Sweaty palms, nervous laughter, butterflies in your stomach, hesitant body language, or just plain not feeling sure of yourself are all signs you need to work on your interview confidence. If nerves are getting the best of you leading up to an interview, this video is for you.
Whether it’s for medical school, residency, a scholarship, or a job, an interview invitation can cause even the most confident among us to second-guess our own skills and qualifications. And that’s because you know how much first impressions matter. It’s vital that you enter every interview calm, cool, collected, and confident.
Let’s break down six tips to manage nerves and help you both appear and feel more confident.
How to Improve Interview Confidence
1 | Be Prepared
Sorry, but there’s no magic trick or quick fix here. The most critical part of confidence is being prepared. And the more preparation, the better. Confidence doesn’t just happen; it takes work. Luckily, as a premed or medical student, you know all about work.
The questions you’ll face in your interviews, including your Multiple Mini Interviews, are guaranteed to overlap. While you may not face the exact same questions during each interview, or they may be worded differently, they will be very similar. This is because every medical school wants to know the same things about you—who you are in your own words, why you want to be a doctor, why you want to attend that specific medical school, and why you feel you’re qualified to do so.
Draft what you want to say in advance so that you don’t freeze like a deer in headlights. Don’t memorize your responses word for word, as you don’t know for sure how the questions will be phrased; plus, if you lose your place or get tripped up, it will be difficult to recover during the interview, and any confidence you may have built up will melt in an instant.
And don’t stop there. Once you know what you want to say, practice saying it in the mirror, in front of trusted friends or family, and record yourself so that you can evaluate your own performance.
Leave nothing to chance. Prepare your outfit, figure out what time you’re waking up, decide what you’re eating for breakfast and prepare it the night before, determine how you’re getting to your interview, and warm up your vocal cords and facial muscles. Interviews will still feel daunting (because they are), but the more you prepare and the more unknowns you account for, the more confident you will feel.
For a thorough overview of common interview questions, read our guide: 21 Medical School Interview Questions and How to Answer Them.
2 | Test Yourself Under Pressure
Practicing your answers out loud is an absolute must, but practicing alone in the comfort of your own room doesn’t accurately simulate the intimidation factor of the interview environment. To do that, you’re going to have to step outside of your comfort zone.
Practice in front of friends, family, or mentors and ask them for feedback. Could an answer be clearer? Are you speaking loud enough? Are you speaking too fast or too slow? How is your posture? Are you using enough examples from your past? Do your answers contribute to the overall narrative of your application? Do you appear confident?
You can’t improve your performance without constructive feedback, so tell your audience not to spare your feelings. Of course, this is easier said than done. The most effective place to hone your interview skills is mock interviews, as they are as close as you can get to the real interview experience. Your mock interviewer is there to give you honest feedback, so you don’t have to worry about them holding back.
As you practice on your own, don’t practice answering word for word—put yourself on the spot. What happens when you are surprised by a question? How can you adapt your answers to suit differently worded questions? While preparing your answers is vital, memorizing your answers will make you sound robotic, and it will be harder to adapt on the fly. Practice different ways of answering the questions so that nothing can throw you off.
Simulate the stress of a real interview so that you can answer with confidence even when the unexpected occurs. Medical school interviews are a lot of pressure, so the more pressure you add to your practice, the better.
3 | Dress the Part
Much of feeling good is looking good. Put care into your interview attire to ensure you feel confident in what you’re wearing. You aren’t doing your confidence any favors by wearing something you don’t like.
Make sure to test your wardrobe well in advance so that you feel comfortable in whatever you choose to wear. If you can’t stand up and sit down comfortably or walk very far in your shoes, interview day is going to be a real challenge for you. Wear your outfit around the house and record yourself responding to questions in it. Can you breathe and move comfortably?
While it’s vital that your outfit makes you feel confident, keep in mind that interview day is not the time for your fashion sense to stand out. You should look sharp, but keep it professional. Avoid low-cut shirts, short skirts, flashy colors, eye-catching jewelry, and overly-busy ties. Don’t wear anything that will distract your interviewer from the content of your answers.
It’s also important to consider your outfit an investment. Invest in a couple of outfits if you can afford to. One medium-to-high-quality suit is much better than multiple low-quality suits. Getting a tailored suit is more important than an expensive one, so ensure the clerks at the store take your measurements and tailor the suit appropriately. An ill-fitting suit or outfit will do nothing for your confidence.
Don’t wear anything, including makeup and hair gel, that you haven’t worn or used before. Get used to moving around in your interview attire so that you will feel confident in it come interview day. And men. If you’ve never tied a tie before or haven’t in a few years, don’t leave it for the morning before your interview. It’s one more hiccup that could distract from your confidence.
For a detailed overview of what to wear, read our guide: The Ideal Attire for Medical School Interviews.
4 | Be Early, Not On Time
Being late can throw anyone off. Give yourself way more time than you need. Plan out how you’re going to get to the campus before the day of your interview. Will you need to order a taxi or Uber? Will you need to take the bus? Is there anyone you can carpool with? Figure out these details ahead of time so that you’re not scrambling the morning of your interview. If time allows, go to the campus ahead of time to get a lay of the land.
Set plenty of alarms (make sure it’s AM and not PM!), make sure your phone is fully charged and isn’t on silent mode, and if you’re staying at a hotel, schedule a wake-up call. If you have trouble waking up, it may also be a good idea to have an accountability buddy to check in on you by text or phone to ensure you’re awake. Don’t take any chances.
You need time to wash, dress, eat a light, healthy breakfast, and get in the zone. You can’t do these things if you oversleep, so do whatever you can to ensure that doesn’t happen—including getting to bed early. Pack and prep everything you need the night before so that you can focus exclusively on the essentials in the morning.
Don’t be shy about getting to campus early. A last-minute rush will leave you flustered and anxious, and these are the last things you want to be when you’re about to sit down for your interview. The best way to ensure you’re cool, calm, collected, and confident is to arrive early.
Read our guide to interview day: 15 Tips for the Day of Your Medical School Interview.
5 | Manage Your Body Language
Poor body language can make you appear timid, annoyed, tired, bored, nervous, or cocky. And what do all of these things have in common? They give people a bad impression of you.
Let’s say someone approaches you. They’re slouching, they can’t look you in the eye, and they give you a soft, sweaty handshake. What impression do you get? Do you think they’re a confident young go-getter? Do they seem like they’ll handle themselves well in a high-pressure environment?
Poor body language, consciously and unconsciously, negatively impacts your confidence level. Slouching doesn’t only make you look shy and unsure of yourself; it makes you feel that way too. Even if you do feel confident, fiddling with things or failing to make eye contact with the people around you will make you appear less confident.
Your body language speaks volumes to everyone around you. What you say isn’t as important as how you say it (though what you say is still extremely important!) First impressions matter and your interview is one giant first impression.
Effective body language takes a long time to hone, so start practicing right away, even if you consider yourself to be an excellent communicator. The medical school interview is intimidating, to say the least, so be proactive about refining your body language. Practice standing in front of a full body mirror so that you can properly gauge your posture and hand gestures. Record yourself and view it back.
Practice your body language wearing your interview attire. Moving around in a t-shirt or pajamas is a lot different than moving around in a suit or pantsuit.
Don’t feel confident? Fake it till you make it. Stand up straight, put your shoulders back, keep your chin up, and smile authentically. Practice maintaining eye contact with people and nodding your head, as these nonverbal cues let the person you’re speaking with know that they have your undivided attention. Ask trusted friends, family, and mentors about your body language. What habits do you have that make you appear timid? What first impressions do you give off? What can you improve?
6 | Prepare Your Body, Face, and Voice
Just as you do before exercising or playing sports, it’s important to warm up before your interview. If you don’t warm up your voice, you’re much more likely to mumble or trip over your words. If you don’t get your face moving, you will appear dull and apathetic rather than engaged and present.
Before your interview, set your posture. Stand up and let your arms rest on either side of you. Lift your hands up into the air, roll your shoulders back, and then slowly allow your arms to fall to either side. Your chest should be quite puffed out at this point, and while it may feel strange, this is actually correct posture, and it presents confidence. You may need to do this a few times throughout interview day.
Your skin tightens when it’s dry, which tenses up your face, making it hard to appear enthusiastic. Get your face warmed up by performing some face yoga. For example, you’re going to be doing a lot of smiling, so warm up your face by smiling as wide as possible, stretching the sides of your mouth as far as they’ll go. Then, squish up your lips into an exaggerated kissy face. Repeat this several times to brighten up your face and make smiling feel more natural.
It’s just as important to warm up your voice. You may have prepared some excellent answers to common interview questions, but it won’t matter if your interviewer can’t make out what you’re saying. Repeat tongue twisters like “she sells seashells by the seashore” and “red leather, yellow leather” until you can enunciate each syllable clearly. Start slow and build; you aren’t doing yourself any favors by rushing through them.
Vocal exercises, face warm-ups, and proper posture help you speak clearly and look more engaged and enthusiastic, which helps you appear more articulate, present, and, most of all, confident.
For more tips, save our Face and Vocal Exercises to Perform Before an Interview or Presentation.
Go Into Your Interviews With Confidence
It is crucial that a doctor communicates confidence. Your patients are putting their lives in your hands, and they need to know you will do your best to take care of them. While you’re not a doctor yet, learning how to appear and feel confident is essential to success in your medical education as well as your future career. Give your interviewer a picture of the kind of confident physician you will be by remaining cool, calm, and collected during your interview.
Confidence isn’t a magic trick. The best way to hone your confidence is with ample practice and preparation. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel.
Med School Insiders offers mock interviews with former interviewers who have served on admissions committees and interviewed hundreds of applicants. Each session involves a mock interview followed by structured feedback and deep insight from people who have been on both sides of the medical school interview.
Check out our library of resources covering the entire interview process, including a comprehensive Medical School Interview Guide that details common interview questions, preparation advice, and mistakes to avoid.