Interviews: How to Stand Apart from the Herd

Medical school is grueling with the amount of material that needs to be absorbed. The average med student learns approximately double the number of terminology than the average college student.  What they don’t teach is how to prepare for your residency and career interviews.  Yes, there are placement and guidance offices but mock interviewing is not formalized.  I hope to share some good information based on years of experience.

It is perfectly normal to be nervous during an interview as your entire career is focused on this moment. That said there is no better way to present at an interview than being prepared.  You wouldn’t show up for an exam unprepared so, what’s the difference?

First Impressions

First impressions are essential. The first things your interviewers will see are your application, credentials, CV and physical appearance. MAKE IT WORK!!!  So you made the cut and now its time to confirm that you can back up your success stories from your resume and apply them to the real world (and their problems). Also, it’s an opportunity to see if you are a solid cultural fit for the organization.

So how do you connect with your interviewer, and let them know that you are the right fit for the team?

  1. Non Verbal Cues – A firm handshake, good posture, eye contact, and a smile are critical. These will be your very first interactions with your interviewer, so make them count!
  2. Match Their Energy – Rather quickly you should be able to get a read of your interviewer’s energy.  Look for speech, speed, and gestures…matching them brings alignment. But whatever you do – don’t overdo it!
  3. Ask Questions – No better way to demonstrate interest
  4. Find Common Ground – They searched your profile, look up theirs. There is much that can be learned through social media so snoop around online before the interviewer.
  5. Tell a Story – One of the best ways to engage any listener is through stories. This brings them in to your world

Want to make the interviewer feel warm and fuzzy inside? Take a page out of Dale Carnegie’s book: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” – “talk to someone about themselves and they will listen for hours.” If you open them up they might just talk your ear off.  The more the interviewer reveals, the more you have to talk about.

What not to say

Knowing “what to say” is equally important as knowing “what not to say.” Aside from things like mispronouncing your interviewers’ names or making a joke that bombs, there are some scenarios where you are more likely to plant your foot firmly in your mouth. Don’t ask a question that is easily “googled” like “how long has the hospital been around?” Don’t ever say “I don’t have any questions right now.” This is a big issue that can be interpreted as: you’re unprepared; you don’t care; you’re too self-confident; lack of enthusiasm; lack of respect for the interview and the person interviewing you.

When asked if you have any questions, this is the part of the interview to stand out. Remember there are dozens or even hundreds of other candidates who have similar and competing experiences and qualifications.

Here are a few questions you may want to ask your interviewer(s) to get excited about you:

    1. What are your expectations of me as an employee?
    2. What is the supervision style?  Another opportunity to understand if this is a good fit.
    3. Can you describe what an ideal resident looks like? Yes, this is basic! Understanding expectations beforehand will ensure it’s the right fit and it helps you understand what you need to succeed and strive towards.
  • What does an average day look like for you? This allows you not only to get a snapshot of how it really is on a typical day. It also allows the interviewer to spend some time talking about themselves – and people like to talking about themselves.
  • How does X get done around here? Not so easy for someone to answer as they may not know. But this shows interest in the administrative processes of the institution. This can be very telling about the culture.

What to say

There are dozens of questions that will be asked during your interview ranging from ice breakers (tell me about yourself) to knowledge test (clinical vignettes) and the all-important one that will give you a key to what they are really looking for:

… it starts out something like: Do you have experience working in an environment doing … (insert whatever responsibility, duty, etc. that they are looking to find in someone). This usually tells you where their biggest “hurts” are. If they need someone with special expertise or experience working under extreme stress, they’re going to make sure they ask you about that experience. So how do you answer this all-important question in the best way possible?

Tell them about a time when …and of course the successful results.  But what do you do if you don’t have the experience they’re asking about?

Tell them you’re confident…just because you’ve never done something doesn’t mean you can’t do it. An effective way to enhance this confidence is a response about a time when you did do something very similar—or something that could in some way relate to the experience they are asking you about.

Never, ever, say “No, I don’t know how to do that.”

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