Interview Do's and Don'ts for Health Professions Students
NIHAL CHOWDURY It doesn’t matter whether you’re pre-med, pre-dental, pre-pharm, or pre-optometry — all pre-health professions students strive to get those allusive interview offers. You spend countless hours studying for exams, hundreds of hours volunteering and working in clinics, and a ridiculous amount of money to complete all of those primary and secondary admissions applications. After all that work, you’ve finally been offered an interview — the final obstacle between you and your dream school. This is the worst time to get lazy and miss your chance at receiving an admission offer. Follow these tips to go into your interviews fully prepared and confident.
BEFORE YOUR INTERVIEW
Set up a mock interview at the Health Professions Office. They usually fill up all of their mock interview spots quickly, so it’s better to schedule one sooner than later. Treat the mock interview like the real thing. You’ll have the opportunity to practice answering questions, receiving constructive criticism on your performance, and most importantly, building confidence in your interview skills. If you can’t schedule one in, be sure to practice answering questions with either yourself or someone else. Spend some time researching the school you are interviewing at. There is a very good chance you’ll be asked something along the lines of “why do you want to come to our school?” Show the interviewers you took the time to do research. Researching the school ahead of time also gives you the chance to prepare well-written questions to ask during the interview, another way to show your interviewer that you’re interested in their school. Try not to ask generic questions that you can easily find on their website — it’s much more impressive if you ask questions that are specific to the school.
Be sure to look up common interview questions. A quick search on Google can give you hundreds of frequently asked questions. Some sources you may find helpful are Student Doctor Network's Interview Feedback and the Health Professions Office’s sample interview questions. It may also be wise to spend some time reading up on issues going on in your chosen profession. There is always a chance your interviewer will want to discuss current events, and you definitely want to be well-informed. Finally, take some time to go through your application and essays. You will want to be able to talk about any aspect of your application easily if your interviewer asks.
THE DAY OF THE INTERVIEW
Dress to impress. Wear business professional attire — your looks matter! The whole point of an interview is to make a good impression and show the interviewers that you’re the type of person they want at their school. It’s safer to dress more conservatively, but don’t be afraid to be a little more colorful to show off your uniqueness—as long as it’s not too flashy! I would also recommend getting yourself a portfolio folder. You may get a lot of papers during your interview visit, so a portfolio folder is a great way to hold on to everything while maintaining a professional look. It also gives you a great way to jot down notes and questions you can refer to later.
Go into the school with a smile and a good attitude Be friendly and courteous to everyone, and make conversation with the other interviewees. Talking to the other interviewees will help calm your nerves, show that you’re a people’s person, and give you an opportunity to get to know your possible future classmates. Interview visits typically take up the whole day and include a tour of the school, a chance to talk to current students, and a few presentations given by members of the admissions committee. Treat the whole day as one long interview and assume everyone you talk to can make an impact! You should be professional the whole time and try to leave a good impression with everyone you meet.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
Show the interviewer that you are passionate about the profession, that you can have a conversation with someone and that you are the type of person that your future classmates and patients will be able to get along with and trust. Always be professional, but try to relax a bit and enjoy yourself. I found my interviews to be more like a conversation than anything else. During many of my interviews, we spent most of the time talking about our personal lives and what we like to do for fun. It was like meeting someone for the first time over a cup of coffee, and I was surprised by how easy-going some of my interviews were. After the interview, send your interviewers a thank-you e-mail if you want — it won’t have any effect on your admissions, but it is a nice gesture, especially if you had a good time.
If you have the bad luck of getting a really tough interviewer, make sure to stay positive and still give the interview 100% of your effort. You never know how everything will end up, and even the seemingly worst interviews can end up with great evaluations. Always stay hopeful. Just remember, if you get an interview it means that the admissions committee was impressed with you and thought that you would be a good student at their school—believe in yourself and prove them right! If you’re confident in yourself and go in prepared, there is nothing to fear!