Medicine Interview: Medical School Interview Technique
Today’s Thursday Blog focuses on the basics of interview technique that are sometimes forgotten by candidates when under pressure.
Interviews are not just about facts and it is important that you are aware of other factors that will contribute to your interview score and the overall impression that you leave the interviewers with.
Body Language and Communication Body language is extremely important and plays a pivotal role in effective communication. It can be difficult to know how to sit, who to look at or what to do with your arms during an interview.
Sitting A number of studies have identified the position of sitting slightly forward feet planted on the ground with hands crossed or fingers locked and forearms resting on your thighs as being the optimum position for interviews. This position makes you look calm and ready and is in between leaning over the table and slouching back in your chair. This position can be maintained for the majority of the interview and allows you to sit back slightly between questions or at the end of the interview.
Smile Smiling has been shown to increase attractiveness by a factor of ten and will also convey confidence and personality to the interviewers. While you may be extremely nervous make sure you smile when you greet the panel and try to show enthusiasm when talking about why you want to get the job or something that you are passionate about.
Eye Contact Ensure that you make eye contact with the interviewers from the start. If you find holding eye contact difficult practice focusing on peoples’ eyebrows when you talk to them (the eye of the other person cannot discriminate whether you are looking at their eye or eyebrow due to proximity). When listening to questions concentrate on the interviewer asking the questions nodding to show understanding. When giving your answers make sure you make eye contact with all of the panel and not just the interviewer asking the question. At least one of the interviewers will be making notes or scoring you so don not be phased if they do not maintain eye contact.
Interview Basics Summary
First impressions count
- Dress appropriately
- Arrive in good time
- Close the door
- Walk confidently
- Respond to handshakes
- Wait to sit
- Quiet but alert
- Acknowledge everyone
- Tonality, Pause, Speed, Clarity, Hands, Pitch & Dynamics, Enthusiasm
- Keep to the point 2-3mins and answer the question
- Know the jargon
- Positive answers
- If you don’t know say so
- Work-related, specific examples
If You Don’t Know
- Say So
- Then immediately re-frame the question
- e.g. ‘I have not reduced a talus dislocation before. But when reducing an ankle I would…’
- e.g. ‘I am unsure whether an angiogram would help following an elbow dislocation. There is evidence from knee dislocation that serial ABPIs and CT angio can be useful…’
The thought of the interview can be scary and there are some other variables that you will need to consider such as how you are going to get to the venue and what happens when you get there. Below are some top tips for how to stay calm around the time of the interview.
The Night Before You may have chosen to stay in the city prior to your interview or you may be traveling up on the day. Whatever you have chosen to do ensure that you have your clothes prepared, shoes shined and know where and when you need to be at the interview location. Relax and get a good night’s sleep, making sure you set your alarm to wake up in good time the next morning.
On the Day Get up in good time and have a proper breakfast. Make sure you factor in traffic if you are driving to the interview location.
Upon arriving at the venue you will need to register so that the organisers know that you have arrived. Occasionally your interview time slot may have been altered. If this is the case don’t panic and go with the flow. There will be refreshments provided and you will be told where you can wait prior to the interview.
An interviewer or facilitator will usually call you in once they are ready. Upon entering greet and shake hands with the interviewers ensuring that you try and appear as confident as possible. The interviewers will then show you to your seat, ready to begin.
Below is a selection of tips from interviewers to help you in your interview.
Practise, Practise, Practise Practising in a formal environment is the best way to get used to the interview process and find deficits in your answers.
Structure Your Answers Structuring your answers into 3-4 headlines will make it easy for interviewers to follow and prevent you from wasting time with waffle.
Limit Your Answers to 2-3 Minutes Stopping yourself from talking when nervous can be extremely difficult however interviewers are likely to lose concentration after around 3 minutes of hearing you talk. Most structured points can be given within 2-3 minutes leaving time for further questions.
Show Your Working For tough ethical or decision-making questions be sure to talk through what you are thinking. There is often no right or wrong answer rather the interviewers want to see you logically discussing both sides of the argument or problem.
Be Positive and Sell, Sell, Sell Interviewers want to hear how great you are and it is important that you are not bashful or reserved when telling them about your achievements and why they should choose you. Turn everything into a positive and don’t undersell yourself.
Use Your Personal Statement Interviewers may not have access to or may not have read your personal statement. Make sure that you talk about all the best points that you have written down and do not assume that the interviewers have read it. Your personal statement should be structured to say why you want to do medicine, what work experience you have done and what you do outside of work; these are also three of the most commonly asked questions!
Be Personal Talking about generic things like ‘I saw a patient having a DHS’ or ‘I have leadership skills’ will not score you as many points as using personal experiences and reflecting on what you learned.
Read The Instructions Interactive stations will often provide you with written information either before or upon entering the station. Remain calm and read the instructions or scenario carefully. Try to mentally highlight the important points and understand what they want you to do.
Answer The Question This might seem silly but it is amazing how often candidates do not give a direct answer or go off-topic. Make sure you understand what has been asked and avoid giving a long-winded introduction.
Get Me Into Medical School!: The Ultimate Guide is written by Alexander Logan, a medical school interviewer and is available now from Amazon.