1 Drexel Drive
New Orleans, LA 70125
- Full-Time Staff
- Quo Vadis Maria Webster, MA, LPC
- Premedical Adviser
(504) - 520-7437
- Part-Time Staff
- JW Carmichael, Jr.
- Director of Premed Program
- Professor of Chemistry
The Interview Process/Sample Questions (updated 2/4/14)
This document was prepared to assist students at Xavier University of Louisiana when preparing for interviews required of applicants to medical, dental, and similar health professional schools.
Overview: Evaluation of an application for medical/dental school generally takes place in two stages. In the first stage, admissions committees ask "Can the applicant handle the academic load (the equivalent of about 40 hours a semester)?". Grades, MCAT/DAT scores, and (sometimes) letters of evaluation are used to answer this question.
If the answer to the first question is "Yes", the admissions committees then proceed to the second stage to ask "Will the applicant be a good physician/dentist?" Evaluations and the written portions of the application (personal statement, etc.) are used to obtain a preliminary answer to this question. If it appears that the answer to this question is "Yes", applicants are invited in for an interview, after which, a final decision is made regarding the applicant. Thus, if you are asked to come for an interview, the school has probably already decided that you can handle the academic load and they are looking primarily to see if you would function well as a physician or dentist. Advice for preparing for interviews is presented below.
General advice about interviews:
- If you are offered the choice between an interview at the school or a regional one, go to the school instead of taking a regional interview. Regional interviews are not ideal because a) you don't get to see the school you are considering and b) you are usually at the mercy of ONE interviewer rather than having the chance to make your case with a number of people.
- If you are offered a choice of dates to interview, try to take the interview as early as possible. Waiting until the end of the semester or until it is convenient for you may hurt your chance of getting accepted.
- Some U. S. schools are replacing the traditional one-on-one interview with the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI), a format popularized by Canadian medical schools. CHECK WITH EACH SCHOOL TO SEE WHAT INTERVIEW FORMAT IS UTILIZED. The MMI consists of a series of interview stations or encounters where the applicant is given a specific scenario that he/she must respond to in a given amount of time. The scenarios are designed to assess non-cognitive variables that are deemed desirable for health care professionals (e.g. empathy, compassion, problem-solving skills, team work, integrity, multi-cultural competence, professionalism, etc.). Applicants are usually given 9-10 minutes to respond to each specific scenario (app. 8-10 scenarios), thus giving applicants the opportunity to demonstrate how well they "think on their feet." Raters, the individuals who are positioned at the individual stations, may be faculty, staff, or administrators form the school or surrounding community. Schools that utilize the MMI format typically provide an overview of the MMI on their websites. You may also search for sample MMI scenarios on the internet.
- XU's Office of Career Services offers mock interviews for medical, dental, etc. school, jobs, internships, and other opportunities for which you need interview practice. Please stop by Career Services (http://www.xula.edu/career-services/index.php) to schedule a mock interview.
- Monitor personal information that you put on SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES!!! If you absolutely have to maintain a page on MySpace, Facebook, etc., be vary careful as to the information, pictures, wall posts, music, etc. that you make available on those sites. We have received feedback directly from medical, dental, etc. school admissions committees indicating that applicant profiles are often reviewed on social networking sites and information found on such sites can negatively impact application for professional school, employment, etc. Be sure to enable maximum security settings and be vigilant in monitoring friend requests, etc.
- Provide schools with PROFESSIONAL contact information. The contact information requested on applications and any documents associated with your education or employment should be PROFESSIONAL. That is, the email address you provide should not be inappropriate (for example, sexyMD2be@email.com is NOT acceptable). Provide a professional email address, like your XULA email address (NOTE: In XULA mail, you can go to "OPTIONS," "LOCAL ACCOUNT, then "FORWARDING" to have emails sent to your XULA account forwarded to another email account that you check daily). ADDITIONALLY, make sure that voicemail greetings attached to any contact phone numbers that you provide are APPROPRIATE!! Music, explicit language, etc. on voicemail greetings will NOT give admissions committees a good impression of you as a prospective physician, dentist, etc.
- Dress appropriately. The health professions schools are very conservative. Therefore, you should dress as you would for church-- a suit, tie, etc. for men and the equivalent for women. Print off the How to Dress Professionally document from Oklahoma University's Premedical Professions Advising Office and read it carefully. Wild colors or styles are NOT okay. Neither are flashy jewelry, pinky rings (on males), rings anywhere except the fingers on males, rings anywhere except in the ears or on fingers on females, visible tatoos, "flashy" hairstyles, or braids on men. If you have dreadlocks, please make sure your hair is well-groomed (we suggest that males with long dreadlocks wear them neatly pulled back). (Yes, how you look shouldn't make any difference BUT life isn't fair!! Therefore, just grin and dress the part now. After you get your M.D., D.D.S., or whatever, you can dress however you like.)
- The interview begins when you walk out your front door and ends when you return. It is a serious mistake to think the interview begins when you enter the room with an interviewer and ends when you walk out of that room. The person who sits beside you on the plane or beside you in the waiting room or across the table at lunch may be asked their opinion regarding your character, ability to communicate with others, etc. Further, don't think that interviews are only conducted by faculty or staff. At many schools, the students with whom you stay or interact are asked their opinion. Therefore, conduct yourself accordingly.
- How to wear a name badge. Often times, interviewees are given a name badge when they arrive for the interview. If the badge is not pre-printed, be sure to NEARTLY print your first and last name on it unless you are instructed to do otherwise. AND, if it is the type of name badge that attaches directly to your clothing, you should place it on the RIGHT side. Why? So that when you shake hands, and many people do so with the right hand, your name badge will be in the person's direct line of sight.
- When you meet people, look them in the eye, grasp their hand firmly, and shake hands as if you mean it. Also when talking to people look at them. If you don't, people tend to perceive you as "sneaky".
- Follow table etiquette if a meal is provided before, during, or after the interview. As indicated, you are CONSTANTLY being evaluated during every facet of the interview (whether you know it or not). Print off the Good Manners at the Lunch Table document from Oklahoma University's Premedical Professions Advising Office and read it carefully. We want to make sure that you practice good table etiquette!!!
- Try to avoid controversial topics. But, if you can't, stick to your opinions. You should try to avoid controversial topics such as politics, religion, or affirmative action. However, if you can't avoid them, be prepared to state your opinions and then defend them while, at the same time, respecting the rights of others to differ with you. It is generally a mistake to change your ideas when faced with opposition from an interviewer.
- Familiarize yourself with the current ETHICAL CODE of your intended profession because questions in the one-on-one interview and scenarios in the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) may relate directly to principles of ethics and professional conduct. Medical school applicants should review the American Medical Association Code of Medical Ethics, dental school applicants should review the American Dental Association Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct, and applicants to other health professions schools should identify the nationally recognized organization that is responsible for providing ethical standards for the profession.
- Look up information about the school before the interview because some interviewers do nothing but ask you if you have questions about the school and you don't want to just sit there if this happens. Research the schools that you have been granted interviews at by visiting their websites well in advance of your interview.
- Read the school's statement regarding PROFESSIONALISM so that you'll be prepared for questions regarding professionalism during the interview. Many schools have a statement regarding professionalism for medical students and physicians (check each school's website). Professionalism guidelines are designed to help guide students and physicians in practicing ethical and compassionate medicine in a diverse society. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has several publications on this topic, and we encourage you to review them BEFORE your interview.
- Don't try to second guess the interviewers, i.e. Don't try to give the interviewer what you think he/she wants to hear. To do so makes you seem shallow. Be truthful and say what you think while at the same time, trying to avoid controversy.
- Don't get upset if you are asked questions you can't answer. Don't try to evaluate your performance during the interview. Try to stay calm and relaxed during the interview process. Specifically, don't get upset if some interviewer asks you questions you can't answer. Some purposely ask questions which they don't think you can answer to see how you react under pressure. Also don't try to evaluate your performance during the interviewing process because some folks who are very nice to your face will give you poor interview marks while others who ask you tough questions and put you on the spot, will give you good marks for your performance under pressure.
- Be prepared for questions on topics of general interest, especially health-related issues. Medical and dental schools generally want students who will be leaders in their communities. One of the common ways for an interviewer to make certain that you are not just a "lab nerd" is to ask questions about current events, books you have read recently, etc. A good way to keep up to date is to read Time or Newsweek (or a similar weekly publication). A particular issue of more recent concern is health care reform; be sure you understand the scope of the current reform. And, you should always have a book that you read when you have spare time.
- Be honest. Even the impression that you are dishonest will kill you.
- READ THIS PART CAREFULLY: If asked why your MCAT scores are low, make certain your answer doesn't cut off any chance of your doing better on standardized tests in the future. i.e. Don't say things such as "I am a poor test taker" because this leaves no possibility for your doing better in the future. Instead, say "I have to study hard for standardized exams, and I just underestimated the time it would take" or something similar. Make certain you don't justify low grades by shutting off the possibility of doing better in the future.
- Finally, if you have a bad interview or a racial incident or some such, don't let it throw you off. Just take a deep breath, square your shoulders, and show them that you can handle adversity. After all, the problem may not have been as bad as you thought it was at the time.
Sample Questions You Should Be Prepared to Answer
- Why do you want to be a doctor?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- What are your specific goals in medicine? Be careful here. You don't want to be so specific that you sound unrealistic (after all you are still an undergraduate and can't know much about what medicine is REALLY like) BUT, on the other hand, don't be too vague because you then come across as if you don't know what you are getting into.
- What stimulated your interest in medicine?
- What do you think about HMO's, the state of Medicaid and Medicare, health care reform, and other changes taking place medicine? (Read Time or Newsweek EVERY week.)
- What are your opinions on abortion? (Don't volunteer you opinion because this is very controversial. However, if you are asked, have an answer ready.)
- What schools have you applied to? (Be honest.)
- What do you intend to gain from medical education?
- What do you think about euthanasia? (If you don't know what it means, use the dictionary!!)
- Why do you think so many people want to be doctors?
- Do you think a physician should tell a patient he/she has eight months to live?
- Pretend you are me, and I am you. What would you look for in an applicant?
- There are 1,000 applicants equally as qualified as you. Why should we pick you?
- Why do doctors have the highest suicide rate among professionals?
- What steps have you taken to acquaint yourself with what a physician does?
- How would your plans differ if you knew that all physicians would be working in HMO's in the future?
- How much money do you expect to make as a doctor? (Look up data regarding average salaries before interviews.)
- Who would you like to see as President of the United States and why?
- What do you think is the most pressing issue in medicine today?
- What will you do if you don't get into medical school? (BE CAREFUL!! If you sound too ready to change, they will think you don't really want medicine.)
- What are your positive qualities and what are your shortcomings?
- What is your relationship with your family? (Good ones are a "+" since it shows you have support. But, if your family cannot be supportive, be ready to explain what alternate support system you have.)
- Do you have any plans for marriage in the near future?
- How do you feel that you would fit into a health profession as a person? As a woman? As a minority?
- How do you think your role as a physician fits in with your role as a member of the community?
- Describe your personality.
- What do you have to offer our school?
- What are the best and worst things that have ever happened to you? (Think about this in advance. It isn't easy to answer without sounding trite or superficial.)
- What do you see yourself doing in medicine 10-15 years from now?
- Is medicine a rewarding experience? Why?
- Would you practice in the ghetto or in the barrio? What do you think happens to people who practice medicine there (attitude changes, etc.)?
- If there was an accident on the highway, would you stop and help the victims, knowing that doing so might lead to a malpractice claim against you?
- What aspects of your life's experiences do you think make you a good candidate for medical school?
- Do you think giving minorities special breaks is fair? Alternately, what is your opinion of affirmative action? (Again, don't volunteer an opinion for this BUT be ready to answer it if necessary because it is an important topic today.)
- If your best friends were asked to describe you, what would they say?
- How do you plan to finance your medical education?
- As a woman, what kind of problems do you expect to encounter with regard to marriage? family? How can you handle such problems? (This is definitely sexist and probably illegal--but grin and bear it anyway.)
- What do you think about (...some current event)? (Read Time or Newsweek EVERY week.)
- Discuss a book which you have recently read for pleasure. Why does this book interest you?
- There is, especially in response to recent health care reform, a need for physicians to enter primary care fields. What are your thoughts on entering primary care (e.g. internal medicine, pediatrics, etc.) as opposed to more specialized fields in medicine?
Admissions committees have access to your academic/testing record (i.e. Cognitive Variables), so the interview (as well as your personal statement and post-secondary experiences) allow committee members to assess important Non-Cognitive Variables such as those outlined by William E. Sedlacek...
- Positive Self-Concept or Confidence
- Realistic Self-Appraisal
- Understands and Deals with Racism
- Prefers Long-Range Goals to Short-Term or Immediate Needs
- Availability of Strong Support System
- Successful Leadership Experience
- Demonstrated Community Service
- Demonstrated Medical Interests
For details on what might constitute high scores and low scores when admissions committees assess the above listed Non-Cognitive Variables, go to http://williamsedlacek.info/publications/articles/profiles1.html .
Finally, the sample questions provided in this document represent only a FEW that may be posed during an interview. It is important that you don't memorize these responses because a "scripted" interview impresses no one. Instead, take the time NOW to cultivate honest and thorough responses to these questions so that no matter how they are asked, you'll be prepared. Additionally, you should visit http://www.studentdoctor.net/ to access the "Interview Feedback" section that is maintained by students who have completed interviews at schools across the country. Also, familiarize yourself with the actual interview format (e.g. one-on-one, MMI, etc.) utilized at the schools by visiting their websites.