Monday, June 15, 2009

Practice Interview Questions

Rehearsing Q&A is the most effective way to improve your performance on your interview day. Ask your parents, friends or spouse to pose as the interviewer and have them read questions to you out loud. Try and maintain eye contact with the person you’re talking to, but don’t give them a deadly stare. Find a video camera and tape yourself answering questions while sitting on your office chair wearing your suit. Get ready for some embarrassing surprises! I realized that I was nodding to myself like mad whenever I spoke, that sitting down the back of my suit somehow rose up, and that my hands were glued to my knees like a third-grader’s. It was the single most informative instance of feedback on my interview performance I ever received.

Finding interview questions to practice with is not easy. I started by using the Studentdoctor resource where I found lists of questions from students who already interviewed:

However I found that it can be somewhat annoying to navigate. You have to click on a large number of individual student responses to come up with a list of ten non-redundant questions. But it’s a good start.

I used studentdoctor questions in order to come up with my own. I also edited the list as I went through my interview season and gathered more feedback on my performance. I arranged the questions in groups:


If you think of your application in terms of these categories, you can organize your interview to highlight a particular theme of about your candidacy. Write down your answers but do not memorize them – you don’t want to sound robotic. Just become comfortable and familiar with them.

Below are some example questions that I put together. Some of them are borrowed from Studentdoctor resource, some I was asked, and some I just made up.

  • If you were a superhero, what super power would you have and why?
  • Have you ever experienced a situation where your integrity was compromised
  • What is your favorite color
  • What is your favorite type of food and why?
  • Why didn't you stay with a student host?
  • Do you lift weights?
  • Why do you think we need sleep?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What do you do to keep yourself healthy?
  • Where does your sense of morality come from?
Don’t worry if you get an odd question. Steer the discussion back to the theme of your application. For example, “What superhero power do you want to have?” You could say “well I want to fly all over the world and see how doctors live and work in other courtiers”.

  • Do you think you would do well in the (school X) System?
  • Why should (school X) choose you?
  • What is the ONE important lesson you have learned from all your clinical experiences?
  • What should I tell the admissions committee about you?
  • If somebody on the admissions committee said to me “well she’s good but I’ve seen better” what would you like me to answer to that?
  • What do you want to talk about?
  • Is there anything else that we should cover about you (at the end)?
  • What qualities should a physician possess?
  • Name three qualities important to being a physician that you already possess, and another three that you don’t just yet, but that you believe you will strive to gain in medical school?
  • What do you want to talk about?
  • What is your weakness?
  • When you look in the mirror, what do you like and not like about yourself.
  • What do you think will be your biggest challenge in becoming a doctor?
  • What is your weakness?
  • What is one of your weaknesses?
  • If there were one reason for us to not accept you, what would it be?
  • If (school X) didn't accept you, why do you think that would be?
Take every opportunity to talk about your strengths. If you are given a wide opening (like “what do you want to talk about”) talk about your strengths! Say “I’d like to tell you about myself and what brought me here today”. And dive right into your strengths! You should have three major strengths worked out, look at the first few pages of “Better” by Dr. Atul Gawande to help you with ideas.

Coming up with a “good” weakness can be a huge problem. If you resort to something along the lines of “I work too hard” or “I take on too many projects” get ready for some sour responses. It’s been done too many times. Think about embarrassing but funny situations – are you clumsy at the lab bench? Do you have a fear of public speaking? If you don’t have a weakness that’s funny then you can borrow a story from Frank Vertosick’s “When The Air Hits Your Brain”. Don’t draw attention to bad grades or poor MCATs. Your weakness has to be a weakness, but a non-essential one. It helps if it’s funny.

  • Why school X?
  • Why do you think school X is the right place for you?
  • What other schools did you apply to?
  • Why did you apply to school X?
Read the school website to answer these questions. Scan their news feed for big grants (usually NIH) and recent award laureates and recipients. Read about two or three people you’d like to do research with. Perhaps the school has a unique educational system (like Yale) or location that appeals to you. At top schools, geographic location should not even come up. They expect that if your dream is to attend their school, you will happily pack your bags and move to Siberia if needed.

  • What are your thoughts on socialized medicine?
  • What is the greatest impact you plan on having in the medical field? How would you go about doing this?
  • Tell me how you would fix the health care system.
  • Name three current controversies in the field of medicine that you are interested in, and explain your stance and future considerations regarding the debate.
  • Why shouldn't healthcare be paid for by the government
Read NEJM or JAMA to understand the current healthcare issues. NEJM has online broadcasts of conferences and panel discussions of healthcare. Those are short (20-30 minutes) and easy to digest. You will learn interesting opinions about healthcare in US. It would be great if you learned about the healthcare system of at least one more country.

  • What were the happiest and saddest moments of your life?
  • What was your proudest moment?
  • Compare life in foreign country to experience in the U.S.
  • What is the greatest challenge you have faced?

If you're going to tell a sad story, make sure to end it with something positive. At Pittsburgh I told a sad story from my childhood. The atmosphere in the room became palpably dense and the uncomfortable silence duly followed. I smiled and said, “Well, uh, that was depressing!” and we both laughed and relaxed. However, when I interviewed at Boston University my interviewer apparently enjoyed sad stories because they kept asking me questions about it. I dropped many leads into more positive topics, but my interviewer chose to ignore them. Beware of those situations!

  • Tell me about this class you took (interviewers really knew my application in detail)
  • Explain (points to AMCAS activity) and what you learned from it.
  • Tell me about x and y activities listed on your AMCAS / essays?
  • Let's go through your AMCAS application...ECs and background info.
  • How did you find about your undergrad school coming from a foreign country?
  • Tell me about your university. I've never heard of it (said in a most condescending manner).
  • Tell me about your MCAT preparation and your feelings about the result
  • Where else are you applying? (named and asked about specific schools)
  • Looking at the healthcare system today, are there any problems you may have to deal with when you start practicing?
Google your awards and activities. Of course, Google yourself before you start interviewing. Most of my interviewers immediately reached over to their computer and Googled my file right in front of me. It can be intimidating! Know your application inside out and have something interesting to say about every activity.

  • Describe the leadership positions you have held.
  • What challenges did you face as a student group officer?
  • Tell me about your research.
  • How to go about setting up an experiment related to my research.
  • Explain your research to me like I was a molecular biologist, (it was Mol Bio research)
  • What research are you interested in
  • To discuss my interest in research and why I didn't apply to MD/PhD
  • How would you apply your current (basic science) research to medicine?
  • How does your research apply to medicine or how would you translate it?
  • What was your favorite research experience and why?
  • How does your research fit in with your medical vision?
  • Tell me-in layman's terms- about your research?
  • What do you want to do in 5 years?
  • What other schools did you apply to?
  • Why is medical school right for you?
  • Take me through a perfect day in your life ten years from now.
  • If you could change one thing about our society, what would it be?
  • How do you know you want to do medicine, apart from those few clinical volunteering experiences? (tip: be assertive, and give a strong answer; don't shrug it off as a weakness)
  • Explain your experiences and how you decided on medicine
  • Tell me about your family (here try to include something about your family background that made you want to go into medicine)?
  • What are your short term and long-term goals following completion of medical school?
  • Flash forward to twenty years from now....Tell me what your day will be like?
  • Why do you want to be a doctor?
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • How has all your activities prepared you for a career in medicine?


  1. This is so helpful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with such generosity of detail!

    1. Tks very much for your post.

      Avoid surprises — interviews need preparation. Some questions come up time and time again — usually about you, your experience and the job itself. We've gathered together the most common questions so you can get your preparation off to a flying start.

      You also find all interview questions at link at the end of this post.

      Source: Download Ebook: Ultimate Guide To Job Interview Questions Answers:

      Best rgs

  2. Agreed! Thank you so much for taking the time to provide such specific advice!

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  6. "Name three current controversies in the field of medicine that you are interested in, and explain your stance and future considerations regarding the debate"

    what are your thoughts on this question?

  7. Thanks for all the advice. My husband has an interview for an Edmonton medical school coming up and I know he will appreciate all the help he can get.

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  10. This is an awesome post! I'm thinking of applying to Edmonton medical school and I will most definitely be using this blog to prep for my interview. You're a lifesaver!

  11. Can anyone show me where to find the NEJM broadcasted conferences on healthcare? I'm having trouble finding it.
    Great Post!

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  13. Tks very much for your post.

    Avoid surprises — interviews need preparation. Some questions come up time and time again — usually about you, your experience and the job itself. We've gathered together the most common questions so you can get your preparation off to a flying start.

    You also find all interview questions at link at the end of this post.

    Source: Interview Questions & Answers:

    Best rgs

  14. I am lucky to come across this blog. The articles really detail and very helpful when you're going to do interview.
    By the way I am also a medical student from Indonesia, nice to know you.
    And thank you for posting such tips for us :)

  15. Tks very much for your post.

    Avoid surprises — interviews need preparation. Some questions come up time and time again — usually about you, your experience and the job itself. We've gathered together the most common questions so you can get your preparation off to a flying start.

    You also find all interview questions at link at the end of this post.

    Source: Download Ebook: Ultimate Guide To Job Interview Questions Answers:

    Best rgs

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