(Please scroll down for additional information about interviewing and how to prepare for interviewing with the USF Office of Career Planning)
Interviews are intended to be enjoyable experiences for both you and the interviewers. The purpose of the interview is multifold. First and foremost it provides the admissions committee with an opportunity to get to know you better and to assess your suitability for a career in the health professions as well as professional training at their school. Secondly, it gives you, the applicant, a chance to become better acquainted with the school and its programs so that you will be in a better position to choose the school most compatible with your personality and interests.
During initial screening applicants are sorted into three categories: those who are considered competitive and will be invited to interview, those who are to be deferred and possibly interviewed at a later date, and those who are considered not qualified and are to be denied admission. Admission Committees usually start interviewing in the early fall and continue through the spring until all seats in the class have been filled. The weight given to interviews in the admissions process varies from school to school. At some schools it is a major factor in admissions decisions, while at other schools it is probably more of a deciding factor in borderline cases.
Traditional Interview Format: At the majority of schools interviews are one on one with the applicant meeting individually with one, two, or three interviewers throughout the day. These interviews usually take place in an office setting. Some schools use a panel format in which the applicant (or in the case of at least one school, three applicants together) appear before three or four interviewers. Interviewers may be faculty, administrators, clinicians, researchers, or students. An interview session usually lasts from 1 hour to 2 hours.
The interview usually opens with introductions and perhaps a handshake. First impressions are important and you will want to establish rapport quickly. Greet each interviewer with good eye contact, a smile, and an audible "hello" (or whatever greeting is natural to you). It is customary that you not seat yourself until you are invited to do so.
The body of the interview will consist of a series of questions and problem solving situations. Some questions will be straightforward and informational, while others will be thought provoking and may or may not have a right or wrong answer. In responding to the latter kind of questions your logical thought patterns and how well you defend your position or present different sides of an issue are the important factors. You will find that most interviewers are friendly and open. However, it is possible that you may encounter an interviewer with whom you find it difficult to establish a rapport. When that happens, it is best to proceed with the interview the best you can and to try to remain calm. You may find out later that you have done better than you thought.
Most interviews end with the interviewer asking if you have any questions. Thus you should have one or two questions in mind to ask about the school and/or its programs. In the event your questions were answered during the interview, you might succinctly state what you have learned that day and then say that you have no questions at this time. It is customary to conclude each interview by thanking each interviewer and giving a handshake. Your manner of handshake also conveys information about you, and you may want to practice your handshake with a friend. Your handshake should be full and firm, not crushing or limp.
Some schools will tell you at the time of the interview that you have interviewed well; some will not. If nothing is said, this does not mean that you did not interview well; it may simply be a reflection of that school's policy. In any case you should not ask if you have done well or if the interviewer was going to recommend you or how soon you will be hearing from the school as to whether or not you are accepted.
MMI Format: A multiple mini interview (MMI) consists of a series of short, structured interview stations used to assess non-cognitive qualities including cultural sensitivity, maturity, teamwork, empathy, reliability and communication skills. The MMI consists of a circuit of 7 to 10 stations. At each station, students are given two minutes to read a prompt and then generally about 8 minutes to respond to the prompt before moving to the next station. Interviewers will not have discussions with the applicant, but, they may pose additional questions if clarifications are needed. One of the most difficult parts of the MMI is that interviewers won’t react to an applicant’s responses, they must remain neutral.
Open file vs. closed file
There are two main types of interviews: open file and closed file. Schools may use either or both types.
At open file interviews the interviewer has access to your file before and/or during the interview, and initial questions tend to center around information contained in your application, transcripts, and essays. You can expect to be asked questions about your strengths and weaknesses and inconsistencies in your record. This type of interview may be quite formal.
At closed file interviews the interviewer knows nothing about you except perhaps your name. Topics covered in closed file interviews will vary greatly and often concentrate on topics other than academics. Questions asked may seem surprising and off-the-wall, but they are designed to obtain insight into your personality and into your ability to think logically when confronted with new and unexpected situations. Because this type of interview tends to be less structured, you as the applicant may have more control over the direction the interview takes.
At some schools you also may be scheduled for an interview with a student in the program who may or may not know something about you. Such interviews are less formal, and provide you with the additional advantage of learning more about student life. The interview may take place in an office, over lunch, or while on a tour of the school's facilities.
Regardless of the kind of interview used, the interviewers are trying to assess similar things about you albeit from different perspectives. To assure uniformity in qualities assessed most schools provide the interviewers with a form to be completed for each applicant. These forms list topics to be explored during the interview and leave room for the interviewer to write an overall assessment of you. Topics likely to be explored during interview are:
- Motivation and enthusiasm for the profession
- Interest in the school and compatibility with the school's goals
- Ability to reason and organize thoughts
- Adaptability and empathy for others
- Strengths and weaknesses and ability to succeed in professional school
- Goals (personal and professional)
- Ability to cope with stressful situations
- Articulateness and interpersonal skills
- Intellectual curiosity
- Social development and extracurricular interests
- Familiarity with the lifestyle of a professional student and a practicing professional
- Familiarity with new developments in the field, current health issues and controversies.
The Career Consultant for Pre-Health Profession Students in the USF Office of Career Planning is committed to helping you prepare for your next interview, whether it be for an experience that will strengthen your portfolio, or for admission to a health professional program! Meet the Career Consultant for Pre-Health Profession Students below:
Adelia Douglas, Consultant for Biology, Chemistry, and Geosciences
To prepare for both open and closed interviews you will want to continue in greater depth the same kind of inner reflection you employed when writing your application essays. Start by rereading your application and essays, as you can anticipate being asked to elaborate on anything you have written. It may also be helpful at this point to reflect again on the questions posed there. Think about the points you have already made in your essays and any additional points you can make that will give the interviewer greater insight for evaluating you on the characteristics listed in the previous section. Also, select one or two good examples from your experiences to illustrate or support each point. Now consider possible questions that might be asked at interview and devise an agenda for working your points into these questions. Your response to any question should take 1-3 minutes, thus it will need to be succinct and well articulated.
In working out your responses it might be helpful to jot down your thoughts on paper and then say them aloud. It is important not to memorize your answers for they could sound mechanical and insincere. You may even want to audio or video tape yourself as a means of evaluating not only the content of your answer but also your manner of delivery (voice quality, body language, etc.). Another alternative would be to role play with a friend.
Interviewers will expect that you will have researched current developments and controversies in your chosen field and have become familiar with both moral and ethical issues confronting health professionals. Therefore you should be prepared to speak on these topics. You will want to start preparing well in advance by making a weekly habit of reading a newspaper, magazine, and journal articles. Educational TV programs are also a source of information, as are discussions with health professionals. Again, you may want to jot down your thoughts on some of these issues and say them aloud.
You will also want to spend some time researching the school and familiarizing yourself with its history, curriculum, and philosophy. Be sure that you have read the school catalog and all publications sent to you by the school. If materials have not been sent, you may want to request them. Additionally, read any materials on file in the Health Professions Advising Office and view the school tape, if available. Talk with students who are currently enrolled at the school or who have recently graduated from the school may prove useful too.
- Interview Questions Handout
- Utilize the Interview Resources offered by USF Career Services
- Mission & Interview Questions Worksheet
- MMI Resources
- Be sure you are on time for the interview.
- Listen to the introductions and be sure you remember with whom you are talking. You may want to use the interviewer's name during and after the interview.
- Listen carefully to the question and then be sure to answer the question asked. If you do not understand the question fully, ask for clarification.
- Answer the question in a straightforward, honest manner citing examples and experiences to support your points. Try to keep your answers concise. If you need time to collect your thoughts, it is all right to pause briefly before responding. If you do not know an answer to a question, admit it rather than giving a response that is inaccurate, insincere or rambling. Sometimes it is possible to use the opportunity to describe something you know on a related matter and relate it to the question. If your mind should go blank on a certain question, say so and ask the interviewer if you might return to that question later.
- Speak clearly avoiding slang and too many "uhms," "ahs," etc.
- Try to maintain good eye contact, as it conveys confidence, sincerity, and attentiveness, but do not stare.
- Make good use of body language.
- Display good manners.
Evaluating the interview
You will want to take time that evening to evaluate your performance in the interview. What did you like or not like about the experience? Were you relaxed? Which questions did you handle well? Were there questions you could have handled better? Did you make the points you wanted to make? If not, how might you have included them? What additional preparation do you need to do before the next interview?
It is natural to feel somewhat nervous on your interview day. However, to avoid being overly nervous you might try the following:
- Arrive at the interview site early. Not only does this give you time to find parking and to locate the building and room, but it also provides time for you to check your appearance, get a drink of water, and compose yourself.
- Take a minute or two to do some deep breathing exercises.
- Most importantly, remind yourself that you have prepared for this interview and that in itself will have a calming affect.
Things to bring with you to the interview
- A folder in which to place materials given to you during your interview day.
- Copies of your primary and/or secondary applications for the school (you do not what to forget what you told them in your essays).
- A copy of your transcripts.
- A pen and small note pad.
- A few pieces of hard candy or mints (to be consumed before, not during, the interview).
- As tempted as you might be to bring examples of your art work, writings, etc., refrain from doing so. Instead think about ways that you might talk about these talents during the interview.
Dress conservatively and neatly: a suit or well matched sports coat and slacks, dress shirt and tie for men, a suit with a blouse or a tailored dress for women. Hosiery should be worn and shoes should be polished. Keep jewelry simple, and it is probably best to avoid heavy cologne or perfume. Hair should be combed neatly, and make-up and nail polish, if worn, should be conservative.
A few schools offer regional interviews making it possible for applicants to travel shorter distances at less expense. Regional interviews are generally conducted by an admissions officer from the school, or in some instances, by an alumnus(a) of the school. If given a choice between a campus or regional interview, you will have to judge which setting is best for you. If you would prefer a regional interview, it is all right to ask if one would be possible.
Requesting a change in the date or time of the interview
Sometimes conflicts arise making it impossible or inconvenient for you to keep a given interview date. In that event, you may notify the school and request another date. However, you should be aware that the new date may be several weeks after the original date.
Arranging another interview in the area
If you are going for an interview at one school and would like to interview with another school in the area while you are in town, it would be proper to call the other school, inform them that you will be interviewing in the area on a certain date, and ask if you might arrange an interview with them.
For more information
We hope you have found this information helpful. If you would like to practice your interview skills, you can schedule a Mock Interview with the USF Office of Career Planning in order to gain experience in a realistic interview setting. The consultant serving Pre-Health Profession students is Adelia Douglas. To schedule this type of appointment with her, please call the front desk of USF Career Services or make an appointment through Handshake.