Professional Health School - Interviews

The interview is an important factor in the admission process. The invitation to interview generally means that you are academically qualified for admission; however, schools cannot admit all those who are qualified. The school wants to take a closer look at you and determine if you have the personal qualities they consider important. These qualities include those which are important to the medical profession: enthusiasm, integrity, leadership ability, decision-making skills, honesty, and empathy.

The interview provides the school with the chance to evaluate you. It also provides you with a chance to learn about the school and, in a sense, evaluate them. Your interview ideally should be a conversation in which you both answer and ask questions, as opposed to a firing line where you wait for the interviewer's next question.
Send a brief thank you to the people who interviewed you. This always adds a personal touch to your interview and will help interviewers remember you when it is time for them to make a decision.

After your interview, you will receive an acceptance letter, a rejection letter or a letter saying you have been placed on hold. Schools vary greatly in the time they take to make and communicate decisions; you may hear nothing for quite a while so do not take this as a rejection.

Types of Interviews

Health schools can schedule anywhere from one to three interviews for each applicant (usually all on the same day). Interviewers can have formal lists of questions for the interview, a general guideline of topics, or complete freedom to structure the interview. Listed below are the types of interviews which can be conducted:

  • Individual Interview—is what it sounds like. This is an interview that takes place with one interviewer. The interviewer can be an administrator, clinical faculty member, basic science faculty member, current student, alumni member, and/or retired faculty member. Never underestimate the importance of student interviews.
  • Group Interview—involves many candidates and either one or several interviewers. In most cases, this scenario is used to determine how candidates interact with other members of a group. (i.e., Do you listen? Interrupt? Clarify? Dominate? Never say anything?)
  • Board/Panel Interview—one candidate is interviewed by more than one interviewer. You need to make sure you establish eye contact with all members of the panel.
  • Open Interview—the interviewer(s) have all of your application materials and may ask you specific questions about classes, grades, extracurricular activities, research, etc.
  • Semi-open Interviews—the interviewer(s) have only some basic information. Either they have all the non-cognitive information (personal statement, experiences, and letters of evaluation) or all the cognitive (GPA, test scores, and transcripts).
  • Closed Interview—they have nothing about you except your name and maybe where you are attending/where you have attended school.

Interview Tips

You should be prepared to discuss yourself, the medical school, general issues about healthcare, and the thing about the health profession or healthcare that you are passionate about.

Make an honest assessment of yourself—identify your strengths and weaknesses. Do not make yourself out to be a perfect person or a person full of weaknesses. You want to make yourself out to be someone who has balance in who they are and in their life. You want to explain how your experiences, qualities, and passions prepare you well for the medical field.

Review your application, secondary application, and transcripts before each interview. Make sure you are familiar with everything a potential interviewer may know about you and, consequently, may ask you about.

The safest attire for an interview is a business suit. Colors like navy blue, gray, brown, black, or tan are best. Be conservative, and if wearing a skirt, it should hit at the knee and be no shorter. Also, a well-groomed appearance cannot help but make a good impression. This is not a time to make a statement, and avoid clothing or accessories that may be distracting. Wear close toed shoes that are comfortable.

When meeting your interviewer, use a firm handshake; choose a seat which allows you good eye contact with the interviewer.

Be aware of any mannerisms or other personal habits that might detract from the interview. Do not twist in your chair, move your hands excessively while you talk, and fiddle with your clothing, hair or jewelry. (If you have a habit of fidgeting be sure to wear your hair back, sit with your hands in you lap, and don't wear any jewelry that is distracting to you.)

During the interview it is important to keep eye contact. However, do not make such strong eye contact as to “stare them down.” Your posture should be straight up and attentive.
Try to be comfortable and confident without appearing cocky or insincere. Smile and maintain a pleasant, interested manner.

Make sure you listen to each question carefully, and always provide specifics when giving your answers. Give concrete answers that involve your academic and volunteer experiences and add credibility.
Remember to be yourself. Most interviewers want to get to know you. You are your own best advocate.
Be honest and do not embellish your history. Candor is essential. Any suspicion about your credibility or integrity can doom your acceptance.

Anticipate questions regarding any academic problems, and when you answer their questions do not be defensive or blame others for your shortcomings. Explain what happened and, more importantly, what you learned from the experience.

Do your homework about the schools. Go to their websites and read about their histories, their rotation sites, curriculum, and philosophy/mission statement. Formulate questions about the school which reflect your interest.
Expect questions about issues in modern society and medicine. When answering, organize your thoughts, state your opinions clearly, and be prepared to substantiate your opinions. Also, it may be good to have some supporting material or research to your opinion in order to give it more credibility and make you appear up-to-date about what is going on in health and medicine.

If you are treated inappropriately or asked illegal questions (personal, racist, sexist, about your marriage status, or about your future family plans) you should generally inform the admissions office/director you have interviewed with on the day it occurs so they can possibly make arrangements for you to have another interview. Please also contact us and we will discuss any additional appropriate follow-up. Many admissions directors will ask you to inform them the day of the interview if an interviewer asks any illegal questions…this happens very rarely.


Practice Interviewing:

Visit your school's career planning office to schedule a mock interview.
CMC-(909) 607-7038
Pitzer-(909) 621-8519
Scripps-(909) 621-8180

Prepare your questions for medical school interviewers:

There will be a point in the interview when you will be asked if you have any questions. To brainstorm ideas go to www.aamc.org/students/applying/requirements/109762135_questions.html.

Podcast on Interviewing Basics:
www.aamc.org/poscasts