Top 10 Common Interview Mistakes – and how to avoid them!
This blog is dedicated to those of you getting ready to prepare for the final hurdle – and how not to trip over it. We’ve written the following top ten medical school interview tips, which hopefully will give you a better chance of success!
Don’t not practice…
In other words, DO PRACTICE! This is the most common mistake. We often think that we can wing it, but believe me, when the first question you get is “Write down the Newtonian Equations of Motion”, you’ll be kicking yourself for not reading up on all those things you talked about in your personal statement. Read around the latest NHS news, science publications and magazines and try to write answers to possible questions. You may find it useful to look at our NHS Hot Topics 2016 page for an updated list of the biggest medical news stories this year – and check our weekly news blogs.
Poor first impression
When you enter the room, look the panel in the eye, shake their hands and introduce yourself. If you’re nervous, you might want to skip this step. Don’t. Better a sweaty, firm handshake, than none at all. And one of our top medical school interview tips: don’t forget to brush your hair!
Not knowing about the Medical School
Always a complete disaster. The least you can do in an interview is memorise the name and know about the course structure, and hospitals used for clinical placements. Don’t forget, your interviewers will be proud of their medical school. No doubt they walked down its corridors as junior doctors. Plus, in your interview, you’re trying to persuade them to give you a place. This is pretty much impossible if you don’t even know how the school works. Here’s a list of the questions you may be asked about your specific medical school – so research, then plan your answers!
Not answering the question
Make sure you address exactly what you’ve been asked. If you don’t follow our medical school interview tips, and notice yourself rambling on about the migratory life of the rock-pool mollusc, think about what you were actually asked and recover yourself. Try to keep your interviewers happy by listening, being attentive and giving thought to your answers.
The MMI negative spiral
You can thank your lucky stars that each MMI station is assessed entirely separately from the others. This means, if you do badly at one station you can recover in the rest. The biggest error isn’t making a mess of one MMI station. It’s dwelling on your mistakes at one station and letting it impact your performance in the others. So if you make a mistake, or think you stumbled on a question, don’t worry: relax, keep calm, and make a fresh start at the next station.
Jumping into ethical scenarios
The old chicken or the egg question, but about medical ethics – and much more serious. Ethical scenarios aren’t simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ situations. So, one of our medical school interview top tips for this is: don’t commit to any answer before you’ve engaged your brain. Stop, think, and weigh up both sides (out loud!). Remember the four pillars of Medical Ethics, which can be found here – and for example of ethical scenario questions, visit Ethics on our Interview Question Bank page.
Lack of reflection
Done a lot of great work experience? Well done! But you can’t just walk into your medical school interview and list what you did, when and where. Reflect on what you saw and think about what learning points you’d like to get across to your interviewers before you’re right in front of them. Did a particularly interesting interaction with a patient teach you something about the importance of patient care? Did you learn something new from the nurses you worked with? Make sure you talk about what you learned. See our Work Experience question bank for an idea of the kinds of questions you may be asked.
Lack of examples
‘I am a great communicator, a fast-learner, highly empathetic and have exceptional leadership skills.’ Easy to say. Harder to prove. Every time you mention a personal quality or something that is important to making a good doctor, support it with examples from your medical or personal experience.
A surprising number of people, when asked why they want to do something (like study Medicine) answer with negatives. i.e. I didn’t want to do x or y, so I am going to do z. You should always give positive reasons for your choices – especially ones as big as becoming a doctor! What are all the things that excite you about Medicine? Why are you passionate about patient care or working as a nurse?
Better late than never doesn’t really apply for interviews. You don’t want to arrive just two minutes before either, with your notes in a mess, and your mind still on that Snapchat you read on the bus. Try to leave lots of time, and get there early so you have time to compose yourself, brush up and prepare.
Words: Roya on October 26th, 2015