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New Orleans, LA 70125
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- Ms. Quo Vadis M. Webster, MA, LPC
- Director of Premedical Program
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The Interview Process/Sample Questions (updated 2/9/17)
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.
- Review interview preparation materials made available by individual health professions schools or professional school education associations such as the AAMC's (Association of American Medical Colleges) " Medical School Interviews" series at https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/applying-medical-school-process/medical-school-interviews/.
- 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 on the internet. Go to https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/what-its-participate-multiple-mini-interviews-mmis/ to view the AAMC's MMI Fact Sheet. Also, free online MMI resources are made available by Columbia University's Bioethics Master of Science program.
- 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 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. Go to https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/how-social-media-can-affect-your-application/ for more guidance on social media best practices.
- 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. ADDITIONALLY, make sure that voicemail greetings for your contact phone numbers 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. Health professions schools are very conservative. Therefore, you should dress in traditional interview attire-- a suit, tie, collared shirt, etc. for men and the equivalent for women. For men, we recommend the following: a navy or dark grey suit with a white or blue shirt (without any patterns), coordinated non-patterned socks, and lace-up leather dress shoes (e.g. wing tips). For women, we recommend the following: navy, black, or dark grey skirt suit with a white or light blue blouse (avoid sheer material); alternately, a dress with matching suit jacket or pant suit; no discernible undergarments; hosiery (neutral colored preferred); one pair of small stud earrings (if wearing earrings); and conservative closed-toe shoes (heel no higher than 2" preferred). For men and women, wild colors or styles are NOT okay---you don't want to stand out for the wrong reason!!! Neither are flashy jewelry, visible tatoos, exposed body piercings, earrings on males, multiple earrings on females, "flashy" hairstyles, unkempt hair, ungroomed facial hair, etc.. Regardless of your hairstyle (both males and female)s, please make sure your hair is well-groomed (we do suggest that males with dreadlocks wear them neatly pulled back if possible). YES, how you look shouldn't make any difference BUT life isn't fair!! For reference, print off the How to Dress Professionally document from Oklahoma University's Premedical Professions Advising Office and read it carefully. If you have ANY questions about your interview day attire, please stop by the Premedical Office or visit Xavier's Office of Career Services well in advance of the interview.
- 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 NEATLY 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 and be prepared to ASK QUESTIONS because some interviewers will ask you if you have questions about the school and you don't want to just sit there if this happens. You should know the MISSION of each school and how the mission appeals to you and your goals as a potential student and future health professional. You should also prepare a list of questions to ask about the school because often, interviewers will ask if you have any inquiries about the school, program, etc. Be sure NOT to ask questions where the answers are readily available on the website or some other source. Research the schools that you have been granted interviews at by visiting their websites, catalogs, etc. 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. Also, be mindful of interview questions that are inappropriate. For perspective, review Preparing for Medical School Interviews by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
- 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 hurt 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 harder for standardized exams, and I just underestimated the time it would take" or something similar. Make certain you don't justify low grades or low test entrance exam scores 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 (clearly, NOT a comprehensive list!):
- 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.)
- 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 inner-city, rural, or under-served area? 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?
- 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.