blank'/> A LITTLE BIT OF LACQUER: Medical School Interviews

October 14, 2013

Medical School Interviews

It's that time of the year again, when I see small groups of students all suited-up carrying matching folders and making small talk amongst each other as they tour the medical school campus - it's interview season. We just started interviewing this month, and man do I remember it being a looong, nerve-racking season (although not as long as waiting to hear back after interviews, oh boy). I know many of you have applied this cycle or are hoping to apply soon, so for this edition of Med School Mondays I'll be sharing a few pointers for the medical school interview! Hopefully they can also apply to professional interviews in general.

What to wear: You might not want to hear this, but interviews are a time where first impressions really do matter. And before you even open your mouth to represent yourself at an interview, your appearance has already said a lot for you. Now, it's not all about looks of course, but let's just agree that you want to represent yourself as best as possible. For women, a black skirt or pantsuit is the way to go. As "boring" as it may be, interviews aren't the time to wow people with your fashion sense and trendiness. Keep it classy and simple, look sharp by getting your outfit tailored, and keep the shoes classic with a simple pointy toe (low) heel - you'll be doing a lot of walking on tours! I love these patent leather kitten heels (if you're feeling like investing in a good shoe), and these black Nine West pumps as a more budget-friendly option. Keep the accessories and makeup to the basics. I wore tailored suit jacket and pants from Banana Republic for all of my interviews and never questioned my attire at any of them (images above via).

What to bring: Carrying a well-structured handbag with you only adds to the professional look - some people prefer just carrying a leather folder and that's fine too. I love this handbag from Kate Spade, this Asos bag is another great option, and this satchel from Forever 21 is perfect for those with a tight budget (it's less than $30)! Keep in it a small notepad with questions you have for interviewers or tour guides, names of people you meet during interviews, etc., a small mirror to check yourself now and then, and whatever else you normally carry with you!

What to do: You'll get an itinerary of course, and that's what you'll follow for the day. But I'm talking more how to act. Along with your attire, people are observing your actions all interview day - during the actual interview obviously, but even during the tours or provided lunches and other activities. This doesn't mean you have to be shy, or even on your best behavior at all times, but hopefully you're naturally kind and polite, etc. Relax, smile and be positive (but don't be the annoying smart-ass). Get to know your fellow applicants - get out of the mindset that they're competition and start thinking that they could be your colleagues. When you do meet your interviewer make good eye contact and give them a firm handshake, mirror their body language as the interview proceeds (unless of course they're super awkward, then just try to be a little less awkward than them - this does happen and it's soo uncomfortable).

What to say: What you guys really want to know. And unfortunately at every school this is what will vary the most. I had not-so-good interviewers that only wanted to ask me what I would do in horribly difficult ethical dilemmas, or who wanted to figure out my family tree. Interviewers who only wanted to hear about my research, my thoughts on current health-care policy, and still others who wanted to know the "why medicine" or "what will make you a good doctor" answers. The best interviews are those that start with a question but soon become a conversation - but don't feel insecure if this doesn't happen as so much of it is interviewer-dependent. So how to prepare? For one know everything in your application and be ready to discuss any of it - work, research, classes, your essay. Know the school you're interviewing for and why it would be a good match for you. Also be ready to answer some of the typical questions I mentioned above, but don't have a super rehearsed answer - keep it genuine. You can't anticipate all of the questions, so if something comes up you hadn't thought of, don't be afraid to actually think on the spot! Come prepared with some of your own questions about the school (but not ones you can easily find on the website), keeping in mind who your interviewer is and how the interview has gone. Most of all be humble. You've done an amazing job getting this far, but you're by no means "there" yet, so don't act like it. Be thankful for the opportunity to interview and try to enjoy the day!

I hope some of you can benefit from some of these tips - best of luck with interviews and please continue asking questions and suggesting post ideas in the comments! Have a great week everyone! 


  1. These are pretty good tips and can generally be used when interviewing for any profession. I especially like the last one because I can totally agree with it. Although my career isn't in the medical field, my interview process was a bit similar, especially in regards to the interview being conversational rather than just Q&A. I had two interviews--one behavioral and the other technical. Both of which I enjoyed because I made it more conversational and I think my interviewers enjoyed that about me. It also made the interview process that much easier to bare.

    I also agree with being familiar with what's on your resume. It definitely doesn't pay to embellish because they typically pair you up with someone who has extensive knowledge in what you've listed on your resume.

    This was an awesome article. I'm sure it's bound to ease the jitters that interviewees may be feelings.

  2. Hi Laura,

    I discovered you while browsing the news section on instagram and eventually found your blog. You captured my attention because you had Harvard med school in your profile as well as your chic sense of fashion. Even though I am finishing up with my master's in history your blog is helping me make that transition to the work world in terms of appropriate work attire. Medical School Monday's is helping me develop proactive, productive habits. I was never a morning person always hated it and now I have been going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier this past week with a better sense of dignity to tackle the day ahead of me. Thank you for being so open with your lifestyle keep up the good work and congratulations on your impending degree.

  3. &...this is why we love you "Dr." Laura :) Hugs.

  4. Again I will be keeping this in mind as I wait during this application cycle. thanks! A few weeks ago I compiled a list of application and interview tips, so this will be a nice addition for me to keep in mind =)

  5. I start residency interviews next month and you are the 3rd person that has experience with Banana Republic.... I need to get a suit ASAP... My biggest concern is a jacket big enough but still stylish to accommodate by nursing chest LOL

  6. Love this post and I'm definitely saving these outfits and taking notes :) It may not be med school interview season for me but this is still pretty helpful !!

  7. i'm in a public health program and part of our certification process involves an interview with members of the board.
    so, when the times comes, i'll definitely be looking for an outfit that is both stylish and appropriate.
    thank you for these great tips!


  8. Thanks for the great tips!

    I'm wondering what your thoughts are brands of handbags for interviews? I'm pretty picky when it comes to handbags, and I have been trying to find a structured black purse that it's flashy and doesn't have a huge brand name glaring at you on the side. But then I don't want it to look cheap, so I've been stuck! I really like Kate Spade and Michael Kors, but I'm not sure if spending that kind of money on a handbag is necessary for an interview? Any suggestions on what brands to look at would be great! Thanks!

  9. Thank you for this helpful advice. By the way, this video on preparing for your medical school interview is also helpful. It gives a student an idea about ambiguous questions, ethical questions, pauses, interruptions and other elements. It also presents an analysis of each question. You may check it out at

  10. Tks very much for your post.

    Avoid surprises — interviews need preparation. Some questions come up time and time again — usually about you, your experience and the job itself. We've gathered together the most common questions so you can get your preparation off to a flying start.

    You also find all interview questions at link at the end of this post.

    Source: Top 10 interview questions and answers

    Best rgs

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  15. Good advice. I know wearing a black pants or skirt suit is advised, but how about wearing a shirt with a color? White, and blue are so boring and I feel like everyone will be wearing the same blah outfit. Maybe a blush pink would be nice instead. I plan on wearing a simple pearl necklace and matching earrings. Looking nice and being comfortable will help because I know I will be so nervous. I’ll try to enjoy the day when it comes. I’ll be sure to ask you any questions I may have. Thanks as always.

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