These interview mistakes could cost you a place at medical school

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An invite to interview does not mean that you’re guaranteed a seat at that medical school. It just means that the admissions authorities are impressed with your application so far, and they’d like to assess you in person and see if you live up to expectations.

According to several admissions authorities, many applicants mistakenly assume that the interview is a mere formality, and they don’t have to bother too much about it; believing they’ve already wowed the panel with their impressive grades and personal essay, and all they have to do is turn up.

That is a huge mistake – one that could cost you that precious seat. All things being equal between you and the other applicants, it is the interview that separates the successful candidates from those who don’t make it. Here are some of the most common mistakes that admissions authorities see in applicants every year, with helpful suggestions on how you can avoid doing the same.

Mistake 1: Being totally unprepared

Lack of preparation is the number one reason applicants get rejected. When the interviewing panel asks you about your motivation for pursuing medicine will you fall back on the standard, done-to-death reply and tell them you want to ‘help people’? If they ask you to say a little about yourself, will you relate a vague incident after a lot of humming and hawing?  What about if you’re asked why you chose that particular school? Answering that theirs was the only school that invited you to interview is not going to score you any points. Do you have a compelling argument about why you’re for or against certain medical policies such as euthanasia and abortion, or will you simply yes or no when asked?

What you can do to prepare for the interview: The single best thing you can do is read. Look at some of the questions commonly asked, and spend time brainstorming how you’d answer them in a compelling and impressive way. Learn about the school so you can answer honestly about why you chose it. Read about the latest medical breakthroughs as well as the long-going controversies in the medical field. Being up-to-date shows that you have more than just a passing interest in medicine. That’s what interviewers want to see. Last but not least, read through your application and personal statement, so you don’t end up contradicting something you’ve mentioned earlier. You may not be able to prepare for every question, but you can prepare for the basics and avoid embarrassing silences.

Mistake 2: Acting overly casual with the interviewers

One of the people sitting at the table may be a senior medical student just a couple of years older than you, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to forget your manners and exchange high-fives at the interview. While that may be okay in the hallway, it’s inexcusable in the interview room.

What you should do instead: Be polite and maintain a formal demeanour throughout. Let the interviewer take the lead with regards to shaking hands, salutations and other formalities. However, no matter how casual the interviewers appear to be, it’s inappropriate for you to do the same.

Mistake 3: Arriving late

It may sound ridiculous that this should even be on this list, but surprisingly it does happen and way too often too. “The train was late”. “There was a lot of traffic on the way to school”. “My car broke down”. The interviewers have heard it all a million times before. So why do a few minutes matter? Surely it can’t be such a big deal? From the school’s perspective, it shows your lack of organisational skills. Moreover, if you cannot be trusted to make it on time for such an important occasion, how can you be trusted to be on time when you become a doctor? In a medical emergency, a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death.

What you can do to prevent this scenario: Keep everything ready at least a couple of days before the interview. Decide what you’re going to wear, and keep your clothes ironed and ready. Note down the school’s address and the route map. Leave home early if you’re driving there. If taking public transportation, find out about the train/bus timings and catch the earlier one. Aim to arrive at least half an hour early, so you have some time to settle down and focus on the interview coming up.

Speaking of clothes: turning up for your med school interview in jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers shows that you have respect for the institution and couldn’t be bothered to make the effort. A medical school interview is a formal occasion and calls for a formal dress code – as in, formal business-wear not formal party wear. A smart top and skirt, dress or trouser suit are great options for the ladies. For the guys, nothing can beat a smart suit. Keep accessories and makeup to a minimum.

Mistake 4: Lying

Never, ever lie in the interview. It is inexcusable. Remember you are not expected to know everything about everything, no matter how much you prepare. Chances are you’ll be asked a few questions that will have you stumped, and that’s okay. Don’t let it fluster you and don’t try to wiggle out of it by lying. Far better to admit you don’t know or haven’t read or done something rather than get caught in a lie. No school wants to groom a dishonest doctor.

What you should do instead: Calmly and honestly admit that you have not read/done whatever it is the interviewer has asked you about but expand a little on it and say that you will look into it after the interview. That will save you the embarrassment of getting caught out in a lie, and also earn you the interviewer’s respect.

 

Want to have something incredible to talk about at interview? Complete one of our medical shadowing placements and you’ll never run out of things to talk about!

 

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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.

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