In the final analysis, your written application, grades, MCAT scores and recommendations are useful for a first screening, but it is the interview that allows the medical school to get to know the ‘real you’ and to evaluate (however arbitrarily) your personal characteristics.

Basically, their objective is to get to know you as well as possible in as short a period of time as possible. Some of the following topics will be touched upon in almost every interview.

Interview photo two people talking in chairs

Ability to think on your feet: How do you solve problems? Be prepared for hypothetical problems with no solution—the answer isn’t as important as the thought process that you use and your ability to support your ideas

Ability to work collaboratively: Can you work with others? Think about some examples.

Commitment: Are you committed to this career? Some medical schools look specifically for passion, joy….

Compassion: Are you compassionate? How have you shown sensitivity and compassion to others? How have you demonstrated your commitment to helping others?

Extracurricular activities: What has been the depth and level of your commitment? Don’t recite the whole laundry list of activities; just highlight the most important ones. What did you accomplish? What did you gain from the experience(s)? Did it (or they) change you? Did you change the organization?

Goals: What is your ultimate dream? (Don’t say getting into med school!) You don’t need to limit your response to medicine. What it is you want to do? What do you envision yourself doing ten years from now?

Knowledge of the field: Be prepared to be conversant on any current controversies. Think a bit about the current trends in health care delivery --HMOs, managed care, declining salaries, etc. You might also be asked about various ethical issues that are in the current debate. Remember, there are few right answers; the goal is to support your conclusion logically. Read newspapers and weekly news magazines; check out the AAMC web site.

Leadership: Focus on your experiences, growth, and ability to handle responsibility. Be prepared to share an anecdote to illustrate your leadership ability.

Listening skills: Are you a good listener? Doctors need to be active, reflective listeners; you should demonstrate this in the interview.

Maturity: Can you make your own decisions? Have you learned how to solve difficult problems in your own life? Does your life have a "balance" that is healthy?

Motivation: Why do you want to be a doctor? What or who influenced you? What activities demonstrate your interest and self-motivation?

Open-mindedness: Do you see both sides to a problem? Can you change your mind if more data is presented? Are you perhaps too indecisive…or too rigid?

Preparedness: Do you know what you are getting into? Where did you get your information? (Don’t say House!) Are you ready to commit yourself to this career?

Sense of humor: This is not the time for a comedy routine, but don’t be afraid to show your humor. It is an important way to establish rapport with patients.

Strengths/Weaknesses: What do you do best? What have you done (or are you doing) to overcome faults? How will your unique talents make you a better health care professional than other candidates?

The Unexpected: The urban legends about medical school interviews abound and most are completely unfounded, but the unexpected does sometimes occur. A few years ago, the big story was about an applicant who was taken into the delivery room where the interviewer’s wife was giving birth! In the unlikely event that you find yourself in a bizarre situation, just "go with the flow." Doctors deal with the unexpected all the time; this is a good time to demonstrate that capacity. In a less dramatic situation, if you find yourself in conversation with an interviewer who seems determined to take exception with everything you say, or who repeatedly pushes for more after you feel you have answered the question, just "keep your cool." Sometimes the interviewer is intentionally trying to see how you react in a pressure situation, and more often, you’ve simply had the misfortune to end up with a cantankerous individual! But take heart, the vast majority of interviews are pleasant exchanges! Most of what the interviewer will be evaluating can be generally lumped under the heading of personal qualities. Much of this is personal style and attitude, and most of it is just, quite simply, who you are.

There are, however, a few things to consider:

Articulation: Do you speak clearly? Do you communicate well? Can you explain your ideas in a concise and cogent manner?

Integrity/Sincerity: Are you honest? Are you perceived as honest? Being considered insincere will probably end all hope for your application at that school.

Your interest in the school: Are you interested in attending this school? Would you fit in?