Medical School Interviews - do sweat the small stuff!

So it is that time of year again, when all your friends seem to be getting medical school interviews, and you are just chilling there with a UCAS screen that has been unchanged since 11.50pm on October 14th. However, if you are lucky enough to have received an interview invite, you have probably Googled at least twenty times to find some last minute tips and preparation advice, and the majority of posts and articles focus on what you should be learning for the interview. And don't worry, I will mention that in this post. But the main reason I wrote this post is because I want to mention some small but key things which I think will help you gain an edge and really allow yourself to perform well at the interview.

The 'small' stuff

Come prepared 

OK so this isn't exactly a minor thing that you may not have thought about, and it sounds so obvious, but don’t wing it. Seriously don't. The medical interview is different to a regular one, and it is such a competitive process that, chances are, now matter how good your interview skills are, without preparation, you will not get an offer.
If you don’t have key points for common questions, and haven’t read up on healthcare news or ethics, you don’t stand a chance. The competition is way too high. In fact, you should have read some anyway because you probably are quite interested in becoming a doctor, and will want to read about the issues we face in modern medicine.

Know why they are interviewing you 

You can know this through a combination of looking at their admissions process, the interviews:offer ratio and what previous applicants have said on TheStudentRoom.
Let's take the example of UCL. They don’t interview many people, and the interview is more personal to you. They aren’t pitting you against everyone else in a hunger games style battle to the death to see who survives. They want to find out more about you and get to know you as a person.
Contrary to popular belief, a lot of places are not intending to grill you for the interview. The point of an interview at many universities is to allow you an opportunity to shine. So don't look at this experience as a gruesome test, but an opportunity for you to showcase to the admissions team exactly why you are the perfect candidate to become a doctor.
If you are at an MMI interview, see if there is an FoI request or links on the website for each station. It will be very useful to see what skills they want to see from you at each stage, so make sure that you are able to show them that you have that particular skill in abundance!

Convey the right emotions 

When you express yourself, what you say counts for 7% of the effectiveness of the message. So you can draft the model answers, and practice over and over again, but if you don't nail the delivery, then you are only limiting yourself to this 7% (which just isn't good maths really).
The other 93% consists of your tone of voice (38%) and your body language (55%), and if these numbers don't convince you, then I'm not sure what will! When you are practicing for your interview, once you know roughly what you are going to say for a question, then practice perfecting HOW you say it.
When talking about why you want to study Medicine, or about patients you met in your work experience, it is so important that you get across the feeling of empathy and passion. An interviewer wants to see that you genuinely want to study Medicine, and you are confident enough to be able to practice. And with my experience with mock interview tuition, the ones that we really remember are the people that are very confident and able to have a good discussion as well as sound genuinely passionate for the subject.

Be reflective 

Something that you will never hear the end of once you get into the career, but this is with good reason. Being reflective is something that is vital in healthcare, because it aims to ensure that we learn from our mistakes and give patients the best possible care. Therefore, medical schools therefore want to see that you are able to employ the same attitude to your own life.
Say you are talking about your work experiences - do not spend a solid minute talking about the procedures you saw. To put it bluntly, it doesn't really matter, and nobody really cares. It is way more important to demonstrate that you were active during your work experience, and that you learned valuable lessons that are going to make you a better medical student or doctor. So focus more on what you did and what you learned from the experience rather than what you saw the consultant do.

Make them feel like they need to accept you

The human population is not a bunch of Spocks running around making decisions based purely on logic, and the admissions panel are no exception. People tend to make decisions based on how they feel about the consequences of these. More logically minded people will feel like a decision is better if there is more 'logic' to it, but ultimately the decision is still being made because the person feels like it is the best choice.
Make sure you keep this in mind when you deliver your answers. You as an interviewee want the panel to be excited about you coming into the medical school, becoming a great doctor and contributing to the life of the medical school.

The obvious stuff 

I am going to make this a short list of key points, and maybe include a link or two if I think a particular website is good for it. I would highly recommend getting the medical interviews book by ISC medical, which goes through a lot of questions that interviews like to ask, and examples of model answers and points you should consider. There is also more general advice for the interview, including frameworks you should use for your answers.
Additionally, for medical ethics, a lot of people find the Medical Ethics: A Very Short Introduction useful, and I think it is a good start to understand the issues regarding various medical ethics topics.

The List 

  • Know why you want to do medicine and why you want to apply. 
  • Be able to talk reflectively about your work experiences. Read around stuff that you saw, because they might ask you about it if you mention a particular disease. 
  • Know about the skills related to Medicine and be armed with experiences that show you have these in abundance e.g. communication, leadership, teamwork, empathy, etc.
  • Medical ethics are a must! Know about the four ethical principles, and how they apply to a variety of ethical situations, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, consent, etc. 
  • Health economics. This is a very current topic, and some of you may be engaged in discussion of this. 
  • Health news. Please read health articles, and read both sides of the argument so that you can have an excellent debate in the interview room! 
  • Research & Audit - if you have mentioned anything to do with this in your application, know about the role of these in medicine, and the benefits, challenges and issues regarding them. 
  • Personal statement. Know yours inside out. Study it. Prepare for a grilling on it. 

What not to do

Do not script answers

Scripting answers is an absolute no no. You do need to know what you are going to say for the common questions, but don't practice the exact same paragraph so many times, because you will just sound robotic. The interviewer will meet many applicants, and if you have a boring, dreary answer, chances are they won't even bother trying to listen to what you say. You need to make them excited about you and want to accept you into their medical school, so it is incredibly important that you can convey feelings and talk about yourself in an interesting way!

Do not lack confidence and sell yourself short 

As I mentioned above, confidence is paramount. You need to show that you can handle the pressure of the interview so that you can give yourself the best chance of showcasing your talents and abilities. A lack of confidence will show, and it will really impact on the delivery of your answers, even if what you are saying is ground-breaking stuff. Do not shoot yourself in the foot - you deserve a place at medical school, so show the interviewer that this is the case!

Do not be arrogant 

Conversely, don't be one of those. Confidence is important, but don't be so confident that you sound arrogant in your answers. We want doctors to be humble individuals that are understanding and accepting of everyone, so try your best to not come across as someone that is self-absorbed, arrogant and non-tolerant!
If you are in a debate, consider the alternative point of view. The interviewer may challenge your viewpoints, but don't refute their point in a condescending way such that they get a bad impression of you.
This might be hard to achieve if you are a naturally confident person, so practice your answers and ask somebody to describe how you are coming across. It is important that you are confident but also show humility and acceptance for others.

Final Words 

Overall, the interview is as much about portraying yourself as much as testing your knowledge and motivation. Sometimes, you may question how somebody got into a medical school when they are not as motivated/interested as somebody else, but interview skills are a huge part of the process. In fact, trying to master them will help you in the future, because you are always going to have interviews for jobs in the future. Being able to sell yourself is not something that comes naturally to most seventeen year olds, and this process is a great way of getting you to start practicing the skill early. Don't take the interview process to be a gruelling challenge, but take it as an opportunity for you to develop a strong foundation of skills that you will continue to work on in the future! 

Comments

  1. This is fantastic advice Indrajeet, I will definitely take these points on board for my interviews next week! I'll be sure to check out some of your other blog posts.

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