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The Medical School Interview Part 1: Don’t Be That Guy — Interview Etiquette

After personal statements are written, grades achieved, and MCAT scores well, scored… the medical school interview is an opportunity for an applicant to go before an admissions committee and explain why they deserve a place in a medical school class. It’s a deeply personal moment that goes beyond the paper application and allows a student to express the very motivations for wanting to become a physician, or why they’ve decided to dedicate their life to the service of others.

The interview is the most important part of the application process, and rightfully so. An interview offer indicates that the committee of reviewers has determined that you look excellent “on paper” and are no longer considering you more of an asset than another applicant based on numbers alone. If you have received an interview, it means the committee wants to meet YOU the person. Understanding this can allay a ton of anxiety, but at the same time, it helps to know what to expect during the interview and what the interviewer expects of you.

As a medical school interviewer myself, I can offer a few pointers that will help you leave a lasting impression and  hopefully  get you one step closer to your career dreams.

Interview Etiquette

The people who are evaluating you will not only be interested in what you have to say, but also in how you present yourself  both emotionally, physically, and intellectually.

Interview Tip 1: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

I know, this is a cliché, but proper interview attire will save you from being scrutinized professionally. Your interview day is not the day to wake up and decide you’re going to wear those ironic fuchsia moustache socks you bought online. A tie, an interesting pocket square, or lapel pin can be a fun addition to help better stand out, but just remember to keep it conservative.

Buy a suit. For guys this is easy; for ladies, a pantsuit or business skirt suit is entirely appropriate. You should wear whichever is most comfortable for you to perform your best. Stick to basic colors: you can’t go wrong with a black, gray, or navy blue suit. Avoid suits with ornate patterns. A faint pinstripe never hurt anyone, but let’s be serious are you selling vacuums or trying to score a spot in medical school?

Interview Tip 2: Everyone you speak to,  from the janitor to the dean of admissions, is interviewing you.

Correspondence is an important part of scheduling an interview for any job. You’ll likely be e-mailing back and forth with program coordinators, deans, and fellow students. Hence, it’s crucial that you have a professional e-mail address. It’s time to scrap your old AOL IM screen name (mine was armyofstone) and use your name (or some close variant of it) if possible.

When speaking via e-mail, keep it formal. Long gone are the ways of handwritten letters, but that’s no excuse to not begin an email with “Dear Dr. AwesomeDocWhoProbablyRidesASkateboardToWork” and end with “Sincerely, Future Medical Student.” Everyone who has a say in your acceptance or denial of admission will read every e-mail you send. It’s a tried-and-true written record that can be tracked and forwarded from program coordinator to selection committee. Represent yourself both online and off as a professional who is mature enough to begin medical school, and you’ll be bound to start off with a great first impression.

Interview Tip 3: Say thank you.

If you’ve been invited to interview, the committee has decided that you’re more than just what you appear to be on paper. This is great news because they want to know you, the person.

The professional thing to do after a formal interview is to send a thank you note unless specifically told not to do so. Leaving a positive impression on the program with a thank you note is not only classy, but also gives you another opportunity to express your interest and remind the selection committee about your enthusiasm about the program.

I would personally avoid telling multiple programs that a particular school is “your number one choice” because this may come back to bite you. The community of medical schools is a small one, and word gets out among the applicants who may be saying different things to different programs. In this process, honesty about yourself is your biggest ally. It shows maturity and professionalism.

If you’ve found this to be helpful, stick around for Part II. Coming soon!


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