are a few questions I commonly encountered myself:

    • What is your biggest strength and you biggest weakness? ***Note it is particularly tough to talk about a weakness. The key is to not pick a huge weakness that would be alarming, and to spin this weakness in a way that shows personal growth and potential.
    • Tell me about an ethical dilemma you have faced and how you handled it.
    • What is the greatest adversity you have faced in your life?
    • What do you think is the biggest challenge facing medicine today?
    • How are you unique and what would you provide to our medical school community?

4. Know specifics about that medical school program

This is another crucial point. I think this is somewhere applicants falter. Prior to interviewing for any program, look it up. Read a bit about the curriculum, research strengths, student groups, and other opportunities available. If possible, try to pick out one or two unique aspects of that program. Then sell these aspects as reasons why that program is a great fit for you. Even if it is your last choice program, you need to look and act interested! Sell it and show your interest through the background research you have done about the program online.

5. Practice!

This is of course crucial. You must put in the time to develop any skill, and interviewing is no different. Start by reciting answers to common questions. Move on to having others practice with you and perform mock interviews. Anyone can help! Peers, colleagues, even a mentor in the medical field. Finally, one resource that is very helpful is your university’s career center (or analogous service). These centers generally offer mock interviews which can be scheduled. Do this. You will not regret it. Treat it like a formal interview. It will help come interview day to have gone through the motions and practiced interviewing with a stranger who is experienced with the process. Why not have a scrimmage before the real game?

6. Prepare for MMI

First of all, what is MMI? It stands for “multiple mini interviews” and is a popular interview format being used at many schools nowadays. First of all, check which interview format your programs use (traditional versus MMI) and be prepared for that. The goal of MMI is to illicit an understanding of the applicant’s interpersonal and critical-thinking skills. There are a few different formats of questions that fall into these categories:

    • Traditional interview questions.
    • Ethical dilemmas.
    • Interactions with an actor in which a scenario is acted out. It is generally some sort of challenging discussion or situation.
    • A task requiring teamwork during which you are paired with someone else to solve a problem or even build something.
    • Brief essay writing in response to a prompt .

You will rotate through a number of stations with different questions/scenarios, most of which will fall into the general categories above. This is a difficult format to prepare for. It won’t be possible to know which questions will be asked prior; but I would search online for old or sample MMI prompts and go through them on your own. To give you an idea of my experience, at one station I had to convince someone who was deathly afraid of flying to board a plane with me. At another, myself and another applicant were asked to build a replica of a model out of several small building blocks. I would say the key to MMI is some practice thinking on your feet. But because you won’t know the prompts, just relax and do your best. Think quickly but take a few moments to breathe if needed during the process. Don’t worry, it won’t be as bad as you think.

7. Prepare a few examples of experiences you have had that can be applied to many questions

If you have a few key experiences—adversity you have faced, challenges in school or the workplace, instances of personal growth, times when you were pushed to make a difficult decision—these can be applied to a multitude of questions. A general key for interviews is to provide examples/experiences for questions rather than giving vague or abstract answers. By having a stock set of significant experiences, you can make it easier to answer unexpected questions.

8. Be prepared to discuss a few current event topics in medicine

This is not always a part of the interview, but may come up. Particularly in this interesting era during which the Affordable Care Act (ACA, otherwise known as “Obamacare”) is in the spotlight and may be subject to change or removal, I would recommend at least being familiar with it. No one expects you to be a political expert, but try to be able to speak intelligently about basic current events in medicine.

9. Smile!

This is very simple, but demeanor and body language are important. Be positive. Make eye contact with interviewers. Be confident and friendly. It will go a long way.

10. Know you are being observed at all times.

This is something I did not think about when I was interviewing. Your interactions with support staff, administration, medical students and others may all be used as data to evaluate you. Being friendly and positive with everyone you meet on interview day can only help you. On the flipside, any discourteous behavior can really harm you! So be kind and friendly to everyone you meet. Treat the entire day as an interview. Portray the best version of yourself at all times!

11. Have fun and be yourself!

With all the preparation above you will be more than ready. Your interviews will feel more like conversations than anything else. Relax, enjoy the process, and let your personality shine through.

Follow these 11 steps, and you will without a doubt be well prepared for success on interview day. Good luck!