Ten Tips to Excelling on Your Interview

The interview does not have to be a daunting step in your journey to getting into medical school or to getting that desired job. With the appropriate preparation, you can face it with confidence and boldness, knowing that you have worked hard and have the ability to succeed!

The medical school interview has evolved in recent years from the more traditional one person interview to an amalgamated set of interviews known as the multiple-mini-interview (MMI). This involves a series of about 10 interview stations, 10 minutes each in length with different interviewers. The format of each interview can consist of traditional interview questions, role-play (acting), logic/calculation questions, writing, team-work (collaboration) and more. You can read more about the history and format of the MMI.

The main purpose of this post is to give you some tips to prepare for the MMI and how to handle yourself on the big interview day. Many of these tips apply to other interview formats:

  1. Practice, practice, practice: This is the most important way to prepare and you can start months in advance before you even receive an interview invite. I started with just one question a day (there are plenty of sample questions online). Once I received an interview invitation, I ramped up my practice to about 2-3 questions per day.  I also recorded myself to evaluate my body language, tone of voice and to obtain feedback from others. Practicing in front of the mirror, on Skype, or in person with people from different backgrounds will also get you used to formulating your thoughts quickly even when faced with unfamiliar material. Constructive criticism from those you practice with is vital for improving your line of thinking and delivery. Practice under timed conditions so that you get used to speaking under pressure and learn how to stick within the time limits. A solid foundation of interview preparation will give you more confidence on the big day.

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    Image courtesy of grafhamwalbancke.com
  2. Be yourself: I realized the importance of this particularly with role-play questions. Although there is some level of acting required, it is important to react to the situation the way you normally would, in keeping with your personality, and not pretend to be something you are not. It will be very obvious if you are not being authentic.
  3. Be confident: I went into my interview knowing I had prepared and worked hard. I was in a positive frame of mind, confident that there was no room to doubt my abilities. Enter the room with a smile and give a firm handshake. Recognize how hard you have worked and how far you have come in obtaining an interview. Keep that momentum going!
  4. Be clear and concise: In my view, less-is-more when it comes to an interview. Meandering and rambling speech will make it difficult to bring your points across. Try to keep your response relatively short and to the point (about 2-3 minutes in total and then allow time for follow-up questions).
  5. Check your body language and attire: This may seem like a no-brainer but you would be surprised by the things we do with our hands, face and body when we are talking. During one of my practice sessions, I realized that I tap my feet repeatedly, sometimes roll my eyes and clench my hands. Evaluate your body language and make adjustments if anything seems inappropriate or distracting. Remember to maintain eye-contact with your interviewer or role-play partner and maintain good posture. Ensure that you are dressed appropriately.
  6. Answer the question: You will have about 2 minutes to read and absorb each question on the MMI. Make sure you have noted the salient points of the question, that you answer what is being asked and do not go off on a tangent. Only interject personal experiences if it is relevant to the question.

    job interview 2
    Image courtesy of careerealism.com
  7. Listen attentively: It can be tempting to want to talk non-stop during the interview particularly on the MMI where you only have a few minutes to make an impression on each interviewer. However, being a good listener is also an important skill. You can demonstrate this during role-play scenarios by pausing at appropriate moments to allow the other person to speak and by asking questions to stimulate conversation.
  8. Explain your thought process: For logic questions, explain your line of thinking as you go along rather than waiting to find the solution in your mind before presenting it. Even if you run out of time or do not arrive at the correct answer, you will have at least demonstrated how you think and tackle problems.
  9. Be engaged: Even if you are unsure of how to answer a question, be enthusiastic and engaged with your interviewer. Your passion will come across in your tone of voice and body language. In role-play scenarios, imagine that this is a real situation and throw yourself into the role.
  10. Have fun and don’t dwell: At the end of each interview station, don’t dwell on how you could have done it better but forget about it and move on to the next station with a clear, fresh mind. One station has no bearing on the next station. (Personally, I felt that I fumbled two stations but felt fairly confident about the rest). I have to say that the MMI was the most fun and challenging interview I have ever done. It really stretched me! Try to remember that although the interview is an important part of getting into medical school, you can also relax and enjoy the day through the different scenarios and the people you will meet. I made some great friends and was very inspired by the people I met on interview day.

Whether it is for school or a desired job, many of the above tips will be applicable in different contexts. I hope these tips help you feel more prepared and confident for your interview day. You can do it! If you have further questions, feel free to contact me. I would be happy to help.

Accepted! I’m Going to Medical School!

On behalf of the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University, I am delighted to offer you a position in the Fall 2016 MDCM…program. Congratulations!

On behalf of the Admissions Committee, allow me to compliment you on your impressive candidacy. We are confident that your unique experiences and perspectives as a Non-Traditional Pathway student will enrich the McGill learning community and we look forward to your favourable response.

Yours sincerely,
Assistant Dean of Admissions

Words cannot express my joy when I received my offer of admission to medical school yesterday! This is a dream come true for me and after years of effort, three attempts at the MCAT, and my second attempt at applying to medical school, I have finally made it!

Yesterday and today have been  a whirlwind of events as I have spoken to many friends and family members. I have received an outpouring of beautiful messages from all over the world. At my women’s bible study this morning, I was smothered in hugs, smiles, laughter and happy tears as well as presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. A celebration party is already in the works courtesy of my friends who are as excited as I am.

Countless friends and family have been upholding me in prayer this whole journey and particularly after I received the difficult news on Friday that I had been put on the waiting list. My support network never gave up hope and continued to encourage me, support me and pray for me. I have never felt so much overwhelming love around me. My husband came home from work with tears running down his cheeks as we embraced for a long time and the kids were jumping up and down in excitement.

I feel that I have not been walking this journey alone. So many have been walking with me, picking me up when I fell down, motivating me when I felt exhausted, encouraging me when I felt like giving up.

This whole experience, both the highlights and valleys, has made me grow in so many ways and has strengthened my faith in such a mighty way. I am so grateful to all of you who believed in me and encouraged me. I will never forget the night in my kitchen when I announced to my husband that I was giving up on medicine and we talked for 2 straight hours about how that was not an option and we needed to talk through what my concerns were.

Through it all, my husband never wavered and continued to assure me he would walk with me through this journey. I owe so much to my family and friends, and in particular one of my big brothers and mentor who has been inspiring me since we were children, and who consistently told me how much potential  I have. I could not have done this without my Heavenly Father who gave me so much strength through my weak moments, and who guided me when I felt lost.

As I continue to absorb this exciting news, I think of my amazing late father who set a wonderful example of inspiration and dedication in his career as a surgeon. Taken from us to soon, daddy, but I follow this path in honor of you!

I want to encourage everyone out there who is on a difficult path, particularly those trying to get into medicine. It is very competitive, tough and sometimes disheartening to go through the application process, but persistence pays off. Keep trying, don’t give up! Whatever you set your mind to, keep your eyes above the waves and focused on your prize. You will get there at the right time!

Thank you so much to all my readers for taking the time to read my blog and encourage me. You don’t know how much it has meant to me and helped me along the way!! I know that the journey is only really just beginning and I still have a long way to go but I am just so excited to be starting medical school in the Fall!! Please continue to walk with me. It would be my delight to share my experiences with you!

This verse encouraged me multiple times during my journey:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11

A new chapter of my life begins…I’m going to be a doctor!

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My beautiful family that I’m so blessed to have!

 

 

 

The Admissions Decision…Working Through Disappointment

This is a difficult post for me to write. I received the medical school admissions decision on Friday and found out that I was put on the waiting list. So close to getting in, but did not quite make the cut. I felt utterly disappointed when I first found out the news. I had been put on the waiting list the first time I applied to medical school in 2012. It was like déjà vu and I just felt crushed by the news.

I had applied in a very competitive category (the non-traditional pathway) for applicants who have been out of university for several years and whose science prerequisites have “expired” (more than 8 years old). There were 127 applicants, 17 interviewed and 3 spots available in this category. I was so happy to have made it to the group of 17 who were interviewed. If I made it to the waiting list, it means I am probably in the top 4 to 6 applicants.

Processing this news has been difficult because I felt that I got so close to my goal. It is there looking me in the face but just out of my grasp. It was hard to share the news with my friends and family who were eagerly waiting to know what the decision was. They have been so amazingly supportive and positive.

There is of course a chance that I will make it off the waiting list if one of the three accepted students does not take their spot. The waiting list remains active until the first day of classes in August so I have possibly another 3 months of waiting.

Because I am a person who tends to keep my struggles to myself, I am looking at this as an opportunity to learn to lean on others for support and to not stifle my emotions. I am going to “grieve” this news and allow myself to sort through the feelings of disappointment. I am not going to allow myself to feel like a failure because I know I gave it my all and there were circumstances beyond my control.

In all of this, I have to remind myself that God has a plan, the best plan for me. Right now I don’t understand this outcome. I don’t understand what the bigger picture is. But I have to trust that God sees that bigger picture and he is working behind the scenes to bring about something wonderful.

In the next few weeks as my husband and I figure out what to do next, I will try to remain focused on the great things in my life, like my beautiful children and awesome husband, my wonderful mother and big brothers…and all the amazing friends and family who continue to uphold me and encourage me.

Now is not the time for embarrassment, self-deprecation or negativity, but a time for reflection, a time to go back to God for more direction and a time to heal from this immense hurt that I feel.

 

My Medical School Interview is Done!

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Ready for my med school interview

Yesterday, I had an amazing day as I went through my medical school interview experience. After an intense few weeks of preparation, it was finally time to face the interview! The venue was downtown, 50 minutes away from our house. My husband and children (my cheering squad) were eager to accompany me to the interview so they got up bright and early with me to make it downtown for 7am. We arrived well in advance and I got to chat with other interviewees.

As the interview day organizers came to collect us nervous interviewees from the lobby, I kissed and hugged my family good bye and proceeded to the check-in location. I was thankfully assigned to the first group of the morning and after a quick debriefing, we went to start our interviews. It was in Multiple-Mini-Interview (MMI) format with 10 different interview stations. Despite my initial nervousness, it was a fantastic experience. It’s difficult to know how I performed but I really enjoyed it and felt that it stretched me out of my comfort zone.

Even in those especially challenging moments when I felt unsure of how to answer the question, I prayed for strength and was encompassed by such a sense of boldness and confidence. I felt God’s presence with me helping me to be calm and at peace. I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the interviewers, actors and the other interviewees.

It was stimulating hearing about people’s stories and their diverse backgrounds. The whole event was very well organized and there was something so energizing about being around people with similar goals and aspirations. The admissions decisions will be released on May 12th when I will find out if I have been accepted to medical school!

Through all of this, I am just so grateful to have made it this far. I have received overwhelming support from my church, friends and family who have been encouraging me and praying with me for months. No matter what happens on May 12th, it has been an amazing ride and my faith has grown in so many ways through this whole process. I’m excited!

 

A Step Closer…An Interview Invitation to Medical School

For the past several years, it has been my hope to pursue a career in medicine. Although there have been setbacks, delays and disappointments, I am happy to announce that I received an invitation to interview at my top-choice medical school!

January had been a tough month for me with multiple refusals from several medical schools. When I received one “no” after the other, I was tempted to lose hope. But I knew there was still one university pending and my prayer was that the best outcome for my family and I would prevail.

As I waited for the interview decisions to come out yesterday, my emotions fluctuated between hope, excitement, dread and fear. So many friends and family were waiting for the news and I did not want to disappoint them. My husband and I decided that we would wait for him to get home from work before checking online for the status of my application. The level of suspense was high and at one point in the day, I folded my arms on the dining room table, let a few tears fall down my face and said, “God, I did my best, whatever happens today, may your will be done!

Looking back at the months of waiting and the moments of disappointment, I can say that things are working out for the best because this particular university that I received an invitation to is one of the top universities in Canada, it is the closest one to where we live and also happens to be my alma mater.  I am truly blown away and humbled that I was chosen to interview because the competition was stiff.

Through all of this, I am just grateful to have made it a step further in my dream of becoming a doctor. The last hurdle will be to get through the interview and make it to the final cut. It is a huge challenge but if I’ve made it this far, there is still hope and I am going to give it my very best shot!

So the next few weeks will be spent ramping up my interview practice in preparation for my multiple-mini-interview (MMI) on May 2nd. I am thrilled, excited and so very hopeful that things will work out for the best! No matter what happens, I am so happy to have made it this far and for the incredible support I have received from those around me.

Never give up on your dreams. The mountain may seem insurmountable but there is always a way to get to the top! We just have to keep going!

When You Have Fallen Face-down

January was a tough month in regards to my medical school applications. I heard back from three more schools and sadly, they did not invite me for an interview.  It felt like one blow after another, like the man in the arena, who is “face-down”.

Sharing the news with friends and family was difficult to do. I had a mixture of emotions ranging from feeling defeated, to feeling like a failure, to disappointment, to wanting to give up. But I learned lessons from my last rejection experience in November and did not entertain these feelings for long. I acknowledged them and then decided to look at the positive side of the situation:

  • Rejection does not mean I am a failure: It is just a temporary glitch or bump in the journey and does not mean the story is at an end.
  • Closed doors often have hidden blessings: I realized that by not gaining acceptance to those particular universities, I no longer have to worry about moving to another province. There are so many blessings where we currently live: a safe neighborhood, the opportunity for my children to learn French as a second language, and being surrounded by a great church community, friends and family.
  • There is still hope: I am yet to hear back from one more university (my alma mater) in March and this is the closest medical school to where we live.

So, even though I had my “face-down in the arena” moment in January, I am picking myself back up and moving forward. I think it’s important to take some concrete steps whenever we feel that we have fallen so that we do not stew in our disappointment or despair:

  • Preparation:  I am practicing interview questions in case I get invited for an interview. Regardless of the outcome, it will not be wasted time because practicing to speak better is a skill that is easily transferable.
  • Learning: I went through a few weeks of lack of motivation after my bout of rejections so I have decided to take an online course to keep my mind working. The course is in Global Health with a focus on Humanitarian Crises. Not only am I learning a lot from this course but it is helping me to keep things in perspective as I am reminded of the struggles so many people around the world go through.
  • Writing: I am keeping a journal to document my thoughts and emotions more regularly. I had a habit of suppressing my emotions which was not healthy and journal writing has been therapeutic.
  • Serving: I am grateful for the opportunities to serve and lead at my church through music and teaching. There are moments when it is nerve-wracking, tiring and frustrating but it has also been so rewarding and enriching and has definitely fueled my personal and spiritual growth.

Whatever challenges you are going through, do not despair. Those “face-down” moments can feel awful but they can also lead to great things and help us grow. Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite speeches that encourages me when I feel like I am struggling in the arena of life.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end  the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat” -The Man in the Arena, Theodore Roosevelt.

 

Looking Past Failure…with Joyful Expectations for the Future

I have started off this year feeling very positive and excited about the future. I listened to a talk recently where the speaker described hope as having joyful expectations about the future. And with that hope, comes the attitude of seeing the good in what we currently have now.

When I didn’t get into medical school when I applied in 2013, I was deeply disappointed. I just couldn’t stomach the thought of going through subsequent setbacks. So why not just settle? Admit failure and go back to what I was doing before?

What I am learning from my experiences is that the future goal keeps us hopeful, and in the mean time, we are being shaped and equipped in preparation for our purpose. Both the successes and failures refine us and make us better. It may seem like it is taking an eternity to get to our goal, but provided that we are regularly taking a small step towards that goal, progress is being made. Provided that we are keeping our heads above the waves, and keeping our eyes on the lighthouse that is guiding us to shore, we are making progress.

I am no longer afraid of failure. It may still hurt but I am not afraid of it. I am not afraid of trying again. Each attempt teaches me something and helps me to grow in some way. The journey is just as important as the destination and each day we have is valuable.

So, as I wait to hear back from medical schools this application cycle, I am excited! I am not afraid of the outcome. Whatever happens, I have so much to be grateful for. I have my support-team behind me and I have people who believe in me and love me no matter what.

Whatever your dreams and goals are, don’t give up. Failing is not the end. It means you were courageous enough to try…and that’s something to be proud of.