Interviewing

At many medical schools, more than one person has reviewed your application and helped in deciding whether or not to invite you to interview. Some schools might assign an initial review of your application to a faculty or admissions staff member, medical student, or designated review committee. Once the initial review is complete, your application is then usually forwarded to the Dean of Admissions for a final interview decision (for some schools, a decision might be forwarded to a committee for a final interview decision).

Interviewing at a medical school contains elements similar to that of interviewing for a job; however, there can be significant differences. In general, always be prepared for your interview which can be accomplished by asking people who have interviewed at that medical school previously, reading the school’s website or information in the MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirement) database online or participating in a mock interview. To view the MSAR online you need to purchase access to it from AAMC for $15. See the AAMC website for details. You have worked hard and have invested a lot of time and energy in this process so be as ready as possible for the interview.

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When and where do interviews take place?

What are the different formats of interviews?

Interviewers: Medical school interviews are typically comprised of one interview with a current medical student and one interview with a faculty member. There can be variations to this such as interviewing with only one faculty or two faculty members. Other schools may have a panel interviewing an applicant. Some schools have begun conducting Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI), which is a series of short structured interview stations. Candidates rotate through several stations with one interviewer at each station and each interview lasting approximately 8 minutes. For information regarding interviews, you can look up the specific school in the MSAR to confirm the interview format for that school.

Open/Blind Interview: Schools will interview an applicant in either an “open” or “blind” format. In an open format, the interviewer has read the applicant’s application before the interview and may even have the application available during the interview. In a “blind” format, the interviewer usually has no information on an applicant other than their name, school and maybe other very basic demographic information. They have not had the opportunity to read the personal statement or letters of recommendation.

Interviewer Style: Most medical school interviewers will do their best to help an interviewee feel as comfortable as possible. The interview style may vary widely from school to school and from interviewer to interviewer. One interview may focus on medically related topics while another may focus on your favorite book, favorite dish to cook or your favorite hobby. Whatever the style, do your best to engage in a conversation and especially in a blind interview, do you best to convey who you are and why you are passionate about becoming a physician to the interviewer.

How should I prepare for a traditional interview?

Individual Mock Interview

Currently registered students and Alumni Advantage members may schedule a Pre-Health Advising Appointment for a mock interview. The exercise may vary from counselor to counselor but the point of the exercise is to provide you with honest feedback on your interviewing skills.Make sure you select an appointment for Pre-Med Advising, not a Drop-in Session at VLSB.

Interview Workshops

During the academic year, Interview workshops are available for students to attend. Please check the Career Center Calendar for more information.

How should I prepare for a Multiple Mini Interview?

We highly recommend you review our MMI handout which details all things MMI- including what to expect and a list of helpful resources.

What are common interview questions?

Actual Questions from Cal Students Interviewed for Medical School

  1. What do you hope to gain during your medical education?
  2. Describe a typical day from your elementary school days.
  3. What questions do you have for me about our school?
  4. What is your weakness that concerns you most?
  5. Name some strategies to address the problem of smoking among teens; talk about some that haven't been tried before.
  6. What would your best friend say about you in convincing me I should admit you to our medical school?
  7. If you could be any character in history, who would it be, and why?
  8. How did you decide to apply to our medical school?
  9. Why did you choose our specific program?
  10. How are you a match for our medical school?
  11. What do you do in your spare time?
  12. What other medical schools are you applying to?
  13. How do you view abortion?
  14. Would you perform abortions as a doctor? Under what conditions?
  15. What are three things you want to change about yourself?
  16. How would you describe the relationship between science and medicine?
  17. Think back on your undergraduate experience at Cal; what would you change about it?
  18. If you were in charge of UC Berkeley what would you change that would impact the undergraduate experience?
  19. Name something you are most proud of…
  20. Which family member has influenced your life so far and why?
  21. What do you think about the health care system and which way should it go?
  22. What do you think is wrong with the current health care system in the US?
  23. Name a meaningful experience you've had and how it shaped you to pursue work as a physician.
  24. Is there a good deal of drug use at your school?  Possible follow up: Have you taken drugs?
  25. Which languages do you speak? Why?
  26. Which of your college courses interested you the most?
  27. If you couldn't ever be trained to be a physician, what would you be?
  28. In your present living situation, how do you settle disputes with your roomates?
  29. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  30. What interests you outside of medicine and getting into medical school?

What are some interview do's and don'ts?

Interview Outfit

You may want to purchase a conservative suit for your interview if you do not already have one in possession. Conservative suits are dark in color and are not matched with a flamboyant colored accessory. Also, practice wearing your outfit for extended periods of time because you could potentially be wearing this outfit from as early as 7:00 am or 8:00 am until 5:00 or 6:00 pm. Visible tattoos, multiple earrings, unruly hair, etc. should be given attention on the day of your interview.

Be Polite: You are interviewing until the very moment you leave the medical school. Remember to be polite and courteous to everyone you meet on your interview day.

Thank You: Obviously, applicants should always say “thank you” especially if receiving wonderful help from admissions staff, interviewers or medical students. You can send “thank you” notes or emails directly to your interviewers or others who were part of your interview. Thank you notes are more personal and are certainly appreciated. Check with the admissions office before leaving to find out how thank you notes are handled at that school.

Cell Phones: Turn off during your interview day. Even if your phone is on vibrate, that can distract the interviewer and give a negative impression of you. There is a reason for voicemail so let your voicemail pick-up your missed call.

Read: Go over the information you receive from the medical school where you will be interviewing because many of your questions will be answered in their publications. This can avoid any embarrassing moments during an interview.

Rules: Understand that each medical school has their own way of doing business. Some may prefer email communication while others prefer phone or postal service as their main means of communication. Keep all information regarding your application and interviewing available in case there happens to be a miscommunication.

Do Not Harass: Once a decision has been made by the admissions committee and the applicant has been notified, that is the final decision. The decision cannot be overturned by the Dean or any admissions staff. If you are waitlisted, do not make daily or weekly contact with the school, asking about your chances of being taken off the waitlist. Before ending your interview day, you should check with the admissions office to find out what would be the appropriate information that could be forwarded for updates on your application. A medical school does not want a copy of your senior thesis or a photo album of you involved in your volunteer activities.

May 15th: You are not to hold multiple acceptances after May 15th. Be conscientious of the “traffic rules” that are set-up for medical schools after May 15th. Should you be holding multiple acceptances after May 15th, some medical schools will begin to push you for a decision by asking for large deposits and/or sending strongly worded letters. Be thoughtful not only for the sake of the medical school who is trying to confirm their class but more importantly, to your fellow applicants who are on a waitlist and because you are failing to withdraw your application, they remain on the waitlist.