Selling Yourself in the Medical School Interview (Part 1)

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interviewing-skills5Interviewing is all about self-promotion. If you were selling a car, you would want the customer to walk away with an idea of the car being, for example, 1. Safe. 2. Stylish. 3. Efficient. etc.

This time, you are selling your application and yourself. The unique abilities and intelligence that got you this far need to be emphasized so you can stand out.

For me, I wanted to make sure that the interviewer knew a few things..

1. That I REALLY want to be a doctor.
2. 
I’m a confident and relaxed, and humble person who can have a conversation about many topics.
3. 
I have some unique experiences and skills that make me an ideal medical school candidate.
4. 
I value what you (the interviewer) has to say, and I am interested in your experiences and opinions.

There were many applicants who told me how “easy” their interview was because they barely even talked about medicine and were never asked difficult questions. Instead they talked about a shared hobby like golf. Unfortunately, that disregards goal number one and three and gives the interviewer little to talk about when they present you to the committee. There were other applicants who only talked about medically related things, and that also can be a disservice to the applicant because it neglects an opportunity to show you are a well-rounded person with other interests. Now, let me explain why each of these four goals is important….

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I REALLY want to be a doctor.

This is probably the most critical point to get across. You don’t want to sound desperate, but you should express that you would be highly disappointed if you could not be a doctor. For instance, if they were to ask you “what would you do if you didn’t get into medical school?” and you immediately said “I’d probably become a teacher because bla bla bla” while the next guy said “hmmm….that’s tough because I’ve had my sights on medical school for years and medicine is my passion, but if I had to choose I would probably become a teacher…” The interviewer has reason to believe that the second guy just wants it more. And something inside of us all interviewers would say that the person who wants it more should get the spot.

I’m a confident and relaxed, and humble person who can have a conversation about many topics.

Do whatever you need to do to be relaxed and confident. If listening to motivational music or taking deep breaths helps you get in the interviewing zone, then go for it. Also, listen to other celebrities and people of authority. President Obama is a good example of someone who is relaxed and articulate during interviews. Interviewing doesn’t have to be super stressful; it can be a fun experience if you allow yourself to enjoy it.

Being confident, relaxed and genuine at the same time can only come with practice conversing with strangers and other people especially of importance. This is why you should always take advantage of your opportunities to converse with others. Remember to smile when appropriate and find places to insert your humor. Telling jokes is one of the best ways to stand out as an applicant because interviewers rarely hear it, and it shows you are comfortable and having a good time. In one of my interviews, I walked in the door to a doctor’s office and saw my interviewer with his dog. “Is he going to be interviewing me too?” I said. My interviewer started laughing and it was a great start to our conversation.

Also, even if the circumstances are not ideal, remain confident, relaxed and sincere. At my UCSD interview, I was misdirected and had to run around Thornton Hospital asking if anyone knew my interviewer. Finally, after 30 minutes, I met up with him. I remember it was temping to lose my cool and begin apologizing and blaming the school for their poor directions. I chose not to and and instead expressed excitement in having the chance to interview with him. He definitely appreciated my positivity, and I ended up being accepted and am now a UCSD medical student.

I have some unique experiences and skills that make me an ideal medical school candidate.

My third goal should be for everyone as well. Always make sure you have experiences to back up your personal thoughts. For instance, if you are a self-driven person you should be able to point to specific experiences that show you are self-motivated. You should also look through typical medical school interview questions online and see if you can support each answer you have with an personal example (some examples should be used more than once because some are stronger and more impressive than others) For instance, if my interviewer was to ask me if I was creative, innovation, or able to apply my knowledge do different settings, I would tell them about how I taught 9th graders at Pruess about nucleotides and transcription with different pairs of shoes because molecular structures and scientific terminology were over their heads. This example worked for many types of questions.

I value what you (the interviewer) has to say, and I am interested in your experiences and opinions.

The idea behind the fourth goal is to show that you are a curious and engaging person. I also believe it’s important to personally connect with the interviewer. The faculty or student are going to be more inclined to endorse you if they developed a relationship with you through conversation instead of being talked to by you. Although you are the interviewee, you can still ask your own questions. Throughout the interview, it’s better if you can ask some questions to them. For example, if they ask you about your opinion of the new health care bill, answer their question, but you could also add “but I don’t have the angle that you have as an Anesthesiologist. How would the bill affect your work?” This shows humility, curiosity and a value of the other person’s opinion. The more 50/50 your interview is, the more likely your interviewer is to look back on it as an enjoyable conversation as opposed to a standard interview. Lastly, you should have several questions ready at the end about the school and the interviewer’s opinion on aspects of it. Again I think it’s better to ask something like “I’m interested in global health. What do YOU think are some of the best programs or opportunities this school offers in Global Health” Compare this with “Does this school have any global health programs?” Most people would rather give their opinion than tell you about something and again you will connect better this way. Keep in mind that you don’t make ALL of your questions personal as this takes away from the variety of your question types.