Thousands of medical students are in the midst of interviewing for their dream job. The importance of interviewing well cannot be overstated. Below are the top five common interview questions that could be asked during your interview.
Tell me about yourself.
- Open the interview and quickly gauge how personable you are.
- To understand who the applicant is beyond their application.
- Although this is one of the most common interview questions, most applicants miss the mark of appropriately answering the question.
- The goal is to spark interest in who you are as an applicant. This is the time to briefly plug in non-academic facts that make you unique.
- Talk about things that are beyond your application, such as hobbies (e.g., musical talent, writing, sports).
- Limit the answer to under 1 minute. The longer you talk, the more you give the interviewer a chance to “tune out.”
- This is an answer you can have prepped and ready to go. Practice this and have it ready for the interviewer.
- Most applicants use this time to reiterate strong parts of their application. This is the wrong approach to take. Remember that interviewers are more interested in who you are as a person. This is the time to briefly talk about your journey to medicine along with your hobbies/passions and things that make you unique.
Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
- This question helps the interviewer gauge if your goals align with the program’s mission and how goal-oriented you are.
- This is the place to mention whether or not you want to do a fellowship. Do not be afraid to say that you do not know the exact fellowship you desire. For example, it is OK to say, “I know that I want to do a fellowship but am unsure of the exact one. Currently, I am interested in pulmonology but am staying open-minded.”
- Mention other things in medicine that you have an interest in. This is the time to mention things like a goal to be a program director, having a research lab, or running a clinic.
- If it is something that you desire, it is OK to mention that you want a family during this interview question. The benefit of doing this allows you to understand how supportive programs are for their residents having families. Remember, you are interviewing the program as well.
- This is another answer that you have to practice and have ready for the interviewer.
- Lying. You’d think that this does not need to be said, but it does. Never lie in your interview. Believe it or not, it is extremely easy to see when someone isn’t genuine in what they’re telling you. Never say something just because you think it’ll align with the institution.
Tell me about a time of conflict.
- This is mainly used to evaluate how you handle situations.
- I recommend having 2 to 3 preset examples in your interview-arsenal to talk about.
- When talking about conflicts and/or weaknesses, you always want to highlight what you learned and how it has prepared you for the future. This is absolutely key! Never talk about situations without briefly mentioning the reflection and growth you’ve had from them.
- Think back to situations where you can truly express growth and how you actively handled a situation. Good examples are differences of opinions in running organizations, conflict with a medical student colleague during a rotation, differences in opinions in running events.
- Talking about situations where you had no active role in solving a problem.
- Talking about situations that surround and/or involve violence.
- Stating that you never deal with conflict.
Teach me something.
- This is increasingly becoming a very common ask during interviews. Although it seems overwhelming, this is the time to further “break the ice” and make this fun and memorable.
- Prepare for this question ahead of time.
- Talk about something you are passionate about. Realize that it doesn’t have to be about medicine unless they specifically ask.
- Examples of things to talk about are hobbies (e.g., describing how to cook a dish, a fun task like rock climbing) or something funny and useful (e.g., how to meditate, how to run properly).
- If you blank and cannot remember what you had prepared, it is OK to ask for a brief pause to think. Try to then resort back to things you know (i.e., simple tasks like making up your bed).
- Not trying to answer the question and giving up.
- Teaching things that are inappropriate.
How would you handle a situation where your attending makes inappropriate comments towards a medical student?
- Scenario questions are becoming increasingly more common. They are used to assess how you think and understand what’s appropriate vs. what’s not.
- Ask for time to think about the question if you initially do not know and be OK with asking for clarification.
- In the scenario, remember that any form of hazing and inappropriate comments are unacceptable. If they occur, you should report them.
- Remember to always create a safe environment for the victim to talk and express themself.
- There is a method to report problems. I suggest the following strategy for escalating. If you’re a junior, then first mention it to your chief resident. If the person is still doing the act, then go to your program director. Alternatively, you can also approach the person doing “the act” and further escalate after if needed.
- Putting the onus on the victim. It is never OK to make it the victim’s problem and tell them to “suck it up.”
- Give up without trying to answer the question.
James W. Stewart is a surgery resident.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com