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Interviews

The interview levels the playing field. No matter where you went to school, what your GPA was or how much experience you have, all applicants must interview successfully to get the job.

Questions? Career Advisors are available to help in all stages of interview preparation. To schedule an appointment, email us or call (208) 885-6121.

50 Common Interview Questions

Learn what questions to expect during your next interview.

Learn More >

Things to Consider

Job seekers fail interviews for the following reasons:

  • Poor appearance
  • Lack of interest and enthusiasm
  • Being late to the interview
  • Not asking questions about the position or company
  • Being overbearing
  • Being unable to clearly express themselves
  • Knowing nothing about the company
  • Having sweaty palms
  • Overemphasizing salary and benefits
  • Having poor eye contact during the interview
  • Talking too much

  • Research the company
  • Arrive 10-15 minutes early to the interview
  • Dress appropriately. It's better to be overdressed than underdressed.
  • Have copies of your cover letter, resume and references on hand
  • Practice responding to sample questions before the interview
  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Have a list of questions to ask the interviewer
  • Demonstrate the fact you've researched the organization and how you can contribute to its needs.

Career Advisors are available to help in all stages of interview preparation. To schedule an appointment, email us or call (208) 885-6121

After you leave the interview, it is essential to reflect on your performance. Answers to these questions will inform your thank-you letter as well as future interview performance.

  • Did you become comfortable in the interview?
  • Which questions could you have better answered?
  • Where did you succeed? Where did you fail?
  • Which topics led to awkward silences?
  • Did you emphasize your understanding of the connection between the organization’s needs and your skills and experiences?
  • Did the interviewer ask questions for which you were not prepared?
  • Did you understand and address the interviewer’s concerns about your candidacy?
  • Did you forget to ask any questions about the job or organization that would inform your decision should the job be offered to you?
  • What would you do differently next time?

Within 48 hours after an interview, you should write a thank you letter to each interviewer(s). Thank you letters should express gratitude for the interview opportunity, comment on some positive encounter or comment of the interviewer and reconfirm your interest in the company.

If you do not hear from the interviewer by the time he or she indicated, or within a reasonable amount of time from your interview (1-2 weeks), call or email to inquire about the hiring process status. If a decision has not been made, ask the interviewer when he or she believes it will be made. If you have another job offer but would like to know about this interview outcome before making a decision, tell the interviewer. It may speed up the process.

Other Types of Interviews

Do

  • Give accurate and detailed contact information in your cover letter.
  • Know which job you are interviewing for.
  • Practice. Have a friend call you to do a mock phone interview or schedule an appointment with the Career Center. Email us or call (208) 885-6121.
  • Make sure you are in a place where you can read notes, take notes and concentrate.
  • If you can't devote enough time to a phone interview, suggest a specific alternate time. It's often to be the one who calls back so you can be mentally prepared.
  • Consider using a phone interview log to record notes or observations.
  • Consider keeping some notes in front of you to remind yourself of key points you want to cover with the interviewer. However, be sure responses don’t sound scripted.
  • Have your resume in front of you to remember highlights of your experience.
  • Ensure that you can hear and are being clearly heard.
  • Consider standing when being interviewed on the phone. Some experts say you’ll sound more professional than if you’re slouching in an easy chair.
  • Consider dressing nicely for the phone interview. It will help you mentally and you will project a more professional image if you’re dressed the part.
  • Create a strong finish to your phone interview with thoughtful questions.

Don't

  • Don't have a silly or long greeting on your answering machine or voicemail.
  • Don't feel you have to fill in silence.
  • Don't panic if you need a reasonable accommodation for an interview If you are hearing-impaired, for example, phone interviews are still possible.
  • Don't snuffle, sneeze or cough. If you can’t avoid it, say “excuse me.”
  • Don't chew gum or food, or drink anything noisy.

  • Treat the interview as a traditional, in-person interview.
  • Dress up and have a well-groomed appearance.
  • Keep a copy of your resume.
  • Have notes with experiences or skills relevant to the position for reference.
  • If the interviewer is calling you, be near your computer five minutes early.
  • Perform a test call to ensure you can successfully call a PC and a Mac.
  • Speak clearly.
  • Sit a comfortable distance from the camera — too close can be uncomfortable, too far away will make it hard for the employer to see you.
  • Maintain good eye contact. Move the Skype window below the camera to help this and look directly into your camera, not your computer screen.
  • Sit in front of a clear, non-distracting background

Informational interview are used to gain current, regional and/or specialized information from an insider's point of view. Unlike job interviews, information interviews do not require that you sell yourself to an employer and do not depend on existing job vacancies.

What do they accomplish?

  • Gain valuable information for job hunting and career planning.
  • Learn about an organization, how you might fit in and what problems or needs the employer has.
  • Gain experience and self-confidence in interviewing with professionals.
  • Network with professionals and ask for referrals.

Arranging the Interview

  • Call or email the professional in the field preferably with common academic major/interest, in the work setting you prefer, in a geographical area of interest.
  • Explain your request for an appointment to learn more about his/her profession.
  • Mention any mutual acquaintances if possible.
  • If questioned, indicate clearly that you are conducting career research to help you make better decisions.
  • Try to schedule a 20-30 minute appointment, to be conducted by phone or in person at their convenience 
  • Request to speak with the individual in person and avoid letting your phone call to schedule the appointment turn into the actual interview. Be prepared, however, to conduct the interview over the phone .

Questions to Ask

  • Background: Tell me how you got started in this field, education background and helpful experience.
  • Rewards: What do you find rewarding about this line of work?
  • Potential: Where do you see yourself in a few years? What are your long-term goals?
  • Salary: At what salary level would a new person start? What are the fringe benefits and other forms of compensation (bonuses, commissions, securities)?
  • Hiring Decision: What are the most important factors used to hire people? Who makes the hiring decisions? Who supervises the boss? When I am ready to apply for a job, whom should I contact?
  • Demand: What types of employers hire people in this line of work? Where are they located? What other career areas do you feel are related to your work?
  • Referral to Others: Based on our conversation today, would you recommend I talk to others in the profession? May I have permission to use your name when I contact them?
  • Do you have any other advice for me? 

Things to Remember

  • Dress as if it were an actual job interview. First impressions are important.
  • Arrive to your appointment a few minutes early, and be courteous to everyone you meet — secretary, receptionist, etc.
  • Take the lead in conducting the interview.
  • Ask open-ended questions that promote a discussion and cannot be answered with one-word responses. Take notes.
  • Look around: What kind of working environment is it — dress style, communication patterns, sense of humor, etc? Is this a place you would want to work?

Follow-up/Post-interview Thoughts

  • Send a thank-you letter to your contact for his/her time and information.
  • Explain how this interview helped and how you plan to use this information as you enter the job market.
  • Record the information obtained including names, comments and new referrals for future reference. Make appointments to interview referrals.
  • Evaluate your experience. How did you manage in scheduling and conducting the information interview? How well did you prepare? Did you get the information you sought? What information do you still lack? What do you need to do next?

Most medical schools interview with a single interviewer for 30-60 minutes before moving on to the next interviewer. Generally, interviews consist of one to three such meetings. Some medical schools holds panel interviews where candidates face two to four interviewers.

One-on-one or panel interviews may be either open-file or closed-file. Interviewers in an open-file interview have reviewed your file including grades, MCAT scores, personal statement, letters of recommendation, etc. In closed-file interviews, the interviewer has either seen nothing in your file or just your AMCAS or AACOMAS personal statement (or an essay in your secondary application). The point of the closed-file interview is to remove any bias that might exist in your file and address how you come across to someone who does not know you. In either case, be very sure you can discuss any and all comments you made in the AMCAS/AACOMAS and secondary application essays.

Preparation

  • Before going into any interview, reread the essays that you transmitted to that program.  Also, be prepared to discuss any problems with your application such as a low MCAT score, some low grades or inconsistent MCAT scores and grades. Know what mistakes you have made and what you have learned from them.
  • If you are asked a question, the answer to which you truly do not know, admit it - do not try to bluff your way through it. The interviewer does not expect you to know everything about everything.
  • Tour the campus ahead of time and know exactly where your interview will take place. 
  • Expect to be nervous. If you are taking the interview seriously you will be somewhat nervous and anxious – that’s ALRIGHT. Keep in mind that everyone else is nervous and that the interviewers take that into consideration. 
  • Make eye contact and do not fidget. It is generally not a good idea to jot down extensive notes 
  • Pay attention to the name of the person interviewing you. If you can, use that person’s name once or twice during the interview.

General Strategies

  • The interviewer may not have taken the time to go through your file, so do not say, "Like it says in my application…" 
  • If you do not understand the question, ask for a clarification. When asked a question that is totally unexpected, many students launch into an answer and quickly begin to ramble. Pause and organize your thoughts before speaking. 
  • It is important to be flexible so as to serve the patient. You must act in the best interests of your patient even if that requires some bending on your part; if scruples stand in the way, refer them to another physician.
  • There is a set of questions to which you MUST have an organized, well thought out, logical answer:
    • Why do you want to pursue a career as a physician? 
    • Why are you applying to this medical school? 
    • Considering the large number of highly qualified and impressive students applying to our program, why should we choose you? 
    • Do you have any questions for me? Any questions about our program? 
    • What is your plan B? 
    • What do you see yourself doing in 5, 10 or 15 years? 
    • Is there anything that we have not discussed that I should know about you? Is there anything that you would like me to know about you? 
    • If you are applying to the D.O. programs: Why are you interested in osteopathic medicine? 
    • Who was Andrew Taylor Still? 

Questions About You

  • Tell me about yourself. 
  • How did you develop your personality? 
  • What is your biggest weakness?  What is your biggest blunder in life? 
  • What one word would your friends use to describe you? 
  • What kind of leadership qualities do you have?
  • Do you have any blemishes in your academic record? If so, what are they and why did they occur?
  • If you were locked in a library overnight, in what section would they find you in the morning?

You as a medical school applicant:
  • How do you know you’ll enjoy spending time with sick people? 
  • What excites you about medicine in general? 
  • What travels have you taken, and what exposure to other cultures have you had?
  • Tell me about a patient you have taken care of? 
  • What qualities do you look for in a physician? Can you provide an example of a physician who embodies any of these ideals? How do they do this? 
  • How will you handle death? What experiences have you had with death and dying?
  • Tell me about your grades/MCAT scores. Your MCAT scores dropped by 1 point the second time you took the test. Is there a reason? 

Society-Related Questions

  • What makes health care so expensive?
  • How should society deal with the problem of child abuse?
  • How do you think national health insurance might affect physicians, patients, and society? 
  • What do you feel are the social responsibilities of a physician?

Ethics-Related Questions

  • Are you aware of any current controversies in the area of medical ethics? List and discuss some of these.
  • A 75-year-old man is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and is given between 6 months and 1 year to live. He requests that you prescribe enough painkillers for him that, if taken all at once, would end his life. He does not explicitly say he will commit suicide, but you know that he will do so if you prescribe the medication. What do you do? 
  • Do you think that health care funds should be more focused on the expensive development of new technologies, or on providing adequate care for the masses who aren’t insured? 
  • If you had an 85-year-old patient with Alzheimer’s and failing kidneys, would you prescribe dialysis? 
  • Transplant a human brain: comments?
  • Do frozen embryos have rights?

Underrepresented Group/Admission-Related Questions

  • How do you feel prepared to meet the diverse needs of a multiethnic, multicultural patient population? 
  • To what extent do you feel that you owe a debt to your community?
  • To what extent do you owe a debt to those less fortunate than yourself? Please explain.

Miscellaneous Questions

  • You are the editor of Time magazine and it is December. Who’s going to be your person of the year and on the cover of Time magazine? Why that person? 
  • What is a dromedary? What is the difference between a camel and a dromedary?
  • Describe with words (not using your hands) how to tie your shoes.
  • One of our students had a 1-hour interview during which the ONLY thing the interviewer said was "Tell me about yourself" — the interviewer was silent after this comment, never called for clarification or elaboration — nothing.

*Revised from the Pre-Medical Student Manual, University of Idaho 

Contact Us

Idaho Commons Room 334

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2534
Moscow, ID 83844-2534

Phone: (208) 885-6121

Fax: (208) 885-2816

Email: careerservices@uidaho.edu

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