September 22, 2020

7 Insider Tips on Medical School Virtual Interviews from Real Applicants

The Savvy Premed

By: Savvy Pre-Med Staff

Medical school virtual interviews are a new frontier, and their technology platforms can be finicky, so it’s hard to know what to expect.  

Maybe you’ve been scouring Reddit or SDN, or maybe you’ve been asking all your pre-med friends about their virtual interview experiences, but it’s certainly not easy to find helpful information right now.

But that’s why we’re here!

Now that medical school virtual interviews are underway, we’ve talked to some applicants who have interviewed already, so that we could pick their brains and share some insider tips with you.   

Hopefully these insider tips will give you the edge you need, or at least provide some much-needed comfort during this nerve-racking time.  

7 Insider Tips on Medical School Virtual Interviews from Real Applicants

For the sake of anonymity, we won’t be disclosing any identifying information about the two applicants or the medical schools where they interviewed.

But here’s what we can tell you:

  • One applicant had two 30-minute live interviews with a faculty member and current medical student
  • The other applicant did a pre-recorded interview with no audience, which was similar to the VITA

We asked both candidates a bunch of questions about their medical school virtual interview experiences, and then distilled those conversations down to the 7 most important and surprising tips.

Tip #1 - Assume a Technology Glitch is Going to Happen

Prepare for the worst. More often than not, some technology issue will occur. One applicant said that the interviewer’s internet connection dropped momentarily. The other applicant reported slow loading times.  

Make sure you have good internet speed. Shut down all other programs to save RAM/bandwidth on your laptop or desktop. Close all other applications other than your internet browser or the interview platform application. This is especially important for people who have older laptops.

Ensure that your computer is charging and plugged in before you start. Update your computer to avoid automatic restarts that could disrupt the interview. Turn off your phone and disable notifications on your computer to avoid chimes and pop-up text in the background. 

If the medical schools give you resources or a protocol for technology issues, keep those handy! 

Tip #2 - Get Familiar with the Interview Platforms

The medical schools use different interview platforms, such as Zoom or Webex - give yourself ample time to log in, test out the platform, and familiarize yourself with it.

It’s also smart to upload a professional avatar image. It makes you look prepared, and it gives the interviewers a visual of you in the worst-case scenario of your video dropping for some reason.

Tip #3 - Don’t Ignore Technology Issues If They Happen

If there is some issue, like distracting feedback or an audio echo, be proactive about broaching the topic with the interviewer.

It might be awkward, and you might be concerned about sounding like a complainer, but the alternative is far worse. You owe it to yourself to have a smooth interview that won’t put you at a disadvantage.

Keep in mind that this interview format is new and awkward for the medical schools as well, so they’ll be understanding. Don’t worry about them holding these technology blips against you. 

Tip #4 - Show Up Early

In general, the timing, schedule, and agenda are a lot more variable than in-person interviews! 

On the day of the interview, give yourself a few hours to get everything in order (your outfit, technology, background, etc). Both applicants we talked to made a to-do list of tasks to ensure they didn’t forget anything. 

If you can, take the full day off from work, or at the very least, give yourself buffer time before and after the interview, just in case there are delays.

If possible, given the platform and situation, show up early to the interview room itself. This could potentially give you some extra time to chat informally with the interviewer before or after you start.

Tip #5 - Look Good for Yourself, Not Just for Them

We’ve written extensively about the importance of making a good impression through your virtual interview appearance

But as one of our applicants noted, your appearance can do wonders for your own self-confidence. You’ll often be able to see an image of yourself, and if you look your best, you’ll feel like your best self and perform to your highest potential.  

Make sure you have good lighting - avoid being backlit and maintain a neutral background.

Wear contacts, not glasses, if possible - the glare can be distracting for both you and the person interviewing you. Same goes for headphones - don’t use them unless absolutely necessary.

Tip #6 - Don’t Assume a High Degree of Formality

For starters, the interviewers might ask you to stand up!

One of our applicants said that the interviewer wanted to do a “stretching exercise” together so that they could loosen up and get the blood flowing. The applicant was very happy that they had opted to wear pants. 

Also, don’t assume that the interviewer will mirror your formality. One applicant said that their interviewer was sitting on her couch, wearing a sweater and yoga pants. You should obviously look and act as professionally as possible, but be prepared to roll with the punches!

Lastly, be prepared for some curmudgeonly, anti-technology vibes from the old guard of interviewers. One applicant reported that their interviewer cracked a lot of jokes about the interview platform, as well as a few quips about Millennials and Gen Z.

Tip #7 - Bring a Good Luck Charm

Both the applicants we talked to came prepared with a "good luck charm" that they kept somewhere offscreen.

One of them put a picture of a smiling family member at the top of their screen, just to give them something to focus on without staring directly into the camera.

The other hung their laminated photo ID from their lab behind their computer, as a reminder of how far they had come in the process. They said this helped relieve any feelings of imposter syndrome and gave them confidence that they belonged in medicine.   

They say 7 is a lucky number, so we hope these 7 tips will bring you good fortune in your medical school virtual interviews.

But if you read our archive of articles about virtual interviews, you’ll be so prepared that you won’t need any luck! 

Have any questions about virtual medical school interviews? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll respond to you personally!

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