Medical School Interview Tips

Dr. Robert Zdor and Johnny (Honors Alum)

Dr. Robert Zdor, professor of biology, led this discussion of tips for medical school interviews.  As an advisor, professor, and mentor of many future physicians, Dr. Zdor brings substantial knowledge to inform students as they ready for on-campus medical school interviews.  The workshop also called upon the experience of recent graduates for more suggestions on successfully interviewing for medical school acceptance. 

4 Hints for a Successful Medical School Interview

by Dr. Zdor

1.  Importance
2. Format
3. Preparation—Introspection
4. Conduct—effective body language “ESTC”

1.  Importance

What applicant data are you looking at when you invite someone to an interview?

• Science-Math GPA
• Overall GPA
• MCAT Score
• Letters of Recommendation
• Community Service relative to healthcare (shadowing)
• Personal statement
• Ever worked in a job to do with healthcare
• Non-medical community service
• Leadership
• Completion of pre-med coursework
• Experience with under-served populations

What do you look for in an applicant?

What was most important when making a decision for admission?

• Quality of the interview—students have in their control a significant factor

2.  Format

• One-on-one
• Multi-mini Interview:  part of a group of visitors to campus; going through an hour-long process of multiple episodes of evaluation; each occurs in a different; rated and quantified in each room.  Looking for how you handle yourself in a number of different situations; might even be a team-building activity (can you work with someone else?); observing inter-personal skills; these may focus on ethical quandaries.  Physicians, students, and community members rating performance.
• Open interview—they have seen your file
• Blind interview—interviewer has not seen application (“Tell me about yourself…) 
• Duration:  30-45 minutes
• Sort out the style of interview to expect at each location

3.  Preparation

• Need to practice being set off-kilter by an interviewer’s approach
• Take an ethics class prior to medical school to get the thinking going about ethics.
• Questions posed at interviews:  What is most attractive aspect of medicine for you?  How do you think your weaknesses will affect you as a medical student?  What can this medical school offer you that others can’t?  What quality is most important for a doctor to have?
• Go to the websites and the MSAR Handbook
• Do research on the schools applied to.
• As you learn, you must have your own set of questions for the interviewer.
• Be very familiar with your application.
• Capacity of introspection should be nurtured
• Develop your ability to tell the story of who you are
• Give specific examples or stories that illustrate aspects of your character
• What makes me happy?  What gives me greatest satisfaction?  What drives me?
• Sample question:  tell me about your mother.
• Writing the Personal Statement

4.  Conduct

• Eye contact
• Posture
• Lean forward to show engagement
• ESTC:  Enthusiasm, Sincerity, Tactfulness, Courtesy

Elements of a Career in Medicine:

1.  Effective patient relationships
2. Technical Competence
3. Responsibility in professional behavior, social, economic
4. Optimal patient care environment

Medical School Interview Tips

by Johnny (Honors Alum) 

1. Introduction
Hi Everyone, I'm Johnny, and I graduated from the J.N. Andrews Honors Program in 2014. I'm currently a second year medical student at the Medical College of Georgia, and as difficult as medical school is, I just have to say that the Andrews Biology Department and Honors Program do a fantastic job of preparing you.

I don't usually share my grades with people, and I don't mean to sound arrogant by doing so. But I remember when I was in your shoes, I wondered if I would ever be able to survive medical school, and I'm here to tell you that if you apply yourself at Andrews and take advantage of all the opportunities it offers, then you'll be perfectly fine for medical school. I've finished two big modules in my second year now, and I've finished both with solid A's. Again, this isn't to brag because I wouldn't be where I am today without the Andrews Biology Department and Honors Program. So just keep that in mind the next time you're studying for one of Dr. Zdor's infamous tests or editing a paper for Dr. Pittman's Lit and Arts class -- which by the way, the information I learned in Dr. Zdor's classes has helped me tremendously in my med school classes, and the writing skills I learned from Dr. Pittman made med school application essays a breeze.

I can't stress enough how important it is for you guys to really understand that you're getting a top-notch education at Andrews. I have classmates from big university like the University of Georgia and Emory University who weren't half as prepared as me simply because they didn't have access to the resources I had at Andrews.

But I digress. When I applied to medical schools, I applied to about 7 or 8, and I interviewed at 4 of them: Vanderbilt University, Emory University, Loma Linda, and the Medical College of Georgia. These were all the classic one-on-one interviews; so I won't be able to comment on the Multiple Mini Interview format that some medical schools using now. But I think the tips I have for you will hopefully be applicable to any situation. So here they are:

2. Relax.
If a medical school offers you an interview, then you've survived multiple rounds of intense screening by the admissions committee  based on your grades, MCAT score, recommendation letters, and so on. An interview is an admissions committee's unofficial way of saying that it believes you will be able to thrive at its medical school. The interview is just a way to make sure that you are normal human being who can hold a normal conversation. Because at the end of the day, doctors are caring for humans and need to be able to interact with them.

So if you get an interview, then your chances of being accepted are pretty good. Consider this fact, out of 2,697 applicants to the Medical College of Georgia, 681 were offered interviews for 240 spots in the first year class. That means that students who got interviews beat out 75% of the total applicant pool, and then 1 out of 3 students who got interviews eventually ended up at the Medical College of Georgia.

Now, notice that I didn't say 1/3 of the interviewed students were accepted to MCG. This is because admissions committees at medical schools actually have to over-accept students past the class size because nowadays students apply to so many different medical schools. So then, in reality out of the 681 students interviewed at MCG, probably closer to 1/2 of those students were accepted to MCG.

That's pretty good odds. And if you apply to multiple medical schools and get multiple interviews, then your odds of getting accepted to one of those medical school is pretty high.
3. Research your medical school beforehand.
I'll give a concrete example for this point. The Emory Medical School really emphasizes the fact that its students rotate through Grady Hospital in downtown Atlanta which is the largest hospital in Georgia and a public hospital as well. It has a reputation for having some very difficult patients, and Emory Medical School prides itself on training its students at the hospital. That's something you should know even before you start writing secondary application essays for Emory because it should inform what you write about and what you talk about in your interviews.

Each medical school has something unique about it, and you need to show the medical school why you're a good fit for their school. Medical schools know based on your stats that you have the brainpower, but now they need to know that you have a character and personality that will add to the community of the medical school.

Now, don't be fake because people will be able to see through your charades. And don't try to force yourself to "fit" a certain medical school. It's just as important that a medical school fit your personality and interest.

But do your research. Read as much as you can on the medical school's website. See if you can talk to a student at that medical school (probably only feasible if you have a friend or a friend of a friend at that medical school). Also, read through the forums on about the medical schools. You'll have to sift through a lot of useless information in order to find the nuggets of gold, but it's worth it. And many of the forums on will actually have hints about what questions might be asked on your interview.

4. Try to make a connection.
Out of all the interviews I had, one stands out as the best because I was able to make a real connection with the interviewer. When I walked into the interviewer's office, I noticed that he had a tennis trophy tucked away in the corner of his office. I made a comment about it and asked if he played tennis, and that one question sparked a 30 minute discussion about tennis (I love tennis by the way). The interviewer and I actually talked for an extra 30 minutes past the allotted time because we were having such a good time, and that experience made me realize that some interviewers just want to have a good conversation.

Actually, most interviewers are not out to get you. They want to you to succeed and end up at their school because they know that you're capable.

Don't be so nervous and stiff that you miss out on having a great conversation with another human being. That's all an interviewer is: a human being. They have to eat like you, they have to sleep like you, they have to brush their teeth like you do.

Keep your eyes wide open when you walk into their offices. Usually, people decorate their offices with items that are important to them, and if you can connect over a shared interest, then that's the best possible scenario for an interview.
5. Don't panic.
I'll never forget one of the interviews I had. Everything was going perfectly well; I felt like I made a connection with the interviewer. And then, the interviewer asked me an ethics question about current world event, and I completely panicked. I froze. Stuttered. Stuttered some more and made a fool of myself.

In retrospect, the question wasn't that complicated, and after the interview, I thought of a million different ways I could've answered the question if I had just kept my cool.

If the interviewer throws you a curveball (which is very likely), do not feel like you have to respond immediately; a few seconds of silence is not a bad thing. Or, if you're confused, you can ask the interviewer to clarify the question. That will buy you some time to formulate an answer.

The interviewers don't expect you to have all the answers, but they do want to see how you think. Sometimes they'll ask completely absurd questions or say things like "You're not answering my question..." or "You're still not answering my question" (this actually happened to me). And often time it's because they want to see how you respond to pressure.
6. A bad interview is not the end of the world.
After I completely flubbed one of my interviews, I was pretty dejected. But it's just one interview. It's not the end of the world, especially if you believe that there's a God in heaven and that we're going to live forever with Him. We don't take our transcripts to heaven. No one will care in heaven what medical school you attended. Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all these things will be added unto you.

In hindsight, I'm glad I messed up that interview. Because if I had been accepted to that medical school, I would've accepted immediately, and I would've missed out on the amazing experiences I've had here at MCG.

If you trust in God, then you're in good hands, and you really shouldn't stress (even though that's very difficult to do since we're all type A personalities). But in all seriousness, you have to learn to manage stress because getting into medical school is only the first step of a long journey. There will always be stressful situations, and the sooner you learn to manage them, the more enjoyable your life will be.