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The Ten Interview Commandments


1) Thou shalt not be late.

Yes, every year several students arrive late for one of the most important appointments of their lives. Unquestionably, it is inexcusable. Some medical schools may decide to cancel the application.

2) Thou shalt approach and shake the hand.

A confident approach and then a firm, dry (!) handshake leaves a good impression. No Jello handshake nor Arnold Schwartzenegger handshake is of any value. Contact has been made.

3) Thou shalt pause.

There is no race to answer. Take a few seconds, whether or not you know what you would like to say. Collect your thoughts, gather your composure, then begin.

4) Thou shalt maintain eye contact.

Maintaining eye contact achieves two important goals: (1) it demonstrates the confidence you have in what you are speaking about, and (2) it implies sincerity.

5) Thou shalt smile.

A smile can allow the interviewer to witness your humanity and watch your ability to 'connect'. A smile may also suggest enthusiasm depending on the nature of the discussion.

6) Thou shalt not cry.

Yes, every year some students either begin to tell stories in an interview which they have never told anyone which, because of the elevated activation energy of the interview, occasionally leads to tears. Though it is conceivable that a psychiatrist is conducting the interview, do not misinterpret the reason that she is there!

7) Thou shalt not brag.

I do not believe that students purposefully brag. However, it is quite common for a student to be so uncomfortable about discussing their accomplishments that their manner of speech becomes so awkward that it is often interpreted as arrogance. Ironically, this is precisely what the student was trying to avoid. While it is critical that you describe your accomplishments, it must be done with 'quiet confidence' - without a hint of arrogance. Practice will help you learn to soften the edges. Always remember: what you learn from an accomplishment is as important as the accomplishment itself.

8) Thou shalt not lie.

In medicine, lives can depend on the truth. If you lie as an applicant, it is in everyone's best interest that you are caught. Here are some classics: (i) students claiming to be able to speak a language other than their mother tongue (i.e. French, Russian, or yes, Swahili) and one of the interviewers happens to speak that language and asks a question which receives no response; (ii) students have claimed to read specific books but when asked about the main characters only a deafening silence answered.

9) Thou shalt not assume.

Do not assume that the interviewer, who may be a lay person or a non-science professor, knows acronyms for the names of hospitals, university programs, etc. Also, even if you have submitted autobiographical material, do not assume that they know you. Rather, try to cover a lot of ground about yourself as long as you are concise. The interviewer might relate to something about your history which you did not consider as important. Punctuate your accomplishments with very brief stories which exemplify, without you saying so, traits which are consistent with being a good doctor.

10) Thou shalt not be negative.

Some students are consumed with diminishing their accomplishments, self-criticisms, or a string of depressing stories. Thou shalt be positive!

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