Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Interview Experience

An interview is something that always makes a person nervous. I believe this is because it is something that is different for everyone. It is an unknown and no one really knows what kind of curve-ball questions are going to come there way. After my interview at Umass Medical school, I was asked what it was like, what kind of questions I was asked, and were the interviewers pleasant. Some of these questions came from my peers who were also preparing for their medical school interviews. To them, I give this advice:

9:15 AM: Start of the day in the admissions office. 

I got to the admissions office about 20 minutes early. In this time I was able to meet the other applicants and find more about where they went to school and about their backgrounds. We were given access to the student lounge while we waited for everyone to arrive. 

Once all of the applicants arrived, the admissions secretary gave each person their interview locations and provided directions to each site. Some of the interviews were conducted close by while some required a 10 minute walk across the campus to other buildings. 

The secretary also provided the information that the interview committee was comprised of 24 voting members and that they were broken up into teams of two. Each team reviews application packets and decides which applicants to invite for an interview. Only about 50% of applicants receive an interview. For Umass Medical, that is about 500 interviews that are conducted per year. She also told us that the committee was comprised of faculty and six students. It was noted that each interviewer has a different style, but all interviewers have complete access to all application materials of their interviewees. Some interviewers review each application packet prior to the interview while some choose to interview first and then review the packet. 

10:00 AM: First Interview. 

My first interview was on the fourth floor of the medical school building in one of the conference rooms. The room was very comfortable with a great view of the campus. My interviewer was a general hospitalist and was very nice. She made it well known that her interview style was informal and personal. I was asked about my general background and my experiences. I was also asked how I spend my free time and what I did to relieve stress. My interviewer then asked about my research experience and what I worked on in the lab. She then wanted to know where I saw myself in ten years. I told her where I thought I would be, but I made it known that I was receptive to new opportunities and I was well aware that some other branch of medicine may interest me. I was then given an opportunity to ask my own questions. I asked about the new expansion of the medical school and when it was going to be completed. This prompted a discussion on the new building and what kind of opportunities it held. This discussion lasted until the end of the interview. 

As far as structure is concerned, my interviewer had a list of prepared questions that she constructed from both my personal statement and my extracurricular list. She adapted and modified her questions as the interview progressed and chose not to ask some questions she found unnecessary. She took detailed notes of my answers. Upon completion of the interview, the interviewer directed me to the location of my next meeting. 

10:45 AM: Second Interview. 

My second interview was located in the basement of the hospital and not in the medical school itself. It was conducted by a pediatrician who specialized in emergency medicine. The room was a bit cramped, but she said that there was some flooding and that was why everything was somewhat disorganized. My interviewer again asked me about my general background and what brought me to medicine. She also wanted to know how I approached schoolwork and what kind of study habits I had. I was then asked what I thought health care would be like in ten years. Following that question, she asked me what I thought some if the problems were in the current health care system. Following the same trend of questioning, my interviewer then asked me what I thought of personal responsibility in relation to emergency medicine. At the end of the questioning, I was again given the opportunity to ask my own questions. I took this time to ask about student research. My interviewer happened to be in charge of hiring student researchers in her department, so she was more than happy to elaborate on the opportunities available. 

The structure of the second interview was moderately informal, but it was a little less personal than the first interview. My interviewer had looked over my application packet beforehand, but she neither prepared any questions, nor did she take notes during the interview. At the end of the interview, I was shown the way back to the admissions office. 

11:30 AM: Orientation. 

At this point, all of the applicants met in the student lounge again. We then traveled as a group to the orientation site. In my case, the orientation was conducted in the research building, but we were told that it was not the usual site. During orientation we were given quick presentations by representatives of the administration, the financial aid office, and the office of medical education. We then were given a free catered lunch and met with second year medical students. The medical students gave a quick presentation on the student lifestyle and then gave us a tour of the medical school. The medical students were really helpful and were open to any questions. At the conclusion of the tour, the applicants who had morning interviews were allowed to go leave. This was at 1:45 PM for me. 

General Notes 

The atmosphere at Umass Medical is very relaxing and inviting. Everyone on campus was really nice and helpful. 

Each interview only lasts 30 minutes. This time flies by. 

All of the applicants wore suits. 

You will be there with applicants from Yale, Harvard, Notre Dame, etc. Do not let them intimidate you. You have as much of a chance, if not better, as they do. 

Do not be afraid to ask questions. The more questions you ask, the more interested you seem. 

I stayed at a local hotel the night before the interview. This worked out extremely well because I was able to find the room the night before and it was only a 15 minute walk versus an hour and a half drive. 

Do not appear arrogant. I was with an applicant from Harvard that thought he walked on water and could turn water into wine. No one liked him.

TB

I don't know if it was much of an interview. We just shot the breeze.
-Richard Petty