How do I prepare for my interviews?


How you think about the interview process is critical because your thinking will influence the interaction. Try to look at interviewing as an opportunity, because it is essentially an opportunity. Your perceptions regarding the interviewing experience are very important. Always be professional in your interviews, even if your interviewer is not. Never forget that impressions matter, and people talk. The medical community among specific specialties is not that large, and word will get around! Pay attention to the “cues” your interviewer gives you, and try to be authentic and genuine. You need to be your unique self… Don’t just say what you think the interviewer “wants” to hear!

An opportunity to introduce your leadership

If you looked back at the interviews you might have done in the past, which ones are the ones you enjoyed the most? Most likely, they’re the ones which flowed like a conversation, where the questions were almost superfluous because the conversation had a dynamic of its own.

How you think about interview process is important because how you anticipate and think about the interaction influences the interaction… If you think that interviews are tests where you have to nervously think of answers, then that’s what the experience will likely be for you… You don’t want that! You want to frame the interaction differently in your mind. See yourself as confident, poised, knowledgeable, and friendly!

What if you were given the opportunity to fly around the country to visit unique programs to help train you to become an excellent doctor? What if in that process, you got to meet hundreds of people where you got to ask them questions to enrich your understanding of your chosen field? What if some of these people will become friends, colleagues, and collaborators for you? What if this process challenges you to clarify your professional direction so that when you enter practice, you can make better choices for yourself?

How you look at interviewing is important. If you look at it as the opportunity that it is, you will actually find yourself wanting to interview. When you are in that state, you will do better in your interviews. This is an important part of your professional journey that has major impacts on your medical career. So as you are preparing for your interviews, work on your perceptions too!


It’s a professional interaction

Interviewers are NOT created equal… When you’re interviewing with someone with “less personality,” it’s easy to remember that the interviewer is not your friend. However, when you run into interviewers who are very personable, you might let your guard down. You might share things which are not appropriate for interviews. Don’t fall into this trap…

No matter how conversational things get, remember that this is a professional interaction governed by professional etiquette. Even if the other person transgresses boundaries, you must hold yourself to professional standards of communication. I’m assuming that you already know not to use profanity, off-color jokes, yada, yada…There are two additional things I want to bring up that might slip under the radar, and those are to avoid negativity and complaining, and to avoid expressing very strong opinions on sensitive topics.

The thing is you and your interviewer don’t know each other well at this point… It is a gradual process of building rapport and trust. During this process, maintain control over how you choose to express yourself. Don’t be overly casual or take necessary risks. Whatever specialty you go into, remember that it’s a small world, and you have a reputation to establish and maintain. The impression you make to others matters, and oftentimes it’s very difficult to change someone’s opinion if they have a negative first impression of you.


A good impression matters

Interviewers are highly subjective. They have biases and those biases influence the impression they form and the selections they make. Students however, often prepare for interviewing like they study for a test. They review questions and they rehearse answers to questions. However, if someone has formed an impression of you in the first 30 seconds, studying interview questions didn’t do much for that…

Don’t get myopic about interviewing where you are overly focused on answering questions. The bigger picture is that interviews are interactions between people and all the messiness that it entails… Answering questions is only a part of the equation… An even bigger part is the “presence” you have during the interaction. Are you paying attention to the signals that the other person is sending? There are subtle cues that people give off which “communicate” what they’re thinking. In order to read them, you must be paying attention! In order to pay attention, you must not be “in your head” rehearsing answers to questions! It’s important to make a good impression, but you also need to be authentic and genuine.


A good impression matters, but…

Within the interview dynamic, there is an apparent power differential with the interviewer more often having the higher power position. To compensate, students often respond by trying to guess what the interviewer wants to hear. Their thinking is, if I tell him/her what he/she wants to hear, then they’ll think more highly of me… While that seems “logical” on first blush, the reality is that with so many students saying the same thing (what they think the interviewer wants to hear), most students seem generic and inauthentic. These are NOT things that you want to be!

This takes a toll on the interviewer. After listening to generic answers for hours and hours on end, they crave someone who can convey him or herself authentically. You might say, “But I did get into medicine because I am interested in the human body!” Really? I’ve never heard that one before!

I’m not saying that you don’t love the human body, or you don’t love kids, or you don’t love interacting with people. Maybe you do! However, that’s like me saying that I really want to be a good dad, and that I like my kids. If I were to say that, would you be fully-convinced by my assertion? Probably not. Why not? Because it’s easy to say those things…

What’s needed is for you to go beyond the things that anyone can say. It takes work for you to look inside and see what makes YOU tick. Interviewers will start to take notice once you can articulate your unique self… That is the real work when preparing for interviews.


  • Primer on Interviewing (takes about 15 minutes to read and can help you think about the elements you need to prepare for your upcoming interview)
  • For more in-depth guidance on constructing a personal/professional narrative, use the storyboarding tool