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Phd2Md's Advice On Interviewing Well

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Hi everyone,

 

This community has been a great resource for me, so I've been looking for a way to give back. Ever since D-day (aka May 10th for my fellow OMSAS warriors), I've been getting lots of PMs about interview skills. Partly because I got multiple offers, and partly because on my A/W/R posts I noted how well the interviews went. Rather than answering each PM separately I figured I'd make a post to point people towards so that others might benefit in the future.

 

I'm not an interview god, I didn't know how to interview before I started, and I wasn't confident in my skills going in. However, the people I practiced with did compliment me quite a bit, and during my interviews several interviewer remarked on how well the conversation was going. I'm pretty sure that interviewers aren't supposed to give you any sort of feedback, but mine did. At the end of my Western interview, my interviewers spent about 10 minutes talking about how perfect I am for Western and vice versa. During my U of T interviews, one interviewer ended the conversation by saying "good job buddy", another by saying "you're an amazing story teller", and another with "this was the most engaging conversation I've had today". So while I'm not a natural interviewee, and I was quite nervous about the whole interview process, things went well. Bellow is why I think it went well for me. It may work for you, it may not. This is a case study with n=1.

 

There's nothing magic about it, there are no secrets. There are, however, golden basics rules. Follow them, they work, and don't tell yourself that you can skip the hard work and figure our how to interview by "cramming" for a week.

 

For MMIs:

-Find a good medical ethics book (ie: Doing Right, and some basic CanMEDS resource)

-Find a good person (ie: a med student or anyone who interviews well and can give feedback)

-Read the book, practice with the person (realistic role play), take their feedback and edit your answer. I couldn't always find someone to practice with so sometimes I would pretend someone was in the room, time my self, and hope others didn't think I was hallucinating.

-Wash, rinse repeat on a regular basis (I did 1-2 hours per day for a few weeks). Only time will make your comfortable, confident, and cunning at MMI. See attachment for the Big List of MMI Questions, do as many as possible.

 

For traditional interviews:

-List ALL of your interesting personal stories (including ABS)

-create a cool narrative (even if its short) for each one

-incorporate a CanMEDS characteristic into each one (don't force it, it should be obvious from the way you tell the story)

-Look up the top health/social news stories of the last 2-3 years and develop an opinion/narrative about those

-Practice with someone (realistic, timed, role play), or alone (but still outloud) if need be

-Wash, rinse repeat on a regular basis (I did 1-2 hours per day for a few weeks). Only time will make your comfortable, confident, and cunning at traditional interviews. See attachment for the Big List of Traditional Interview questions, do as many as possible

 

General:

-Start doing realistic practice early, even if you're still new to interviews, and do it frequently.

-In my opinion you should start prepping for MMIs before you prep for traditional interviews, because the MMI "mindset" (fair, balanced, thoughtful) will be invaluable for traditional interview questions.

-If you can walk in confident and calm, you've won half the battle. Practice this every time your practice interviewing.

-Learning to interview well is a life-changing experience. It teaches you how to connect and interact better, it teaches you how to summarize sell your personal brand in a short period of time, it teaches you how to see what's important in someone else's eyes, and as a PhD student who is about to defend, it taught me how to make my research meaningful to pretty much everyone.

 

Best of luck to all the MD hopefuls. If you have questions, please post in this thread instead of PMing me. If you have a question, chances are someone else will too, so it saves me from having to answer it multiple times and helps more people out. Plus, someone else might have a better answer than me.

 

PS: I don't know who the original compiler/poster of these "Big Lists" is, but if someone does please link them so they can be credited for their awesome work

Big List of MMI Questions.pdf

Big List of All Traditionl Interview Questions.pdf

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Great advice. I had 2 really great interviews (Toronto, McMaster) where I basically did everything listed above, and subsequently received offers. My other interview (Ottawa), which for some reason I didn't prepare as much for, didn't go as well and I was wait-listed.

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Great advice. I had 2 really great interviews (Toronto, McMaster) where I basically did everything listed above, and subsequently received offers. My other interview (Ottawa), which for some reason I didn't prepare as much for, didn't go as well and I was wait-listed.

I can vouch for that. My only wait-list was Queens, and it was my earliest interview (by a few weeks), and I hadn't invested enough hours preparing. 

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I can vouch for that. My only wait-list was Queens, and it was my earliest interview (by a few weeks), and I hadn't invested enough hours preparing. 

That would have been a rough interview to have first, I don't know about you, but I found it to be the toughest. I walked out expecting a waitlist at best. They really didn't shy away from asking the difficult questions....

 

Really great advice though! I'm sure this will be very helpful to people. I prepared in a very similar way and was also accepted everywhere I interviewed. I put a lot of time and effort into preparation, but I didn't want to risk being underprepared when you're so close! I know some people can walk in without practice and ace them, but personally just the extra confidence from knowing I did everything I could made a big difference

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That would have been a rough interview to have first, I don't know about you, but I found it to be the toughest. I walked out expecting a waitlist at best. They really didn't shy away from asking the difficult questions....

 

Really great advice though! I'm sure this will be very helpful to people. I prepared in a very similar way and was also accepted everywhere I interviewed. I put a lot of time and effort into preparation, but I didn't want to risk being underprepared when you're so close! I know some people can walk in without practice and ace them, but personally just the extra confidence from knowing I did everything I could made a big difference

It was. I wasn't sure if it was tough because I wasn't prepared if that's just the way Queen's is. I bet it was a bit of both.

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I'd like to throw in one other tip: Talk to the interviewers like human beings. I noticed that in a lot of my prep that people will ramble for like 5 minutes as if they're delivering a speech or to go on about their accomplishments... I found it helped to get into the mindset that I was having a conversation with friends and just answering their questions directly. Also strike a balance between story-telling and answering the question directly. I found it good to add a bit of personal flair (e.g. an anecdote or opinion) to some questions since it's very likely that the interviewers have heard the same answers several times that day, and it also shows some reflective thinking. Just make sure that you haven't diverted the attention away from the question that was asked.

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I'd like to throw in one other tip: Talk to the interviewers like human beings. I noticed that in a lot of my prep that people will ramble for like 5 minutes as if they're delivering a speech or to go on about their accomplishments... I found it helped to get into the mindset that I was having a conversation with friends and just answering their questions directly. Also strike a balance between story-telling and answering the question directly. I found it good to add a bit of personal flair (e.g. an anecdote or opinion) to some questions since it's very likely that the interviewers have heard the same answers several times that day, and it also shows some reflective thinking. Just make sure that you haven't diverted the attention away from the question that was asked.

 

 

Just want to re-state the points I think are important that previous posters mentioned:

 

  --> If you can walk in confident and calm, you've won half the battle.

 

     and this:

 

 ---> Talk to the interviewers like human beings.

 

 

Biggest thing I think helped me was do not AT them, i.e just spewing your answer out and hoping they pay attention. Have an actual conversation, have pauses, smile, nod etc. 

You guys nailed it on the head here. I think that's part of why I (and apparently my interviewers) had such a good time. There was a real conversation between two real human beings. Since most of their conversations during the day AREN'T that, by simple being real you stand out.

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You guys nailed it on the head here. I think that's part of why I (and apparently my interviewers) had such a good time. There was a real conversation between two real human beings. Since most of their conversations during the day AREN'T that, by simple being real you stand out.

 

 

I've interviewed in past cycles, and I never liked the process, I thought people were bs-ing about the 'having fun' part haha. This last cycle I made an effort to be more calm about the whole thing, and by 'more calm' I mean less obsessive and overthinking the whole thing lol, which seems to be a hangup for some people.

 

Someone on here gave me great advise, and what particularly helped me was treating my MMI like a practise session- it took the performance anxiety/pressure off and I just rolled with everything. I found myself feeling more comfortable at each station, being myself, and also I was able to move on from a station without carrying the omigodwhydidIsaythat baggage to the next one.  

 

And I actually did have fun  :eek:  :P

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All the people who have posted before me have really explained how I approached my interviews, one thing I would also add is to not focus on being who you think they want and instead just answer the way you would if it was your family or friends asking you the question. I also did not focus on highlighting my accomplishments/connecting everything to a canmeds role (unless it was relevant) because those are on paper, what got you to the interview, and honestly when I tried that in practice it didn't feel authentic to me it actually made me feel more awkward. What the interviewers haven't seen yet is how you present yourself and speak to people, which is what makes the confidence and comfort thing a big deal. As future healthcare providers we do not always know what we are walking into and someone who is not jittery is comforting for patients who are already jittery themselves! 

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This may be a suuuuppper obvious question, but I'm going to ask it anyway. You guys mentioned above that it's more conversational. So did you ask your interviewers questions and pause to allow them to comment? I always thought that they ask us the question, we answer and then if they want then they can add their thoughts or comments afterwards. I'm just trying to get an idea of what the feel of those interviews is like since I've never interviewed for med schools before. 

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This may be a suuuuppper obvious question, but I'm going to ask it anyway. You guys mentioned above that it's more conversational. So did you ask your interviewers questions and pause to allow them to comment? I always thought that they ask us the question, we answer and then if they want then they can add their thoughts or comments afterwards. I'm just trying to get an idea of what the feel of those interviews is like since I've never interviewed for med schools before.

For my Ottawa interview (panel), I asked questions when I needed them to clarify the question. The Ottawa interview was definitely much more conversational - they would interrupt me, laugh, stare blankly... it was a mix. My MMI interview (Calgary) wasn't "conversational" in the sense that they never interrupted me and had to ask me specific questions - they never went off script. However, I still tried to engage and pretend like it was a conversation.

 

I've never heard about interviewers adding their thoughts or comments after you have answered a question.

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This may be a suuuuppper obvious question, but I'm going to ask it anyway. You guys mentioned above that it's more conversational. So did you ask your interviewers questions and pause to allow them to comment? I always thought that they ask us the question, we answer and then if they want then they can add their thoughts or comments afterwards. I'm just trying to get an idea of what the feel of those interviews is like since I've never interviewed for med schools before. 

MMI's generally aren't conversational, but uoft was, especially at the end of each station. Panels are different in that respect

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Not a stupid question.

I would wear a suit if male and formal dress if female. Just try to look as professional as possible, it would be the same as what you wear for any job interview.

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This may be a suuuuppper obvious question, but I'm going to ask it anyway. You guys mentioned above that it's more conversational. So did you ask your interviewers questions and pause to allow them to comment? I always thought that they ask us the question, we answer and then if they want then they can add their thoughts or comments afterwards. I'm just trying to get an idea of what the feel of those interviews is like since I've never interviewed for med schools before. 

 

 

MMI's generally aren't conversational, but uoft was, especially at the end of each station. Panels are different in that respect

 

 

I had MMI stations that were more conversational and responded to my answers and I had ones that never went off script.

MMI tone totally depends on the interviewer. Some will give you wiggle room, some will comment and give you opinion, and the less skilled ones will usually stick straight to the script. I believe one of my strengths was being conversational and personal enough to even get the strict-script interviewers off the script. Its just more human, and then when they have to rank applicants later, they remember you as a human.

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Stupid question, but what would you guys suggest for the clothes to wear? Typical business-casual stuff? 

Most people went a bit more formal than business casual, for males a suit and females a pant/skirt suit or a business-y dress. 

 

Overall, #1 thing is to feel comfortable and confident in whatever you wear. The clothes don't matter, but your body language does

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Stupid question, but what would you guys suggest for the clothes to wear? Typical business-casual stuff? 

 

 

I watched this video that outlined many different options for females. (

) I would just add that you are getting up and sitting down a lot during the day so be aware of how comfortable you are in the clothes in a seated position for instance if pants don't have a lot of give or the hem line is too short I imagine it could be uncomfortable. 

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I'd like to throw in one other tip: Talk to the interviewers like human beings. I noticed that in a lot of my prep that people will ramble for like 5 minutes as if they're delivering a speech or to go on about their accomplishments... I found it helped to get into the mindset that I was having a conversation with friends and just answering their questions directly. Also strike a balance between story-telling and answering the question directly. I found it good to add a bit of personal flair (e.g. an anecdote or opinion) to some questions since it's very likely that the interviewers have heard the same answers several times that day, and it also shows some reflective thinking. Just make sure that you haven't diverted the attention away from the question that was asked.

 

Hey, you're absolutely right and this is direct approach I will be using. Do you think all this much prep will kinda screw up my vibe. I'm just naturally confident and good talker. 

 

Would it benefit me a lot to memorize some step by step method in answering their questions, or practicing a lot?

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I've been getting lots questions from people entering the new interview season. Most of the answers can be found in my original forum post, so I thought I'd give this a little bump to put it on people's radar. Hopefully it helps a few more people out!

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