Updated: Aug 7, 2022
Interview Preparation and Nerves
By Akashaa Rebab
Some people don’t sweat over interviews. They thrive within those environments, and that’s great. If that’s not you, I’m here to give you some tips for interviews and that I still use in OSCEs. This is going to be a mix of interview prep tips and nerves tips. These are things that I’ve personally done or other medical students. I know that sometimes even just thinking about how nervous you feel can make the situation ten times worse. I hope this help.
Preparing for the Interview
When I was preparing for my interviews- I had done everything. From research on interview questions, reading up on current medical news, ethical scenarios, talking about my CV etc. However, I did a lot of my prep by myself. I did do some with my friends and family, but I often did it very informally or I would ‘talk through’ how I would answer a question. I found it embarrassing talking about myself in front of people, and there was no need to practice because I felt awkward and hated it. That’s the exact reason why you should. Practice will help that feeling go away. Practicing with people vs. in your head is a completely different game. A great way to practice is to give people your personal statement and they can ask you about it and follow up questions to your answers. This will prepare you to be challenged on what you have written, and different things stand out to different people, so you’ll have a variety of questions coming your way. Different people asking questions will help overcome nerves of strangers but also talking about yourself.
Be adaptable in your answers. Don’t regurgitate memorised answers because it is obvious. Listen to the question and start your answer with part of the question which will help your thought process. Memorising ideal answers sounds perfect to overcome nerves because you won’t have to think. You can trip up by sounding like a robot, not answering the question, and giving random information. Also, I found its rarely a straightforward obvious question - they’ll add a little twist to see if you were properly listening or if your brain went into auto-mode. Rather than memorise answers make word associations. For example, retail job= teamwork + communication + commitment, reading/hobbies= work/life balance+ mental health + clear mind/different perspective. I feel that answers come out more naturally and will show that you’ve thought about the answer and in the back of your mind you can highlight the bullet points that are relevant to the question. Also, it’s a lot easier than remembering entire paragraphs. This has helped me a lot with my nerves and during OSCE.
Link your answers back to medicine or a work life balance. These two key things are a great way to show that you understand the degree, and life as a doctor. Hobbies are a great way to talk about work/life balance. It is important to show that you know when to take a break, you know how to keep a balance and take time for yourself. Being a doctor and student can be stressful and knowing how to take care of yourself is important to highlight. Linking to medicine can be done through every hobby, activity, job etc. There are so many transferable skills in everyday day life, you just have to point them out to the interviewers. Don’t wait for them to ask directly (because they most likely won’t) and don’t assume they will make the connection. You need to make things easy for them.
Don’t arrive too early. If you’re anything like me, I plan the route the night before. I think for all my interviews I arrived over an hour and a half early, just in case anything goes wrong. Leaving space is very good, much rather be late than early, but the likelihood of needing that much time is low. I just ended up sitting there in silence stressing out and going over answers. If you’ve travelled in, book a hotel in walking distance to eliminate traffic and public transport mishaps. I commuted for a couple of mine. I would say go to a café nearby and relax if you do arrive super early, read a book, EAT something. Hunger and nerves do not mix well. Do yourself a favour, even if you don’t feel hungry. Also, it can help pass time. There is no need to rush and sit in the foyer of the university, I assure you it’s not that comfy. Go and find a nice comfy couch and a coffee.
This one might not be for everyone but hear me out. There is often a lot of waiting around, even if you arrive on time. Often interviews are done in batches, especially if its MMI style. So, if possible, speak to the other candidates. NOT ABOUT THE INTERVIEW. Talk to them about their plans after the interview, their hobbies etc. It will really help, and often other people join in, you can feel the tension lift from the air. You’ll focus on the conversation rather than what’s next to come. I understand that this isn’t for everyone, but if you’re feeling up to it. I did this in my last few interviews, and it helped me so much. I really wish I did it before, instead of sitting in silence being super tense.
Be yourself. I know, I know, everyone says this. It’s very relevant in a medicine interview than anywhere else. The end goal of the degree is that you will be a doctor. It may be a surprise, but nice doctors are wanted. It may sound very superficial but smiling at the interviewers, making eye contact, shaking hands (not in covid era) are very important. These small things show that you are personable. They also want to see that even though you’re stressed and nervous you can still be friendly you still have those basic skills. There will be countless situations as a medical student and a doctor where your super stressed or busy but when speaking to patients these things are important to build a relationship and trust and the feelings of shouldn’t be passed on to them.
Mistakes happen. It is not the end of the world. I cannot stress enough that you are human, and your interviewers believe it or not, are human too! They understand that you are nervous, and no one expects you to be the perfect medical student before you’ve even started the course! This is something that took me a while to realise, it’s hard trying to be something that you don’t have the training to be. There’s often no one right answer to things, they want to see how you think and communicate. If they ask your opinion, don’t immediately jump to a side. Work through both sides. Show that you can look from another person’s perspective and be unbiased.
MY FAVOURITE. I only learnt this last year, while on an OSCE revision session and I really feel it’s changed my outlook on exams. The doctor said to just pretend it’s a practice run. Tell yourself that it doesn’t matter what the outcome it. IT’S JUST A PRACTICE RUN. I genuinely sat outside my exam belittled the OSCE. I would tell myself it really doesn’t matter; I just need to go in and have a little chat with the examiner. No biggie. Just have a little chat with your interviewer or think of them as a teacher you like. Sometimes we need to trick ourselves into calming down. It sounds odd, but it really works.