As we come into October of the medical school app cycle, several of you will have likely gone on your first interview, or at least have one scheduled coming up. In last month’s blog post, I mentioned a few tips to get your head in the interview game. This month, I’ll delve more deeply into the different types of medical school interviews and how to handle each. Generally, the three most common types are the standard 1-on-1 interview, the panel interview, and the multiple mini interview (MMI).1 on 1
What is it?
This is by far the most common type of medical school interview. On this kind of interview, you’ll be paired with an attending doctor, professor, or medical student for 30-60 minutes, depending on the school. The number of these kinds of interviews you may have in a day can vary, but most schools limit them from 1-3 for the sake of time. These interviews are often the ‘easiest,’ if only because we have most prior practice with them.
How do I prepare?
Within these, the biggest variation is usually the familiarity of the interviewer with you and your interview file. Some interviewers will be completely blind, with no prior exposure to your history (but they will review your file afterwards, don’t worry!), others will be completely open and know everything, and others will be partially blind (this usually means that they can see your essays, but not your “stats,” like grades and MCAT scores).
The medical school will usually tell you (sometimes the day of) how much exposure your interviewer will have, which can help you frame your story a little bit better. If you know that someone has read your essays, you can reference activities and anecdotes that are elsewhere in your application. If not, be prepared to do a little bit more explaining about your background and activities. Sometimes students can feel distressed if they didn’t think they formed a strong rapport with their interviewer, but don’t let that bother you! Everyone has different interview styles, so as long as you go in and do your best, the rest will come.
What is it?
Schools are increasingly employing the multiple mini interview style, so it’s likely that you will do at least one of these throughout your interview season. These interviews are more of a “round-robin” style, with a certain number of minutes (5-10) allotted each to a diverse set of questions, each analyzed by a different interviewer.
How to I prepare?
Many students find this format challenging because the opportunity to build a rapport with one specific person is often lacking. They can also be challenging to prepare for, since usually the interview questions are posted on a door or in a folder right outside the interview room, and you have only a minute or two to prepare. Definitely practice for these – look up sample MMI questions and run through them in your head, give yourself a minute or two to read the question and formulate an answer, and 3-5 minutes to answer the question aloud.
When in the interview, you want to be sure to allow the other person to ask follow-up questions as needed. MMI questions typically span a very broad range – some rooms will simply say “tell me about yourself,” while others will ask you to analyze an ethical dilemma. Regardless of the type of question, spend your preparation time thinking about a one-line takeaway that you want to present to the interviewer, and build your argument around that statement.
What is it?
Panel interviews can be really stressful if you have never encountered one before. It’s easy to feel like you are on the spot with people firing questions from you on all sides.
How do I prepare?
Remember that most of the time, each person on the panel serves a different role (often there will be a medical student on the panel as well), and will likely be paying attention to different parts of your answers. That being said, one of the biggest mistakes that students make is only answering one person at a time on the panel interview. Even if only one member of the panel asks you a question (or questions), be sure to direct your answers to everyone in the room! No one likes to feel ignored, and being able to engage multiple people in a group is an important skill.
In all types of interviews, the school is trying to discern whether you will fit well into their incoming class and pre-existing community. If you can find ways to emphasize this, tailored to the school specifically, it will really show that you did your research and are passionate about the school and its mission. Showing your passion about medicine, of course, is also important, but hopefully that comes across in your answers already!
Regardless of the type of interview – be confident in your preparation up to this point. You’ve already done most of the hard work!
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