Interviews & Follow-Up

What does it mean to have an interview?

Schools have very limited interview slots and will not offer them without having a serious interest in you as a candidate. You should take receiving an interview as a very good sign, but remember that schools will offer acceptance to between one third and two thirds of all the students they interview. So, it is important to be well-prepared and to be yourself and behave like a person the interviewers would want to have as a colleague. Schools are interested in students who fit their program, they want to know that you will be happy there and that your needs will be met, as well as that you will fit in well with other students and faculty.

What are interviewers looking for?

  • Interest in the school: residency, alumnus status, family, knowledge of the program (s) they offer.
  • Motivation
  • Personal characteristics: maturity, communication skills
  • Knowledge of health care issues

Sample questions

Tell me about yourself.
Tell me about your family.
Why medicine?
What is your alternative plan?
What physician has been a role model?
Why would you make a good doctor?
What difference will you make as a physician?
What ethical issues face medicine?

What are you looking for in a medical education?
What attracted you to this school?
What surprises you most about your XXX (from your resume) experience?
What makes you a good match for us?
What weakness do you have, and how did you overcome it?

What do you do in your spare time?
How do you deal with being overwhelmed?
What is your favorite book/movie/type of music?
What ethical dilemma have you faced? How did you resolve it?
What courses did you enjoy the most in college?
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Do you have family members in the medical field?
What volunteer and clinical experiences have you had?
Tell me about your research.
What issues do you think M.D.'s will be facing in 20 years?

What are the top challenges facing physicians today?
How will the field of medicine and managed care evolve in the next 20 years?
What is the role of a physician in the community?
What is your view on managed care?
What do you think about the health care system in Canada?
Why did you do poorly in orgo?
Any questions for me?

Is there anything not in your file you would like me to share with the Admissions Committee?

How are interviews conducted?

  • General session (‘the all day interview'): Overview presented by the Admissions Office, a meal, tour of campus, time with students.
  • Blind vs. open: Sometimes your interviewer will not have access to any or only to a part of your application and you will be expected to fill in details. Sometimes your interviewer will have read your application and will ask questions based on what they know about you. You may or may not be informed as to the style used at the school to which you are applying, so you should be prepared for both and remind yourself of what you wrote in your application and secondary before you go.
  • Students: Current medical school students may be on the interview team and they may or may not have a role in the committee selection process. They will certainly be a part of your day in any case, and their feedback may be valued highly by the admissions office. You should remain professional with everyone you interact with throughout the day.
  • Single vs. multiple: You may have one interview or you may have two or three interviews with a combination of physicians and students. In some cases, you will have a group interview in which you will be seated with other applicants and asked to respond to questions in turn. In any case, they are looking for you to demonstrate commitment, problem-solving skills, communication skills, empathy, genuineness, and readiness to enter the profession.
  • Multiple Mini-Interviews: As of summer 2016, these schools use the MMI format. Be prepared for a series of short (10 minutes or less) interviews in a circuit of 8-12 stations. In addition to traditional interview questions, expect to be presented with scenarios related to ethics, interpersonal skills, professionalism, critical thinking, and teamwork. Link to an interesting NYTimes article on this.  Virginia Tech, one of the schools using this tool, has also provided a youtube video that is helpful.

How should I prepare?

  • Be aware of issues in general and related to the school.
  • Read everything they send, web site.
  • Talk to friends or family.
  • Review AMCAS application
  • Mock but don't memorize - stay natural
  • Dress for acceptance; Be early; Note who is interviewing you and collect their cards if possible for follow up.
  • Speak to UMD alums who are enrolled in the program. HPAO maintains a list of alumni who have agreed to serve as a resourece for future applicants. Students may inquire with the HPAO to obtain access to this list.
  • Preparing for the Multiple-Mini Interview (MMI)
  • Utilize the Career Center's InterviewStream (Virtual Mock Interview)
  • What is the CASPer? (Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics)

Are there things to avoid?

  • Appearance of boredom/excessive nervousness.
  • Inability to communicate coherently.
  • Single sentence and or monotonous answers.
  • Affectations (like/you know)
  • Lack of enthusiasm; lack of eye contact.
  • Inability to explain research work or volunteer activities.
  • Impatience or rudeness with any member of the admissions team including administrative assistants, students, security guards, etc.

How should I follow up with schools after I interview?

First, follow whatever directions the school may provide regarding follow up, including how to follow up and when, etc.  If no information is provided, plan to collect business cards from the people with whom you interview and write to each of them, thanking them for their time and highlighting things about the schools that were especially appealing to you. Old fashioned snail mail on sophisticated stationary is a nice touch, but email is a widely acceptable means of communication as well.  Emails should be drafted professionally. You should also write to the Admissions Office/Dean.

Is it appropriate to send additional information?

  • Once your file has been complete for at least several weeks, it's appropriate (but not required!) to send occasional updates to schools to express your continued interest and to provide information about what you're doing.
  • Do not send updates if a school asks you not to send additional information. If it’s unclear whether they will accept or welcome updates, contact the admissions office to ask.
  • Generally speaking, an update when something significant has happened (e.g., you have completed additional coursework and have updated grades to share, you have won an award, landed a job or new clinical volunteering experience, or gotten an article published), can be seen as an expression of continued interest. 
  • If there was an area of your candidacy that you knew needed more work when you applied and you’ve been working toward it, be sure to emphasize this – for example, if you had little clinical exposure and have been volunteering regularly, include that information.
  • Updates sent too frequently or with too little content may be more of an inconvenience than a benefit to your candidacy. You will have to judge for yourself the line between overly eager/annoying and appropriate.
  • One additional letter of recommendation may be appropriate in the course of the application cycle if schools will accept them.
  • If you have gained new perspective on a school and your fit for it (by researching it further, by meeting someone affiliated with the school, etc.), it can be helpful to include that insight in your update.
  • Updates should be concise and clear – no more than a page seems appropriate.
  • Always write with a professional tone.
  • Submit the updates in whatever manner the school prefers – this is often through their portal.
  • Keep copies of everything you send.

What is a Letter of Intent and should I send them?

A Letter of Intent is correspondence to professional schools letting them know that, if they were to accept you, it would be your intention to attend their school - a promise note, of sorts. It has been made popular by the student doctor network. The HPAO does not specifically recommend such a letter, as many admissions Deans have made it clear that they are not all that useful. What is useful, however, are well timed updates to admissions offices, indicating your continued interest in the school and any new activities, relevant experiences you have had since your original application. Certainly, at a minimum, you should send updated transcripts (above), but this is also a good time to send a note letting the admissions office know that the transcript is on the way, you are still interested, and you have had these new experiences.

If you are placed on a waitlist, it is also a good idea to acknowledge this update to your status in writing and to indicate that you are pleased to still be under consideration and that you remain very interested.

Timeline For Updates:

  • November-February: Send schools updated transcript, and updates on research, significant changes or improvements to your application, letters of recommendation, etc. Be sure when you send this letter that you are keeping it concise and professional. This update is to keep schools informed, not to request or beg for a spot in their school. If anything, you should mention one or two reasons why you're interested in that school's program and discuss how you bring something unique or diverse to their program. Your update letter should be meaningful and professional.
  • March: If you have not heard from schools regarding interview invites, you should begin to think about your next steps:
    • Come to walk-in hours or request an appointment to seek further advising
    • Think about whether or not you should re-apply. Questions to consider at this time are:
      • Does it make sense to re-apply in the next cycle?
      • What are my weakness and have I worked on these enough in the most recent application cycle? How can I improve my applicant profile? 

Words of Advice from UMD Students

2016 Applicants Iowis Zhu, Kevin Fan, Ashley La and Abby Goron share their tips for success:

In addition, we have a great resource from a former alum discussing Tips and Tricks for MD/PhD Applicants!

Another Student Perspective

For applicants, I believe being honest is key to doing well on all interviews. For example, if an interviewer asks "What do you do for fun?", saying that you love to volunteer might sound disingenuous if you don't volunteer on a regular basis or you don't really enjoy it. In those cases, it is best to talk about your interests outside of school or medically related activities, things that you really enjoy even if it is common or ordinary like listening to music. Interviewers already know that you possess the intellectual ability to attend the school, often times they just want to know if you are an ordinary person and would fit in with the rest of the class. Interviewers often try to create an environment in which you show your best side. My worst fear was that some interviewer would be out to get me on something I didn't know but that was far from reality. From all my interviews thus far, it seems as if schools were very happy to have me and were willing do their best to accommodate me. I believe applicants will run into problems when they try to game the process by being untrue about something on their application or by acting as if they are knowledgeable about something they don't know. If an applicant does not know something about a topic, it is best to say that he or she does not know.

For most of my interviews I have made use of the student hosting programs that were available. Students always have a good idea of what the school is like and so I have benefited from the inside knowledge about each school prior to the interview. As a result, I had a good idea of what I liked about each school and what I would say during the interview if asked. In fact, some interviews even ask you if you like the students at the school so it is always good to spend time with a student before the interview. It is always a great idea to make contact with alumni at the school you are going to prior to the interview. They can always supply useful information about the school and the differences between medical school and undergrad. In fact, UM students at the school may even know your student and faculty interviewer.

My group interview with Emory proved to be pretty good but that all depends on the students that are a part of your group. My only group interview was with Emory and they did a good job of not making the interview competitive -- this may not always be the case. Apart from that, it is always important to be professional right throughout the interview and interview day as everything is taken into consideration.

Typical interview questions I have been asked include:

"Why do you want to be a doctor?"

"What do you think about health care in the United States?"

"What do you see yourself doing ten years from now?"

"What will you bring to this medical school?"

"Why do you want to come to this medical school?"

Other questions have been in direct regard to my application. Always be prepared to ask the interviewer a question about the school as it will show the interviewer that you have really thought about the school.