Episode 18: Crushing Your Med School Interview
The personal interview is an important part of the application process at RUSM, where we get to learn a bit more about the applicants. Every year, we conduct approximately 2200 interviews. Regional Director for the East Region, Jeff Weisberger, shares some advice on how to crush your med school interview.
Milena Garcia: Welcome back future Rossies. Thanks for joining us again. This week my guest is Jeff Weisberger. Jeff, let's have a moment to introduce yourself to our audience.
Jeff Weisberger: Hi everybody. As Milena said, I'm Jeff Weisberger. I am the regional director of student in university partnerships for the Eastern United States. In my capacity with the university I do field recruitment. So I go out and talk to prospective medical students on campuses. I talked with academic advisors.
On the other side, a side of my responsibilities is I am an interviewer for the institution. So I conduct 100 to 150 interviews per year for prospective students. I interview students, mostly from the Midwest, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia and Kentucky. And I've been with the university for coming up on four years. I'll have my four year anniversary in February and I've been working in medical school admissions for about eight years.
Milena Garcia: And as Jeff mentioned, there are several of us doing interviews, doing 100-250 interviews a year. We have interviewers spread out throughout the US to make it easier for the applicants. Jeff, can you cover the format of our interviews, what can the applicants expect?
Jeff Weisberger: Our interview format, done via video conference, takes about an hour in length. So we usually start the interview with a couple of introductory questions just to get everybody comfortable and confident in the process. Then we go through a few ethical scenarios, in which we would present a scenario to the applicant and ask a few follow up questions about that. Then we go into some questions about their motivation for wanting to go to medical school, what they know about our school. We asked some questions about their academic and their clinical history, go over some strengths and weaknesses toward the end and then after the interviewer concludes their questions, we give the interviewee an opportunity to ask any remaining questions that they have.
Advice on the Medical School Personal Interview
Milena Garcia: And I know that the personal interview can be a little bit nerve wracking for the prospective students. What advice do you have for them?
Jeff Weisberger: Yeah, it certainly can be nerve wracking, you can tell, pretty much right away when you start an interview with an applicant if they’re feeling a bit more nervous than one another. I think that's why we really try to go in with some really basic questions to start, you know, what are some things that have happened in your life that have inspired you to want to go to medical school, why now, just some really basic kind of softball questions to get it started.
Milena Garcia: I do think that it's important to know what advice an interviewer has that they can give to prospective students and how they can succeed in a medical school interview?
Jeff Weisberger: I think the first thing to really focus on is just really going over what's in your resume. What's in your personal statement and trying to figure out what’s in there.The interviewer might ask, so just be ready to talk about anything that's in your resume or personal statement and be able to do that confidence. I think another piece of advice I would give to students is just do some research online. What kind of questions can you expect in a medical school interview. There's a ton of things that are going to come up if you just do that in a Google search just what kind of questions, can I expect. And a lot of those are going to hold up, the pretty basic questions. When it comes to reviewing applicants, the admissions committee spends a lot of time reviewing the intricacies of things like the students GPA and their MCATs. For an interviewer, it's our opportunity to just really get to know you. And so it is a lot more open-ended questions.
I would say if there's a possibility to do mock interviews, that's also a really great piece of advice for prospective students. Perhaps through the office of professional development at your undergraduate institution, or maybe there's a professional service out there that will allow you to go through some mock interviews, just to get you more comfortable in the process of just being face to face with somebody and getting getting grilled, to a certain extent I think applicants sometimes feel like it is that way. And then I would say do as much research as you can on the institution you're applying to. I think this kind of question throws people off sometimes. What do you like about this? Because obviously we know you're interested in medical school in general. Do some research. Go on the school's website, Ross is easy to find- medical.rossu.edu. Do some reading about the curriculum, about clinical experiences, and see what it is about this school specifically that you like. The other thing is just be ready to talk in detail about your clinical experiences.
Pretty much anybody that comes into medical school has some form of clinical experiences. There are a lot of different types of experiences out there that you can get. The best applicants have a well rounded wide variety of clinical experiences. There will be questions about those. So just be ready to talk about what you've done out there. Students a lot of times will ask me “What kind of clinical experiences should I be shooting for? What kind of clinical experiences do students come in with?” So I've got this little tune that I'm going to play for you to give you a little bit of an idea of what we usually see so you can borrow or you can shadow.
Milena Garcia: And I forgot to mention that in the beginning. Jeff, our regional directors multi-talented. That's awesome.
Jeff Weisberger: Thank you. I think that as far as clinical experiences go, we're looking for students that have research experience. We love to see students that have professional paid experiences. If they are coming in with shadowing experiences or volunteer work, those are all really great ways to get involved in the medical field.
What Interviewers Look for in Your Medical School Interview
Milena Garcia: You mentioned, going to the mock interviews and getting grilled. You know, I feel like practicing getting grilled will make it easier for when you actually get grilled for real. So I second that. So definitely, if you can find your advisors, make sure to ask if they will do mock interviews with you. The more you practice the more comfortable you become for the real thing. Jeff is the interviewer. What are you looking for doing the interview.
Jeff Weisberger: Well, as I said before, a lot of the academic stuff is reviewed by the admissions committee so as an interviewer. We're looking for personality traits and confidence in the interview. And that's kind of hard to replicate. It's hard to give advice about how to show confidence. But I do think that we can identify charisma, we can identify a certain level of motivation in our applicants. And so I think that by doing some of the things I mentioned in the previous question like doing mock interviews, or just being ready for questions about your resume.
Jeff Weisberger: I think that the confidence is really going to show because you're going to be ready for those questions, you're going to answer them well. But yeah, I think that coming in and showing something like charisma is really going to help and then just being really ready to talk about strengths and weaknesses at the end of the interview. No matter what you're applying for. Whether it's a professional program or a job. You're going to get a question that says, What are your strengths. What can you improve on? I would say two-to-three strengths, one-to-two weaknesses that you can talk about. And I feel like if we see that in the interview, it's going to go really well.
Milena Garcia: And it's been my experience, Jeff hopefully you can back me up on this, that sometimes when I asked the students regarding their weaknesses, sometimes they freak out. They feel like it's a bad thing to tell me something that they need to improve on. Right? And the way I see it is this is an opportunity for you prospective students, future Rossies to be thoughtful about something that you would like to improve on, and perhaps think about how this would affect you as a doctor. So the sooner you start working on this, the better it is. How do you feel about it, Jeff?
Jeff Weisberger: I would just completely agree with you. I mean, I think that coming into this, if this really is like your lifelong calling, there shouldn't be any issue going into an interview and being able to talk about strengths and weaknesses and if there are weaknesses, like Milena said, it doesn't say anything negative about you. Everybody has weaknesses. If you went into a meeting and said “I don't have any weaknesses,” that would be bad. I do think that sometimes people get caught up in the, “Oh, I need to come up with a weakness that's also a strength,” and then sometimes it's kind of an ingenuine answer. Be totally ready to just admit, you know, “I'm a procrastinator” or, you know, “I have a history of taking on too much by letting myself put too much on my plate.” And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Identify those and just tell the interviewer because everybody has something that they can improve on.
Milena Garcia: Great. And what are you discouraged by during the interview?
Jeff Weisberger: I think the one thing as interviewers that we have the hardest time with is people that aren't able to give a direct succinct answer, especially to a really basic question. Sometimes I ask introductory questions like “tell me a few things that have happened in your life that have inspired you to want to go to medical school.” Yes, we are asking for a couple of things. But if that answer goes on for 10 to 15 minutes. That's too much. I mean, really,
If I say “I see that you're applying for the January term. Why did you choose that semester specifically?” that doesn't require a two to five minute answer. Okay, I want to start as soon as possible. I'm highly motivated. Let's get this going. You know what I mean. And so I think the the ability to answer directly and simply is something we really look for. You don’t need to talk in circles, your experience in your academics, they're going to speak for themselves. Just answer the questions as they're as they're presented.
The Ideal Virtual Environment for Your Medical School Interview
Milena Garcia: Right, and that's how the practicing ahead of time also helps to be succinct and organized. Jeff, since we're doing virtual interviews, what do you suggest is the ideal environment for the applicants.
Jeff Weisberger: I think anything that's a quiet environment indoors with a professional background is going to be fine. It's a little bit harder now in the world of doing virtual interviews to say exactly what the room needs to look like. I don't think we need to get that deep into it, but I have interviewed a few students that are sitting in cars. I've interviewed a few students that are sitting outside and you know you can hear the garbage truck go past. You've got to be indoors. I think you've got to have a nice professional backdrop whrere there isn't going to have anything that's embarrassing behind you. You see my professional background here. Make sure your technology is working well and you're going to be fine.
Milena Garcia: I think some students prospective students see this as a chance to be more casual, that the virtual interview is more of a casual environment and it shouldn't be. Please keep in mind this is still how you are representing yourself to the admissions committee. So, do what you think best represents you to the admissions committee, right? So on that note, what do you expect of the dress code for a virtual interview.
Jeff Weisberger: I keep coming back to just like the idea of the professional interview in general.
You're not going to show up to any kind of professional interview in jeans and sneakers, you know, and now in a virtual interview, yeah, you're probably only going to be seen from the waist up. But I do think for guys. The expectation is probably a shirt and tie with the jacket, just like you were probably to a job interview or any professional school interview.Make sure that your hair is combed neatly, again, just just like you're meeting someone face to face. Don't do anything in a virtual environment that is going to be different than how you conduct yourself in an actual office setting or an actual academic setting. For guys, I think that a suit or, like a sport coat, shirt and tie is probably the standard. I would defer to you to maybe give some advice or female perspective candidates.
Milena Garcia: Sure, I would echo your advice for ladies. The same thing, wear an equivalent to the male suit, something that's appropriate for a professional environment. And this is still an interview. Normally what I tell the prospective students that I work with, I will say, if you can wear it to the club don't wear it to a professional interview. That's my biggest advice. And again remember you are representing yourself and we understand that sometimes you may not have these kinds of clothing items in your closet. It's okay to borrow them, right? We don't know.
So as long as you dressed for the occasion. That's what we're looking for. You can give the clothes back the next day to who they belong to.
Jeff Weisberger: Yeah, I love the “if you can wear it to the club don't wear it to the interview.” Yeah, I haven't had anybody show up with Mardi Gras beads or glow stick yet, but I do think that sometimes you see some things where you're just like, that is an unusual choice. It should be a more professional environment and professional attire.
Milena Garcia: Jeff, what are some of the best questions that you have been asked?
Jeff Weisberger: It's a great question. I love reflecting on what are some of the best questions someone has asked me, not just in the interview, but like, when I've been on campuses when I've been talking to advisors. Can I give you three? Is that okay? All right, so one is, what do I think stands out about the school? It's an interesting way to kind of flip that back on the interviewer because I said earlier, I would ask the applicant “What do you like about the school? What stands out to you?” And so it's great when a student then asks me the same, what stands out to me about the institution. As I said, I've been working in medical school admissions for a long time. I've been with Ross for about four years. And so I've had a lot of great opportunities to be there on campus and sit in on classes, sit in on labs and I've worked with first semester students in the capacity of a student care coordinator. And so I do feel like I have a pretty good idea and understanding of what our current and former students really like about the school and I love to talk about that. Another question that I get a lot is, what can I expect later on. What are some of the Habits of Highly successful students? And another one that I really love to answer whether it's again on campus or in the interview, because it not only is it just a great question, in general, but I think it shows that the student is looking ahead. I'm confident that I'm going to have an opportunity to go through medical school.
How can I make sure that I make the most of that opportunity? And so that's a really great question asked in an interview. And then at the end, just like any professional interview, I always like when people say, can you give me some feedback about how this one went, what is some feedback that you could give me, just for my own edification, or in the event that I have additional professional interviews in the future. What do you feel like I did well, what can I improve on. And again, I think that that shows a lot about a student's willingness to be adaptable and you know that that would kind of take me in a full circle back to that first question, what do I think, or sorry, the second question, what are some of the Habits of Highly successful students, it's, you know, one of the biggest ones is being adaptable. So like if you're willing to take that constructive feedback and turn it into like a positive way for you to improve. I think that that shows a lot and speaks volumes about the individual
Milena Garcia: And what happens after the interview?
Jeff Weisberger: After the interview I do a written evaluation and then the application coordinator that's been working with the applicants going to look through and see what remaining documents might be missing that would prevent them from getting a decision from the admissions committee, they
Jeff Weisberger: Once they have a completed applicant file that will then go to the admissions committee, the admissions committee will render a decision and then the interviewer will get back in touch with the applicant to let them know what that decision.
Milena Garcia: And what are the decisions that can come back from the admissions committee?
Jeff Weisberger: So there's the obvious admit and deny. We don't love the denial calls. We love the admit calls and so those are pretty self explanatory. And that means, we'd love to have you, we will see you in a few months. Denied means, unfortunately, at this time, we don't feel like it's going to be a great fit for you at our institution. But, you know, maybe. Here's some advice. We'd encourage you to reapply in the future. There's also a third decision possibility that can come back, which is an invitation to go into our MERP program, that's the medical education Readiness Program as you see right here represented in that logo, and so that would be an additional semester for students that are invited to the MERP program. It's sort of like a post back program, but it is a non degree seeking program.
So, in the sense that it is like a post back program. You would take some higher level science courses. It also integrates concepts like study skills and time management strategies so that the students have a transition point into medical school, rather than just going straight into the Shark Tank, which a lot of times, that is a decision that's going to come back for prospective students where the admissions committee to see something concerning in their application. Perhaps they've been out of school for a while and then we're just a little worried about academic continuity or perhaps they didn't do real well, maybe had to repeat several of the prerequisite courses, science GPA might be a little bit lower. There are a number of reasons. The Committee might see a reason to ask the students to go through the program. But I always just tell students don't be discouraged if you have to do that one extra semester. A lot of times I'll make the decision calls and students will say, “I was really hoping to get a direct admit.” Well, everybody's hoping for the direct admit, but rarely do I talk to somebody that was invited to go to the MERP program that regrets it. It really is a great transition point into medical school to be very valuable.
Milena Garcia: And in fact, to everybody listening, we did a podcast episode, especially on MERP.It's episode two. So everybody check back. Make sure you listen to that. Jeff. It's been a pleasure. Thank you very much for spending your time here with us. What about any advice or less recommendations for our future Rossies?
Jeff Weisberger: Yeah, I think the only other piece of advice I would have is talk to current and former students. You know Milena and I worked for the institution, we can probably answer just about any question that you have about the school, about the curriculum, about clinical experiences, but there's nothing like getting a first hand description of what it's like to be a student or having been a student in the past, like for the example of our graduates and so I think that I'm just getting a well rounded understanding of what you maybe get yourself involved with. If you decide to come to Ross by talking to current or former students, that can really be kind of the icing on the cake, if you're on the fence. “I went through the interview. I talked to somebody that works for the school. I feel pretty good about it.
But I'm still not totally sure,” talk to current and former students. I think that I think you'll find that the feedback you're going to get is overwhelmingly positive. And I really think that it's going to be that extra push, that you would need to convince you that this is going to be a great move for you.
Milena Garcia: Absolutely all really valuable advice. Jeff, thank you again for your time and for everything that you shared here with us today.
Jeff Weisberger: My pleasure.
Milena Garcia: And thanks everybody for joining us and we will see you next week.