First Interview. Lesson Learned.

First Interview. Lesson Learned.

I wish I had not discussed other applicants’ medical success and failures (actually no one admits failures) before walking into my interview. Hearing from the applicant next to me about her masters in biochemistry, and her 11 other interviews she’d had by November (many from schools I had not yet heard from) was slightly counterproductive to my nerves, and confidence, right before walking into an interview. Avoid asking others what they are doing and stick to things like ‘What undergrad did you go to? Did you have fun in Chicago? What do you know about this school?’ It is important to interact with your fellow applicants, comparing resumes is not the best idea, especially pre-interview.

I was so happy I had brought a toothbrush and toothpaste in my bag. One interview we were given financial aid information, ate sandwiches and Doritos, then interviewed. After lunch I took a few minutes in the bathroom–oh yea, always take a breather by going to the bathroom, wash your hands, whatever-and I brushed my teeth. Dorky? OCD?  Don’t care, I walked into my interview feeling refreshed and confident as I sat 3 feet away, face to face with my interviewer.

And now for the painful part. I had taken three steps out of my first interview before I thought “What was I thinking??!” The goal of an interview is to sell yourself.  I had given an answer to all of the questions I was asked, but I did not sell myself. Example:

I was asked, “What clubs were you a part of during your undergraduate years?”

I answered, “French Club.”

This was the extent to which we discussed my undergraduate experience. By asking what clubs I was a part of, this was the interviewer’s attempt to gain insight into what I did other than study.  This was my chance to talk about flute ensemble, community day, incoming student recruitment coordination, teaching swim lessons to disabled children, or any of the other interesting things I took part in during undergrad. Instead, I heard the word “club” and my brain immediately went into a word search for the four consecutive letters C-L-U-B listed in the title of my activities. Oops.

And another oops. After discussing a summer internship I did 5 years ago working as a medical assistant…

I was asked, “Tell me about your most meaningful experience working with patients.”

I responded, “Working as a medical assistant? Well…”

And I launched into a discussion of my interaction with an elderly patient I had when I was 19 and then the interview was over. For the past two years, I have worked as a patient advocate and resolution negotiator in the emergency room. I have been with children watching their parents die, I have waded through blood on the floor of the trauma room to get a cell phone and contact family members, and I have had 4 phones up to my ear trying to get a legal copy of a DNR as I watched doctors pound away on the patient’s chest.  Sell yourself. When asked about my most meaningful experience, or any other question for that matter, I wish I would have had less fear about directly responding to the specific question, and have been more proactive about selling myself.

Primary application. Secondary application. Interview.  I traveled 3 days and 3,000 miles across the country to talk about French club and a summer internship. Lesson learned.

Sally Greenwald

Sally Greenwald is a MD MPH student at a medical school in Boston. She is a dancer, a flutist, a swim lesson instructor, a right fielder in softball, and is conversationally fluent in French. She graduated from Tufts University in 2007 and spent a year as Guest Representative of the Emergency Room and Clinical Researcher of the ED at Stanford Hospital.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.