If you’re applying to medical school, you better be prepared to speak to people. Not just thinking of the patients and future colleagues… If you don’t know yet, the first step of gaining a spot at a medical school is to interview for the position. This is often the most nerve-wracking, fear-inducing hurdle before the road to being a doctor is fully realised.
Luckily, there’s no way to fail at an interview by being yourself. Seems like I’m oversimplifying possibly one of the biggest moments of your life, but the sentiment is true nonetheless. If you are yourself, you cannot mess up the interview. When people mess up interviews, it is by trying to be someone they believe is what the interviewer wants, or someone they think fits the school. This is the single worst thing you can do.
With that in mind, let’s talk about what you can and should do to prepare for interviews, across the board.
- Self-reflection: If you don’t know why you’re doing medicine, the interview is not the place to reflect. You have a few minutes to convince someone that this is your purpose in life and something you want to do despite all the complications it brings. If you are serious about medicine, show yourself enough respect to answer this question realistically.
- Research: This is two-fold. Research the schools you’ve applied to first. Know how they teach their program, what options that are for intercalating, research, or studying-abroad. With so many schools to choose from, “because you accepted me” is not a compelling reason for application. It also doesn’t hurt to have an understanding of current research going on in medicine. It can be something you are passionate about, interested in, or something you saw by reading the paper. If it’s the last option, make sure you follow up with the actual study. Most of the people who are interviewing you follow medical research or undertake it – they will know when you read a 100-word snippet of research that has media-bias throughout.
- Be patient: As my parents used to call it, being “on the clock” is a great way to put pressure on – that’s why they put me on it when I wouldn’t eat my vegetables and threatened no dessert. In an interview, it’s not solely about pressure. Sure, they want to see how you can respond to new situations without preparation, but they also want to see you. If it takes you 30 seconds to process your answer, then take that time and don’t feel nervous about it. In fact, this can show confidence and thoughtfulness, both of which are useful skills as a doctor.
- Focus: I remember a huge deterrent in my interview cycle was everyone else in the room waiting to be interviewed. Whether they are the nervous-talking type who has to ramble to keep their nerves cool or one who wants to weed out the weak and psyche you out, remember to focus on what you are doing. You are there for one reason and I have a feeling most people would say its so be accepted to medical school. From a different perspective, you are there for a different one reason – you are there to introduce yourself to the school and see if you would be a good fit. You are on your first date for a huge step in your career. To that, the only way you can have a good relationship from the start is to give it your full attention. Don’t be distracted by the cute blond with long legs or the guy whose abs are showing through his t-shirt. Focus your attention on your date. Take some time to remind yourself that no matter the horror stories and awkward “first dates” that everyone else in the room has had are there stories and have no outcome to your interview.
In short, stop over preparing. Yes, there is some preparation you can and should do. But once you’ve done that, stop convincing yourself there’s something you’ve forgot. Just speak for yourself. At least that’s my advice for nabbing that second date.