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July 8, 2020

Ace Your Medical School Virtual Interviews (VITA) - Appearance Tips

The Savvy Premed

The AAMC House of Horrors has instituted a definitely not new and probably not improved virtual interview tool (VITA), to be used as yet another way for medical schools to evaluate you.

Originally a part of the emergency medicine residency application, but withdrawn because students revolted with pitchforks and strongly-worded emails, the Standardized Virtual Interview (SVI) has transformed into the VITA as the AAMC’s answer to the problem of conducting interviews in the age of COVID-19.

This blog post is the first of three in a series. In the next two, we’ll tackle things like how to use technology to your advantage and how to improve your actual performance, but in THIS post, we’ll answer the questions about aesthetics and appearance that we know you’re dying to ask.

Ace Your Medical School Virtual Interviews (VITA) - Appearance Tips

WHAT SHOULD I WEAR FOR MY VIRTUAL INTERVIEWS?

The dress code or ensemble for virtual interviews is almost identical to that of an in-person interview, with a few key things to remember:

  • Avoid black and white, as well as any distracting patterns, especially stripes.
  • Wear your best business attire and stick to jewel tones if possible. These colors have the right amount of saturation for all skin types and will prevent washing you out under harsh lighting.
  • Also avoid any overpowering patterns or flashy accessories so as not to divert the attention away from the substance of your answers. You should be the focus of the interview, not your wardrobe.
  • Try on your outfit in front of the platform you’ll be using for the virtual interview. For example, a slightly lower-cut top might look weird if your entire shirt is outside of the video frame.
  • Swap out your glasses for your contacts to reduce the glare of the screen, and switch your device to night mode to avoid blue light reflection.
  • Wear a little powder if your face looks shiny on the screen.
  • And please, for your dignity’s sake, do not forego pants.

WHERE SHOULD I CONDUCT MY VIRTUAL INTERVIEWS?

You not only have control over how you look, but also the environment in which you do your virtual interview. Use this to your advantage:

  • Perhaps obviously, perhaps not: find a quiet place to do your interview. A carpeted room is good for insulating you from outside sounds. Minimize distractions and make sure the place you chose is clean and tidy!
  • In a similar vein, choose a simple, neutral background for your interview. Avoid black and white, and much like your clothes, avoid distracting patterns.
  • Your camera should be slightly higher than your face, and angled down just enough to point at your eyes. You don’t want to sit higher than your camera, because that makes it look like you’re literally looking down on the interviewer. Our advice: put your laptop on top of your old Ochem textbook!
  • Your light source should be about two feet away from you, and you shouldn’t sit with your back to the window. Your light source should be placed behind your computer, not behind you. If it’s hard to find a space with good natural lighting in your home, consider investing in a selfie ring light that sits around the camera on your laptop.

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS SITTING TOO FAR OR TOO CLOSE FOR MY VIRTUAL INTERVIEWS?

Just like you wouldn’t sit three inches or eight feet from your interviewer in-person, don’t sit an uncomfortable distance from your computer.

  • Make sure you don’t end up looking too tiny or too huge.
  • To be well proportioned, make sure there’s a bit of empty space on the screen above your head and check that your shoulders and upper chest are visible.

HOW CAN I ENSURE THAT I MAKE PROPER EYE CONTACT DURING MY VIRTUAL INTERVIEWS?

While actual eye contact isn’t possible in a virtual interview, you’ll want to get as close as possible. Looking at someone’s face is usually enough to show that you’re engaged with what they’re saying.

  • Make sure you’ve found a comfortable distance that allows you to look straight ahead rather than down at the camera.
  • Place the window where your interviewer will appear on the same monitor as your camera and move it as close to the camera as possible—centered is best. That way, when you look at them, as you naturally will during your conversation, you’re also looking at the camera.

HOW CAN I MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS IN MY VIRTUAL INTERVIEW SETTING?

Virtual interviews come with a slew of distractions you wouldn’t normally have to deal with when you travel to a medical school.

  • Do what you can to eliminate these potential interruptions on your end prior to beginning the virtual interview.
  • Turn off the TV, silence your cell phone, and close the window to muffle any honking horns or blaring sirens. While you can’t plan for every distraction - particularly if you have children - the more prepared you can be, the better.

ANY FINAL TIPS FOR MY APPEARANCE DURING VIRTUAL INTERVIEWS?

Because you’re at home, it’s natural to be a little more relaxed (okay… at least comparatively more relaxed).

  • Try not to let this translate into slumping down in your seat. It makes you look less engaged. Instead, pull your chair away from the table, sit on the edge of the seat, plant your feet on the ground, and place your hands on the table.
  • Sitting up straight also naturally gives you more energy and helps you communicate well. Consider standing as an alternative if that’s an easier way to keep your energy up, but not if you have a tendency to pace or shift a lot.


And there you have it: certainly a few things for you to think about, but we hope it’s nothing you can’t handle. Stay tuned for Part 2 and 3 of this series, where we’ll talk about performance and technology tips!

Any questions? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll respond to you personally!

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