By: Ryan Kelly & Rob Humbracht
Most pre-meds start preparing for their interview a few weeks before their actual interview at a medical school. If you’re adept at talking to strangers and feel comfortable thinking on your feet, this approach will work just fine for you.
In our experience, though, most pre-meds aren’t. Many pre-meds lack the basic skills to succeed in the interpersonal interview (to say nothing of the MMI). Others COULD be good interviewers but get undermined by a lack of confidence or a surfeit of anxiety.
What’s necessary for a successful interview? A combination of skills and knowledge:
- Communication skills
- Listening skills
- Knowledge of the medical field and medical ethics
- Knowledge of current events
- Knowledge of the school where you’re interviewing
The skills are hard to fake, while the knowledge takes time and dedication to pursue. With the rise of the Multiple, Mini Interview, other skills are tested:
You don’t have to be brilliant at your interview, but you must pass the tests thrown at you. A Kaplan survey of medical school admissions officers revealed that the interview was actually the most important admissions factor. Other surveys show it further down the list. Either way, the interview will often make or break your chances of getting in.
How do you go about building these skills? Some of our former students have done one of the following:
Interview Skill-Building #1: Take an acting/improv class
You might think your life is already dramatic enough, but adding a little more drama might go a long way in your interview preparation.
Acting classes force you to think on your feet, assume the identity of people much different than yourself, and play out scenarios that are wrought with tension.
As a result, you’ll gain confidence and empathy, as well as the ability to infer what others are thinking or feeling. All of these skills will be crucial when interviewing, especially during acting stations in an MMI format.
If your college doesn’t offer acting classes, you will likely be able to find affordable alternatives in your local neighborhood through a quick Google search. Don’t hesitate! Adventures as a thespian might seem like a diversion, but we believe it will pay big dividends on your application journey.
Interview Skill-Building #2: Become a teaching assistant
If the theater spotlight isn’t your thing, then perhaps you’d prefer the overhead fluorescence of the large lecture hall. You’ll need to apply to become a teaching assistant, but as long as you’ve maintained good grades and friendly relationships with your professors, you’ll have a good shot at securing a TA position.
Teaching requires substance, but it also requires performance. It requires you to know your audience and cater to their needs in an engaging fashion. It will give you practice answering unexpected questions and communicating ideas in multiple ways to make information more accessible.
Take it from us -- there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as standing in front of hundreds (or simply dozens) of eager young minds. We believe that if you can handle that pressure, then you’ll be far less intimidated by the two or three faces across from you at the interview table.
Interview Skill-Building #3: Join the debate team
Many interview questions will test your knowledge of current events and ethics, as well as your ability to communicate your thoughts in an articulate and convincing matter. Joining the debate team might be the perfect simulation of these challenges.
On a debate team, you’ll be forced to absorb information quickly, create an informed argument, and communicate your points in a concise presentation. Your critical thinking will be tested, and you will be exposed to the multiple sides of important, topical issues.
This practice in rhetoric, problem-solving, and teamwork will be invaluable when faced with complex interview questions or tricky MMI stations.
Interview Skill-Building #4: Join Toastmasters
Toastmasters is a world leader in communication and leadership development. Its 345,000 members improve their speaking and leadership skills by attending one of the 15,900 clubs in 142 countries that make up its global network.
Every Toastmaster’s journey begins with a single speech. During the program, you will learn to tell your story with passion and universal appeal. You will make plans and lead in their execution. You will learn to listen, answer, give feedback, and accept criticism. Through the Toastmasters community of learners, you can find your voice and unique leadership style.
By regularly giving speeches, gaining feedback, leading teams, and guiding others to achieve their goals in a supportive atmosphere, you will emerge as an an interview superstar.
Interview Skill-Building #5: Become the leader of a student organization
Colleges have hundreds of clubs and student organizations. Find one or two, and dive in!
Ideally, you’d not only be following your passions, but also “putting yourself out there” in the community. Get involved early, so that you can work your way up the ranks in the organization and run for one of its coveted positions, like president or event coordinator.
Your goal should be to lead, collaborate, and manage your peers toward specific goals, whether that’s fundraising for cancer research or planning a cross-country skiing trip. Gain as much practice as you can with public speaking, leading meetings, and mediating group conflicts or decisions.
Do not wait until interview season to practice as a leader and communicator. These interpersonal skills must be accumulated and honed over time, so don’t dawdle when it comes to getting involved. Seek out the activities in college that force you out of your comfort zone and put you in contact with diverse people.
What are some other ways you’ve prepared for interviews during college? Share them by commenting below!