Interviewing (Applying to Health Profession Schools)

Participating in interviews is a critical part of the application process. Not only is a school trying to decide if an applicant is a good fit for the institution, the school is also trying to market the school and its programs to the applicant. An interview can greatly enhance or negatively impact an applicant’s chance for admission.

Interviews come in a variety of forms. You may have an interview with an individual, a group, or as part of the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) format (more information below). You may meet with staff, students, professors, deans, and/or other members of the institution. Interviewers may have full, partial, or no knowledge of the content of your application. Be flexible and open to any possibilities.

During your visit, you’ll want to have your interviewers focused on what you have to say. Don’t allow your appearance to distract them from that purpose. Wear a conservative, modest suit, dress, or pants/skirt and blouse combination. Accent your appearance with a hairstyle and jewelry that are also conservative. Wear dress shoes in which you can comfortably tour a campus. Don’t chew gum.

Be prepared to show them that you are a capable, professional person. Arrange your travel plans so that you arrive in plenty of time. Be polite and friendly to everyone you meet. Shake hands firmly. Make good eye contact with whoever you are conversing. Choose your words carefully, and avoid phrases such as “you know” and “like.” Be ready for any possible question. Read carefully about the institution ahead of time, and be sure you can explain why the institution is a good fit for you, and why you would be an asset to the institution. (For more information about this click HERE.) Review your application so that what you said in it is fresh in your memory. Read up on current issues in health care. Keep your answers focused and to the point. Be confident, enthusiastic, and positive. Most of all, be honest and sincere. If you are asked about a problem area in your application, acknowledge it, describe what you’ve learned from the experience, and explain how you’ve worked to strengthen that particular area. Remember that this is your time to learn more about the institution, so always be prepared to ask a few questions (for a list of possible questions you can ask, click HERE). After the interview, send a thank you note (email or paper) to the individuals with whom you spoke. Express appreciation for the interviewer’s time, underscore your interest and enthusiasm in the program, and reiterate any important points from the conversation.

There is no substitute for practice. Speak with peers, family, friends, instructors, research colleagues, and advisors about your goals and plans, and solicit feedback. If you are using an advisor from the Medical Professions Advisory Committee (MPAC) during your application process, take your practice interview very seriously. Think about how you can best show your preparation and competencies, and listen carefully to the feedback you receive. You may also ask your Career Education Mentor and other members of the Career Education team to assist you with practice interviews. Consider using your phone to videotape your practice interviews. This will allow you to review the feedback you receive and to hear/see your performance.

STAR Method

As you prepare, plan some main points you would like to share about your candidacy. Use examples that reveal your qualities rather than stating bluntly that you have them (“show” rather than “tell”). One way to do this is to use the STAR method, that is particularly helpful for behavioral-based interview questions. Be ready to answer questions by brainstorming ahead of time key accomplishments in your academic, work, clinical, volunteer, team, research, and leadership experiences with this framework in mind:

S: Situation/ Stage: Set the Stage and describe the problem or challenge you needed to address. Be sure to share a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Give enough detail for the interviewer to understand.

T: Task: What goal were you working toward? What were the challenges and expectations?

A: Action: Describe the Actions you took to address the situation with an appropriate amount of detail and keep the focus on your contribution. What specific steps did you take?

R: Results: What was the Result or your actions? How did you add value, how did you improve the situation or make a positive impact, or what did you learn from the experience?

  • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  • Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  • What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
  • Tell me about a difficult decision you've made in the last year.
  • Give me an example of a time when you tried to accomplish something and failed.
  • Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset co-worker or patient.

Types of Interview Questions

Hypothetical patient scenarios and/or ethical questions: These types of questions may move the conversation away from you as the subject, and can invoke situations that may be challenging and emotionally charged. Often the interviewer is less interested in your knowledge about the particular topic, and is more interested in observing the way you think through the question, and your response to a stressful situation. Keep in mind that there is usually not one "correct" answer. It is helpful to have a framework to think through these scenarios rather than just trying to give a “gut" response. Consider memorizing the following list of questions, and using them to help you walk through your reply (it's fine to articulate these questions out loud so that the interviewer more clearly understands your thought process):

  1. What additional information do I need to understand the situation more fully?
  2. Who are the people in the situation who are being impacted?
  3. What are some options for resolution, and the pros and cons of each choice?
  4. What is fair?
  5. What are the relevant laws?
  6. Where can I find information and support for the people involved, and for me?

For more information about bioethical questions and the MMI, visit Columbia's Bioethics for Premed Students page.

The Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)A number of schools are moving toward multiple brief interviews during which 6 or more questions are asked, each in a different room with a different interviewer. The questions are posted on the door. The applicant has a brief amount of time to read each question and think about her response, then enters the room and speaks with the interviewer for about 8 minutes (times depend on the school). Then a buzzer or bell goes off and the applicant moves to the next room. The questions may cover ethical issues, current events in medicine, or a discussion about the applicant. Some schools give the applicants tasks to see how they work individually and as part of a team. Some use simulated patients to see how applicants communicate. The advantage is that no one person carries all the weight of assessing the applicant, and each room is a fresh start with a new person. For more information, visit the AAMC Multiple Mini Interview site and this article from US New and World Report.

Video Interviews: If you are participating in an interview by video, it is important that you prepare for this type of interview. Use the best equipment you have available, and be familiar with where the camera and microphone are. Ensure as strong an internet connection as you can. Look for a quiet, private spot where you won’t be interrupted and that has good lighting so that you can be seen on the screen. Dress appropriately, and make sure your surroundings are tidy. Have phone backup just in case the video connection does not work.

Wellesley Alumnae: You might find it helpful to connect with Wellesley alumnae who are at the schools. To identify them, you can post a message to Wellesley student and alumnae health professions organizations, LinkedIn, the Wellesley College Alumnae Association, and via The Wellesley Hive. You can also ask admissions offices if they can help you to identify any Wellesley students or faculty at the school and if it would be all right for you to contact them.

Below are questions you may encounter on your interviews. Keep your mind open and be ready for the conversation to go in any direction.

Questions about your career choice:

  • Why are you interested in this career?
  • What experiences have you had that reinforced your desire to go into this career?
  • Why ostepathic medicine? What do you see as the differences and similarities between osteopathic and allopathic medicine?
  • Why did you choose the major you did? How will it help you in your career?
  • What is the best non-science course that you took?
  • What will you contribute to diversity in your medical school class?
  • Where do you see yourself in 15 years?
  • What kind of extracurricular experiences do you have that have made you consider a career in health care?
  • Why do you think you would be a good fit for our institution?

Questions about preparation for health professions school:

  • Tell me about your research. Elaborate on the critical thinking skills you develped from your research experience.
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of?
  • How do you feel the mistakes that you have made in the past will help you to be a better health care provider?
  • What lessons have your learned from a job that you have held?

Hypothetical situations and ethical questions:

  • Would would you do if someone refused to be treated by you because you are a woman?
  • Parents are refusing a blook transfustion for their child who will die without it. What would you do?
  • If a patient in the end stages of metastatic cancer came to you to help her end her life, what would you do?
  • If you were a practicing pediatrician and a 15-year-old girl came to see you for strep throat, and at the end of the visit asked you for birth control pills, what would you do? Would you feel the need to consult her parents?
  • What do you think about stem cell research?
  • Do you think animals should be used for research?
  • If you could solve one problem in the world which would it be and why?
  • If I made you president of a non-profit organization and gave you a blank check, what would you do?
  • If you had three free months to do something completely non-medical, what would you do?

Questions about health care:

  • Any questions about our current healthcare system, including about the Affordable Care Act
  • If you were the President of the United States, what would you do to change the healthcare system?
  • What challenges do medical professionals face now and in the future?
  • Define “diversity” and explain why it is important in health care.

Questions about your character and personal life:

  • What would your friends say about you?
  • What are your greatest strengths?
  • What are your greatest weaknesses?
  • Tell me about your family.
  • Give three or four adjectives to describe yourself.
  • Describe your leadership style.
  • What makes you unique?
  • What is the most recent book you've read for enjoyment?

Questions about life experiences and challenges:

  • Have you ever been involved in a conflict? Describe it and explain what you did to resolve or help resolve it.
  • If you could go back and do things differently, what would you change about your life experience so far?
  • If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?
  • What life experiences have been most influential in forming your character?

Closing questions:

  • Is there anything else you'd like me to know about you?
  • Do you have any questions for me?

Recording of the 2016 Interviewing Info Session

interviewing workshop

This video is privately available to Wellesley students and alumnae on the Health Professions resource page in Handshake. Use your Wellesley login to view.