Interview season for health professional schools (medical school, dental school, pharmacy school, veterinary school, PT/OT school, etc.) starts early in the fall. In fact, you might already have an interview scheduled and school isn’t even back in session. First of all, congratulations! Second of all, it’s time to think about practicing. At the Career & Internship Center, we offer one-on-one mock interview appointments for students and recent graduates (within two years of graduation), but it’s not always possible to get in for an appointment on short notice. Don’t worry, you can still practice on your own. We’ve compiled advice for you as you are practicing interviews at home.
- Consider the questions you will be asked. By thinking about the potential questions in advance, you will be ahead of the game in planning what you want to share in your answers! Admissions committees are looking for candidates to enrich and expand on details highlighted in their applications. They want to know who you are as a person, how you think and how you communicate. A few things guiding their questions are their desire to know about your motivation to pursue the field, your awareness of the practice of the discipline (i.e. current events, healthcare delivery issues, social determinants of health, what you’ve learned through your shadowing experiences, etc.), ability to empathize and communicate well with patients (i.e. transmitting information to others across differences, showing patient-centered care, etc.) and real time problem solving skills (i.e. ability to analyze situations, present alternative solutions, etc.)
- Plan on sharing lots of stories! Stories prove what you are telling the committee about your motivation or your strengths or your experiences. They help the committee see what you truly mean by showing you in action. Use the STAR method to tell a story (Situation, Task, Action, Result). Write out some of these stories in advance to get in the rhythm of focusing on what you were doing (action) and what you learned that you plan to apply in the future (result). Consider having a story that fits with every potential question you are preparing for. You can probably adapt these stories to answer any question you will be asked, even if it is unexpected or you didn’t prepare for it specifically.
- Next, move on to practicing your answers out loud. Saying a story is actually very different from just thinking about it or writing it down. You shouldn’t try to memorize your answers (you will always forget and it might throw you off, or you will sound overly rehearsed), but you should feel very comfortable telling the most important parts out loud. By speaking, you are creating muscle memory and it will help you in the real interview if you start to panic or go blank.
- While practicing out loud, consider practicing with a timer. You can hold someone’s attention for about 2 minutes. You should try to have answers last between 1-3 minutes–any longer than that and you will probably lose the interviewer’s attention. Practicing with the timer helps your internal clock get a sense of how long you should be talking. Once you get that sense, if you feel like your answer is too short or too long, you are probably right. If your answers are short, add in a story! If your answers are long, ask if you can get to the point or focus on your actions more than spending a lot of time setting up the situation to preface the story.
- Practice with a friend or record yourself. This is where you can start to hone your answers and critically examine the content of what you are saying. Provide your friend with the list of questions you’ve come up with, or set up your computer or phone to video-record you. When you watch it back, ask yourself if your answers appropriately addressed the things the committee wants to know (see number 1).
Above all, trust your gut and be honest. A genuine attitude and your personality go a long way in an interview. These committees want to know you, so don’t be afraid to be yourself and be honest! Good luck, you will rock it!