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Career Services Cooperative Education & Career Services University of Guelph

Congratulations! You’ve applied to obtain entrance into Medical School and now you are wondering “what can I do to be competitive in the interview process”. This workshop will help you determine some of the interview processes that may be used by Ontario medical schools specifically, but also could be utilized for applying to Medical Schools across the country.

Career Services, Cooperative Education & Career Services, University of Guelph

The purpose of the interview is to help the admission committee gauge: 1. 2. 3. What kind of person you are ie. What skills, interests, experiences make you a suitable candidate? Why you want to be a doctor/would you be successful? ie. Do you have a realistic understanding of the profession? Why you want to attend this medical school in particular ie. Why this school as opposed to others?

Your objective is to share information regarding your skills, experience, personality and interests and to prove that you are well suited to be a physician. Very clearly, the subject of the interview is you. You must know these key attributes and know how to present this information to answer the questions the committee wants to know.

Types of Interviews:

1. 2. 3.

Board/Team Interview Group Interview Multiple Mini

Many schools use a combination of the three types of interviews, so although primarily it may be a board interview, there may be group components as well. Board/Team Interview In this situation, there is one interviewee and two or more interviewers. Since there is more than one person involved in the discussion, it can be difficult to establish rapport. Assume that you are talking to one person, the one who is questioning you. However, it is appropriate to direct attention to the other members of the interview team; do this by establishing eye contact with each member in turn. Group Interview A group of candidates may be asked to discuss an issue or solve a problem, while observers rate the performance of each against certain criteria. It is important to demonstrate leadership qualities and the ability to function as a team member. Multiple Mini Interview In this type of interview, the candidates are put through “stations” whereby they travel to each of the interviewers and are asked a question regarding a specific topic. Topics may include questions on communication, ethics, societal issues and critical thinking. Each station is timed and candidates will only have a specific amount of time to answer the question posed.

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Open vs. Closed Interviews This is not a different kind of interview, rather it refers to whether the interviewers have access to your file or not. In an open interview, the interviewers have access to the information written in the application to the University, whereby, in a closed file interview they do not. Although always important, it is imperative in a closed file interview not to skim over any details, as you need to put the information into context for the interviewers.

TIP! When given a controversial question, make sure to choose a side.
Indecision is a negative trait for prospective doctors! Also, make sure that you don’t show too much emotion if you are answering a controversial question (either in body language or tone of voice). As a physician you need to be careful expressing emotions.

Pre-Interview Stage
A key factor in determining your success in the interview is how prepared you are for the questions that you may be asked. To ensure that you are able to fully answer (with the best possible examples) you should research and role play. Research 1. Know Yourself Know your abilities, interests, skills, experience and personality. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses in each of these areas. Think about short stories from work, school and volunteer experiences that you can talk about to illustrate your skills in a variety of areas. They should be about 3 – 4 sentences in length and tell something about you that is of value to the interviewer. Also ask yourself: ► ► ► ► ► What have I gained from past work experiences, academic programs and other activities? What are my short and long term career goals? What are my reactions to stress and responsibility? What types of challenges do I like? What are my strengths/weaknesses?

2. Know the Institution Inevitably, you will be asked a question about why you chose a particular school over another. Spend time on the school’s website, become familiar with the school’s curriculum and their learning style. Find something unique about the institution and/or the Faculty of Medicine of that institution that you genuinely gravitate toward.
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3. Know the Occupation Show your enthusiasm for becoming a physician by: ► ► ► informing yourself of future trends understanding the controversial or “hot topics” that physicians are facing today in the practice of medicine understand how your interests and abilities compare to the requirements of the occupation

TIP! Keep up to date with current issues in the medical field by reading at
least one professional journal!

Roleplay Although practice may not make perfect, it will certainly make progress. 1. 2. 3. 4. Review possible questions that you may be asked (see page 9 and 10 for a sampling of questions from various medical schools). Practice the answers with friends, colleagues, family members – anyone that will sit and help you structure your answers and give you honest feedback. Set up a taped mock interview with a Peer Helper at Appointment times are limited – so book early. Visit or for examples of good (and bad) answers to interview questions.

TIP! It usually isn’t only professors that interview for medical schools.
Panels will consist of current students, community members, professionals and/or faculty members. Think about questions as they may impact different members of society! Other things to remember about the pre-interview stage: ► ► Know directions and alternate routes how to get to the interview. Practice going around the same time of your interview so you know traffic patterns and areas to avoid Be on time! Plan to arrive about 5 – 10 minutes before your scheduled interview time. If you happen to be late due to circumstances beyond your control, make sure to bring the telephone number so that you can call. Reliability is a critical trait that is first demonstrated by your punctuality at the interview.

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► ►

Dress professionally. Avoid flashy jewellery or clothing. Medicine is a pretty conservative field. Polish your shoes! Avoid strong smelling scents and odours (smoking, perfume, garlic etc.) These scents/odours may offend individuals in the interview.

Interview Stage
In your greeting, use the interviewer’s name and firm handshake. A favourable first impression can help a great deal in the interview. On the other hand, an unfavourable impression will certainly hurt. Show the interviewer(s) that you recognize and respect their authority and position by allowing them to open the conversation. The interviewer may attempt to put you at ease with “small talk”.

Body Language First impressions are strongly affected by body language. Approximately 90% of communication is non-verbal. Body language is non-verbal information that provides cues that reinforce or contradict verbal cues. Some elements of body language are: Eye Contact: Facial Expression: Maintain regular eye contact with interviewers without being excessive Pleasant, alert, with a smile

Posture & movement: Upright with good posture, both standing and when seated. Avoid restlessness and excessive movement Speech: Use a moderate pitch and volume. Some variation adds interest and shows enthusiasm. Avoid mumbling, nervous laughter and using the same phrase or word repeatedly. Neat and clean. Dress appropriately – in a business like fashion.


Answering Questions Generally, the interview questions will loosely fall into ten categories: ► Ambiguous ► Academic ► Medically related ► Related to social skills or interests

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► Stress-type ► Personality oriented ► Miscellaneous

► Problem situations ► Based on autobiographical sketch ► Concluding

The questions could be asked in one of the following three ways: 1. Closed Questions:

Asked when the interviewer wants specific information, often factual or technical in nature. These questions can frequently be answered with a “yes” or “no”. eg. “Do you have any experience with scientific research?”

TIP! Even if you are asked a seemingly “closed” question, try to elaborate your
answer with further details. “Yes I have experience. I have been working in a laboratory for the past summers doing…” 2. Open Ended Questions:

Asked when an opinion or ideas are sought and require the responder to determine his/her own focus. These types of interview questions are considered to be much more effective than the closed style of interview questions. eg. “Why do you want to study medicine?” Open ended questions have evolved into what is called “Behaviour based interviewing” which is used frequently by all interviewers. 3. Behaviour-Based Interview Questions:

Interview specialists believe that “past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior…that more recent behavior is a better predictor of future behavior than older behavior, and that long-standing trends are better predictors of behavior than isolated incidents” (Beebe, B., Journal of Career Planning and Employment, 1996). The focus of these questions is on asking the candidate to use examples of behaviour from his/her past to illustrate the answers to a variety of open-ended questions. In problem-solving questions, the interviewer will ask how you solved a problem or used a particular skill in the past. Probing questions are asked to obtain more detail about information in your resume or information given in a previous answer. Such questions may address the reasons behind your actions. A third kind of question which fits the behavior- based style is the situational question, in which the candidate is asked about how they would respond to a specific situation: ‘Tell me about a time when you have had to discuss sensitive and maybe life-altering information with someone”

Career Services, Cooperative Education & Career Services, University of Guelph


Taking time to prepare beforehand for behaviour-based interview questions is essential. One of the best ways to do this is to spend some time just thinking about your strengths, your skills, and stories that would illustrate these skills. Your research on the occupation will tell you the skills required. Add these skills to your personal skills list and again, think about things you have done, whether in a work, school, or volunteer setting, that supports your competence level. These stories, when told well, will make your answers to behaviour-based interview questions stand out. Be specific. Set up the story well. A technique that can be used to help set up the story is the STAR technique. All good stories have a beginning (setting up the Situation/Task/problem), a middle (where the Action takes place) and an end (the Result of your behaviour). Remember, you want to discuss what you did or accomplished in the story. Ensure that your stories tell something about you that is of value to the interviewer.

TIP! A good story is three to six sentences and about a minute in length.
Story telling encourages a conversational style of interview and definitely makes the interview more fun!

Interview Closing
As soon as you sense the interview coming to a conclusion, start to close out the session on a “high note”. Use the last few minutes to summarize a few key credentials in a final statement. Be enthusiastic about attending the school and about the profession in general. Express appreciation to the interviewer(s) for an interesting and informative discussion. Ask Questions You may not be allowed to ask questions in some of your interviews, however, have a few prepared in case the interviewers allow it. Having thought out, meaningful questions prepared will once again show your enthusiasm for the school and the profession. Be careful not to ask questions that could easily be found on their website, or in material that has already been sent to you. Summarize Your Qualifications End on a positive note, use the closing as an opportunity to reiterate the skills you have that would make you a good physician, as well as why you would like to attend that particular school. Determine Next Steps The interviewer(s) will probably tell you the next step in the procedure. If nothing is mentioned, however, you may raise the subject by saying, “What is the next

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step?” Before you leave the meeting, be sure that you have all the correct information about the next step in the selection process.

Post Interview Stage
Immediately following an interview, record the key points of the discussion – important and interesting remarks made by both you and the interviewer. Note the names and key comments of all people with whom you talked. On another sheet of paper, evaluate the success of the interview. Note your strengths and weaknesses. What things said by you interested the interviewers, and what things bored, irritated, or disappointed them? How could you improve your next interview presentation based on this session? Keep this evaluation sheet.

Next Steps?
Set up a mock interview for medical school by going to and clicking on “Book An Appointment”. Mock interviews are limited – so sign up early.

Career Services, Cooperative Education & Career Services, University of Guelph


Interview Self Evaluation
Evaluating your performance in the interview will help you to prepare for a future one: 1. List 3 things which made the interview a success.

2. a) List 3 things about the interview that you would change b) For each of these three items, explain what you are going to do to improve for your next interview.

3. Were some of the interviewer’s questions difficult to answer? What were they? How would you respond if asked again?

4. What skills/qualities were the admission committee looking for? How could you better present these skills next time?

5. What further information do you need in order to determine if you would accept an offer?

6. What do you like/dislike about this school? (Consider a graph or other way to rate and compare the schools with which you have interviewed).

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Interview Questions Ambiguous • Tell me about yourself. • What are your strengths? • What are your weaknesses? • How do you deal with stress? • What is your greatest achievement/failure? • How do you learn best? • Why do you want to study medicine?

Medically Related • What are the pros and cons of our health care system? • What challenges do you anticipate in medicine? • What is your view on harm-reduction models exhibited in needle-exchange programs in AIDS agencies? • Suggest an ethical dilemma that a physician might face and how he or she could deal with it. • Why do you want to become a doctor – why not a nurse? • How do you feel about euthanasia? • What field of medicine are you most interested in? • What do you think the most significant challenge to doctors of your generation would be? • What is your opinion on stem cell research (or testing for genetic defects before birth)? • What are the two greatest medical advances of the last century? • How does morality fit into medicine? Academic • What is your favourite subject in your present course of study? • Why did you choose your undergraduate major? • How will your schooling to date assist you in becoming a success in med school? • Why did you only get XX mark in your XXX course? Related to Social Skills or Interests • How would your ideal day be spent? • What’s the wackiest thing you’ve ever done? • What book are you reading? • Name a significant international event that occurred in the 90’s • If you don’t get into medicine what will you do? • If you want to help people – why not social work?

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Stress Type • How do you handle stress? • If there is one question that you would hate for us to ask you, what would it be? • Describe a time in your life you disagreed with a person of authority and how you dealt with it. • How would you handle a group/team member that doesn’t handle their work load for a project important for your final grade? Problem Situations • If you have a choice of giving a transplant to a successful elderly member of the community or a 20 year old drug addict, how do you choose? • The night before your final exam, your father has a heart-attack and is admitted to a hospital, what do you do? • A 68 year old married woman has a newly discovered cancer. Her life expectancy is 6 months. How would you inform her? • A patient who has been in an accident needs a blood transfusion. She states that her religion does not allow them. You are the physician in charge. What will you do? Will you override her strong objection? Why/why not? Personality Oriented • If you could change one thing about you – what would it be and why? • What would your friends say are your most positive/negative personality traits? • Do you prefer working with others or by yourself? • What have you done that shows initiative and willingness to work? • What things frustrate you the most? Questions Based on Autobiographical Sketch • What can you tell us about yourself this is not on your autobiographical sketch? • You mention your experience working in the distress centre, can you give me an example of how you’ve helped someone? • Tell me more about your experience with XXX Miscellaneous • If you could invite three people, living or dead to dinner, who would they be and why? • What other medical school have you applied to? • How did you prepare for this interview? • What do you expect to be doing in 10 years? • Describe a life altering experience you have had • Do you have an alternate career plan? Concluding • How do you think you did in this interview? • Is there anything else you would like to add before we conclude? • Do you have any questions?

Career Services, Cooperative Education & Career Services, University of Guelph


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