Preparing for Medical School interviews: Just Another Date, Literally!

First of all, congratulations on getting a medical school interview! This, on its own, is a huge accomplishment and you should be extremely proud. Whomever is reading this, your journey will be very different from mine, and very different from others applying. Use that to your advantage! Your personality and road to medicine is something no one will know better than yourself. With that being said, as you prepare for your interviews whether it be an MMI (multi mini interview), MPI (modified personal interview), or panel interview, I think it is extremely important to take any advice given with a grain of salt, including mine! I say this because what may have worked for me, may not work for you. There is no “right” way to interview. There are dozens of tips and tricks that people can offer, but at the end of the day if you don’t feel comfortable implementing something: DON’T DO IT. You want to be yourself and if someone gives you advice that doesn’t flow with your vibe, don’t feel the need to implement it!

With that said, I want to share my approach to each medical school interview and what really felt comfortable for me. My idea walking in was to treat each interview as if I was about to meet someone my friends introduced me to at a social event; it could be a potential date, a colleague, a co-worker etc. (arguably, on a first date you would probably ask more questions and do less talking…or so my friends who have been on dates tell me). Nonetheless, not only does this help with nerves but many things you hopefully do in a social setting are traits you can (and should) be bringing into the interview!

  • Rule #1: Get to know your date (aka interviewer)

Treat every room you go into as a speed dating night, where you are about to meet someone and not only sell yourself, but genuinely get to know them. Nothing is more attractive than someone taking interest in you on a date. Although this might be challenging in MMIs that have specific questions related to ethical scenarios, you will undoubtedly encounter the “get to know you” questions. These might be as simple as a “tell me about yourself?” or “tell me about your passions?”. Whatever the question is, I always look for opportunities to get them involved. For example, if you play a sport, asking the panel “I’m not sure if anyone played soccer in high school?” before going on your spiel could be an approach. Sometimes you will get an enthusiastic interviewer who will engage in some dialogue, and other times you might just get blank stares. Regardless, engaging the interviewers whenever you can be both a great skill and switches things up from their normal routine of just sitting and listening to countless students talking.

  • Rule #2: Read the date/interviewer!

Something I am always striving towards and think is an extremely admirable trait in some of my role models is their social awareness. On a date, while talking you are (hopefully) looking at verbal and non-verbal cues your date gives you. If your date seems uninterested or starts scrolling through his or her Instagram feed, clearly you should change the topic. Same rules can be applied in every interview. I made sure I was always “reading the room”. If I am going on a tangent and noticing the interviewer not fully engaged, I will switch onto something more exciting, or throw in a personal anecdote, or drop a joke; anything to spice things up. On the other hand, if you are talking about something that might seem irrelevant but you can tell the interviewer is engaged and they are asking questions about your experience, don’t be afraid to delve into it!

  • Rule #3: Try to make them laugh (when reasonable!)

Who doesn’t love a funny date!? This is probably a rule I prioritized during my interviews and one that I felt had the biggest impact on the ambience in the room. Everyone has a different sense of humor, so it is also important to be careful with this, but I really enjoyed throwing in self-deprecating humor whenever I could. I found that talking constantly about your accomplishments, extra-curriculars, awards and other achievements can sometimes make people think you see yourself on a pedestal. Nothing brings you back to reality more than some self-deprecating humor. That being said, timing is everything: if you are about to do an ethics question, maybe a joke might not be the greatest entrance line; however, when trying to build rapport and lighten the mood, a joke can go a long way!

  • Rule #4: Be genuine

If you start a date with lies, you will undoubtedly get caught because your date will start to get suspicious. Likewise, interviewers can tell when people are genuine about something they are talking about and when they aren’t. I know this gets said multiple times and I don’t need to write about why it’s so important because if you want, you can read it in the dozens of other blog posts emphasizing the same point. I thought being genuine was just so important that it deserved to be mentioned here too (and below).

To put this all into perspective, I will tell you a personal experience of mine during a medical school interview. During one of my interview answers, I took a tangent and began to talk about my passion for playing guitar. I told my interviewer how my friends and I would get together after class and record ourselves for hours as we tried to make music in effort to become the next Maroon 5. I gauged that my interviewer was interested, and asked whether he played any instruments. Instantly, a conversation was sparked about both our passion for music. For over half of the station, we were so deep into our conversation that I not only forgot the initial question, but began to worry that I was digressing too much. However, he didn’t seem to even care and I could tell he was equally enthusiastic about learning more. I even went as far as telling him that he should “totally add me on Facebook” to check out a (crude) video of my playing and singing. He joked back mentioning he only has Facebook because his grandkids set up an account for him. Before I knew it, the timer went off and that was the end of our time. Just as I was shutting the door on my way out, he says “once you hear back, reach out to me”. At that point, I wasn’t sure whether he said that because a) I was atrocious and he wants to work on my interview skills with me or b) he really enjoyed the discussion. However; I was able to reconnect with him and I was relieved to hear it was the latter. He told me that as an interviewer, the one thing he can see right through people is their genuineness. Despite clearly going off topic, I didn’t try to squeeze in any research, or club executive position. Instead, I found common ground and was able to show genuine interest not only in my own passions but in others as well, as if it was another day meeting someone at the bar!

To finish off, as a wise man (rapper) once said, “If you are what you say you are, a superstar, then have no fear, the camera’s here”. If you already got an interview, they clearly see something in you! It is your time to shine so don’t be afraid, keep it real, and be genuine.

Best of luck!