Types of Interviews
Know What Type of Interview to Expect
Interview formats will vary between schools, so it is helpful to be ready for any number of different interview formats. At some schools, interviews are held with individual admission committee members; at others, group interviews are the norm. In addition, while most interviews are typically held on the school's campus, some schools have designated interviewers in different geographic regions to minimize time and expense for applicants. (Information about a school’s interview policies and procedures is usually provided to applicants in the initial stages of the selection process.)
The most common interview (and the one most applicants are familiar with) are those that involve meeting one-on-one with a member of the admissions committee. You may interview with a current medical student, faculty member, or even a member of the community. Typically, one-on-one interviews can last 30-60 minutes, however, the amount of time you spend with an interviewer should not be used as a measure of success.
One-on-one interviews can be either open or closed, with most medical schools utilizing a combination of both. Open interviews are those in which the interviewer has access to and likely has reviewed your application materials. Therefore, they may ask you specific questions pertaining to any activities or experiences that you described when you applied. It is important that you can speak intelligently (and with sufficient detail) about the items you have included in your application, so be careful to review every aspect of your application responses before your interview day. You do not want to be caught off guard about a particular shadowing, volunteering, or research experience that you submitted but are not prepared to talk about at length. Closed interviews are those in which the interviewer does not have any of your application materials upfront and will likely ask you to provide information about yourself that you may have not included in your application. In fact, they may likely wish to know those things about your life that have very little to do with your academic career or professional goals. Do not be surprised if you are asked about your family or hobbies you may have. Other interviewers may ask what you believe you would be doing if you never went to medical school.
Some programs pair one-on-one interviews with group interviews. Group interviews can take a variety of forms: 1) a single interviewer and multiple applicants, 2) a single applicant and multiple interviewers, 3) multiple interviewers and applicants.
In group interviews, it especially important to take note of what is being said, even if a particular question has not been directed to you. Often, you will be asked the same question or asked to follow-up to another applicant or interviewer's response.
Multiple-Mini Interview (MMI)
Increasingly, schools are beginning to utilize a new form of interviewing applicants called the Multiple-Mini Interview or MMI. First developed in Canada, MMI is an interview format developed to assess an applicant’s skill and proficiency in areas such as problem solving, logical thinking, interpersonal skills, and ethical judgment--skills that cannot be reliably determined by simply reviewing exam scores or transcripts alone.
In an MMI, you can expect to encounter 6-10 "stations," where you will interact with an interviewer or actor in a brief question, scenario, or task that will assess your communication skills, specifically verbal and nonverbal skills. These scenarios often involve hypothetical and ethical problems that you may one day face as a practicing physician. For example, you may be asked to describe what you would do if you learned that a physician was giving patients placebos instead of actual medications. There are also scenarios that involve teamwork and assess the ability to work with a partner to solve a problem.
Due to the nature of MMI, it can be difficult to prepare for these interviews ahead of time. The most successful candidates are consistent in their own value systems and have pondered their reactions to various bio-ethics challenges before the interview day.
MD (or DMD, DVM, etc.)/PhD Dual-Degree Interviews
Interviews for admission into combined professional & PhD programs differ from the normal interview routine. In fact, the planned interview schedules are often much longer (a full day or two) and usually include social activities, in which prospective students can meet with key faculty and current students.
When interviewing for these programs, you will typically interview with both the admissions staff at the health professional school and the graduate school. Therefore, it is important that you are prepared to explain both your reasons for pursuing a career in healthcare and your research interests. Be ready to explain your research experiences in depth, making sure to describe the investigative process (the working leading up to the project, successes, failures, and goals) as well as the larger significance of the lab beyond your individual project. What is your research about? What was your role in the project? Why is your research important on a global scale? You should also prepare and practice a brief (30-60 seconds) explanation of your work that can be used in casual conversation. Finally, make sure you have some knowledge of the research done by the faculty with whom you are interviewing and a general idea of the type of research you would be interested in pursuing if admitted.
Ultimately, when interviewing candidates for the combined PhD programs, admissions committees are looking for applicants whose intellectual interests best match the work in progress among their faculty. They are also looking for students who already have a solid understanding of how research is conducted and disseminated, and who will be able to work independently during the PhD portion of the program.