Interviewing for Health Professions Admissions

Once an admissions committee has offered you an interview, they consider you a viable candidate for their school based on your application. The interview allows the committee to evaluate and assess your interpersonal skills, your motivation for the profession, and the unique aspects of your academics and experience. Be prepared and make the most of the opportunity!

Is your upcoming Pre-Health interview virtual?  View our Pre-Health Virtual Interviewing page for more great tips!  

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Mock Interviews

Pre-health mock interviewing is available to students and alumni preparing for or currently in the health professions application cycle. Interviews are one hour and include a feedback session aimed at increasing your readiness and confidence before an actual admissions interview. To schedule a mock interview complete the following steps.

  1. Schedule Your Mock Interview With an Advisor: Contact the UVA Career Center at 434-924-8900 and indicate you are requesting a Pre-Health Mock Interview or schedule online through your Handshake account.

  2. Come to the Career Center to be Interviewed: Please dress as if this were a real interview. By doing so, you can become comfortable with an interview situation dressed in professional attire. The Pre-Health Advisor will provide feedback as to appropriate interview attire. If you do not have interview attire at this time, please dress in the most appropriate outfit you have available.

Before Your Admissions Interview

After an interview appointment is confirmed, it is imperative for you to fully prepare for it. Below are important areas to cover in your preparation.

Plan For Your Absence

  • Arrange to make up missed course work or get coverage for your other responsibilities.
  • Make travel arrangements; ask admissions staff about resources for student host programs or other affordable local accommodation options.

Know Yourself

  • Take time to reflect on all of the experiences that brought you to pursue this path.
  • Review all of the materials you submitted and be prepared to discuss them in greater detail (i.e., think of concrete/specific examples).
  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses and how to convey them using specific examples.
  • Be prepared to talk about your goals (e.g., “Why do you want to be a ___?” "Why do you think you would be happy taking care of people?").
  • Consider your responses to questions beforehand, but do not memorize your responses.
  • Conduct a mock interview with a Pre-Health Advisor

Educate Yourself

  • Learn about current healthcare issues in newspapers, journals and professional websites.
  • Be able to demonstrate that you are aware of the issues in the field and have an educated opinion regarding those topics.

Research Each School

  • Ask admissions staff for more information about the structure and format of the interview.
  • Be prepared to ask specific questions regarding the school to further demonstrate how their particular program is compatible with your interests.
  • Remember, they are trying to decide if you are a “fit” for their program.

Plan Your Attire

Interviewers assess how you are dressed and groomed as well as how you conduct yourself. They consider whether a wide variety of patients would feel confident about you based on your appearance.

  • Suits are recommended and should be in matching, conservative colors (e.g., navy, black, or charcoal)
    • If wearing a skirt, hemline should extend past the knee
  • Wear a clean, pressed shirt/blouse in solid or neutral colors with a conservative neckline
    • When wearing a button-up shirt, a subtle tie in a complementary color is recommended
  • Wear professional but comfortable closed-toe dress shoes or heels (1 inch or lower)
    • When wearing socks, choose plain colors to match your suit
  • Make sure hair is neat and trimmed, including facial hair
  • Clean and trim your nails
  • Do not wear perfume/cologne, makeup, piercings, jewelry, nail polish, hair accessories that could be distracting in an interview
  • When in doubt, keep it conservative!

Interview Day

Prepare For Weather

  • Bring an umbrella (e.g., be prepared for rain).
  • Have a professional winter jacket/coat (most interviews will be conducted during the fall or winter months).

Carry Extra Application Materials

  • Bring three copies of your application/essays for yourself and interviewers (in case someone has been reassigned to interview and does not have your materials).
  • Carry your materials and a legal pad for note-taking in a professional portfolio.

Arrive Early

  • Be at least 10-15 minutes early to the interview site so you will not be rushed.
  • If an emergency keeps you from arriving on time, call the Admissions Office and let them know what is happening and when you expect to arrive.
  • If you are late, offer your apologies and explanation again when you arrive.

Remember Your Manners

  • Be polite to everyone you meet—including secretaries, tour guides and other interviewees.
  • Turn off your cell phone.
  • Do not eat, drink or chew gum.
  • Introduce yourself, shake hands firmly and make and maintain eye contact.
  • Relax and smile at appropriate times.
  • Monitor your speech patterns (e.g., informal speech that is acceptable with your friends is not appropriate for an interview).
  • Confirm names of everyone with whom you interview to send “thank-you” emails/notes.

Ask Questions

  • Always prepare specific questions tailored towards the school/program (e.g., write them down and refer back to them when necessary).

After Your Admissions Interview

Send “Thank-You” Notes

  • Immediately send a personalized “thank-you” email/note to your interviewers.
  • Reiterate your interest in the program.

Make The Interview A Learning Experience

  • Write down what you learned from your experience at the school.
  • Review your performance and evaluate how to improve for your next interview.

Types of Interviews

The Individual Interview

These are one-on-one interviews with a faculty member, student or member of the admissions office.  There can be one or several people that you interview with, so be prepared to be energetic and “fresh” if responding to repeated questions during an interview day.

Panel or Small Group Interview

Several interviewees are interviewed by one or more admissions committee members. A small group of faculty and a current medical student may interview you together. Often, these interviews are conducted in either a question or a scenario format. In the question format, each panel member will ask his or her own question; whereas, in the scenario format, applicants will discuss certain scenarios with the entire panel. In these interviews, ensure eye contact is made with the individual asking questions as well as with each member of the panel.

Regional Interview

Some U.S. and Canadian schools as well as some foreign schools offer to interview applicants at regional locations. The benefit to these interviews is that they may be more convenient for the applicant. Often, the interviewer will be a traveling admissions officer or a nearby alumnus. The downfall is that you are not able to view the school’s facilities. It is advised that a “serious applicant” interview at the school. Bottom line, whether the school is in the U.S., and especially if the school is foreign, do not accept any offer until you have visited the campus!

Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)

Some schools are now implementing this interviewing technique, which focuses on assessing an applicant’s “soft skills”. These are skills that are often harder to assess simply by viewing an application or by employing a standard one-on-one interview. The interviewers using this technique look for communication skills, cooperation, professionalism, critical thinking, etc. In this interview, an applicant will go through 8-10 stations, for 5-10 minutes each. At each new station, the applicant reads each new scenario and then enters the station and talks to the new interviewer. Each interviewer at each station will provide a score, and at the end of the interview process, the scores are totaled.

Structured Interview

It may or may not be evident that you, as an applicant, are participating in a structured interview.  In a structured interview, the interviewer is given a set of standardized questions to ask each applicant. Generally, there are four types of questions.

  • Situational: questions are asked to gain an understanding of how you would behave in a given situation; these could include ethical questions.
  • Knowledge: questions could pertain to specific information from classes or activities you participated in (M.D./Ph.D. students encounter this frequently).
  • Task: questions might address something medically related such as tying a knot or taking a short test.
  • School requirement: questions simply ask if you can meet the school’s entry and performance requirements.

Multiple-Interviewee Panels

This interviewing technique is rarely used. Two or three applicants may be brought into a room of faculty and asked multiple questions in rapid succession. In these situations, just remember to be polite and keep your cool!

The Typical Interviewer

In general, there can be a variety of interviewers a school might employ. There could be physician and non-physician faculty, current medical students, alumni, current residents or members of the admissions office staff.

The interviewer(s) may or may not have seen your application and/or your transcript (these are called “blind” or closed interviews). Be prepared, therefore, for questions you have already addressed in your application and discuss them fully. If interviewed by a student of the school, remember to take it seriously.

Should you encounter an inexperienced interviewer who asks an inappropriate or even illegal question such as those referring to relationships/marital status, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and/or economic background, you can let someone from the admissions office know of your experience. If you are not comfortable reporting the questions or behaviors of your interviewer, let one of the UVA Pre-Health Advisors know immediately and we can attempt to contact the Director of Admissions on your behalf.

How Important is the Interview?

Your GPA and tests scores are considered to be very important factors; however, many schools consider the interview process to be the most important admissions factor. Below are important factors considered in the admissions process:

  • Interview evaluation
  • Undergraduate science GPA
  • Reference Letters
  • Entrance exam scores
  • Undergraduate non-science GPA

Final Tips and Suggestions

  • Relax and BE YOUR (most professional) SELF!
  • Listen carefully and respond to the question being asked, not the one you may be anticipating.
  • Professional attire is very important! Dress to impress.
  • Use your best communication skills, avoid rambling responses, maintain good eye contact and pay attention to your posture and gestures.
  • Do not try to second-guess your interviewer. Answer questions honestly and sincerely and do not be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
  • Do not be afraid of silence!  Remain confident and realize that natural silence is OK.
  • Do not offer excuses or rationalizations – explain your deficiencies honestly, if asked.
  • Do not draw unnecessary attention to yourself; you do not want to be noticed for the wrong reasons.
  • Have a BRIEF and POSITIVE “wrap-up line” and always thank your interviewers for their time. Try to remember the names of all of your interviewers.
  • Do not judge the quality and/or success of your interview by its length.

More to Explore

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