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Graduate School Healthcare Interviews

Graduate School Interviews for Healthcare Majors

Click here for Graduate School Interview Power Point presentation.

Getting Prepared for the Interview:

What you need to make sure you are clear on are these three areas:
1. What are your goals related to this field?  What do you want to do professionally and how do you accomplish those goals?

There are some things the goal statement should not be:
-Avoid the "what I did with my life" approach.
-Avoid the "I've always wanted to be a " approach.
-Avoid a catalog of achievements. This is only a list of what you have done, and tells nothing about you as a person. Normally, the statement is far more than a resume.
-Avoid lecturing the reader. For example, you should not write a statement such as "Communication skills are important in this field." Any graduate admissions committee member knows that and is not trying to learn about the field from the applicant. Some statements do ask applicants about their understanding of the field.

These are some things the statement should do:
-It should be objective, yet self-revelatory. Write directly and in a straightforward manner that tells about your experience and what it means to you. Do not use "academese." This is not a research paper for a professor.
-It should form conclusions that explain the value and meaning of your experience, such as what you learned about yourself and your field, your future goals, and your career plans. Draw your conclusions from the evidence your life provides.
-It should be specific. Document your conclusions with specific instances, or draw your conclusions as the result of individual experience. See below a list of general words and phrases to avoid using without explanation.
-It should be an example of careful persuasive writing. Career Center Counselors can help you determine if this is so by reviewing your draft statement.
-It should get to the point early on and catch the attention of the reader.
-It often should be limited in length, no more than two pages or less. In some instances it may be longer, depending on the school's instructions.

2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?  You must do some self-introspection here. Always turn your weakness into a positive.
What is your greatest weakness?
I’ve historically been a poor time manager. I would get some involved with the projects that I was working on, that I might run late for a meeting, or not schedule enough time for another project. In order to deal with this, I’ve begun adhering to a much tighter schedule on my calendar. I will organize my projects and schedule a time to work on each. This has the added bonus of not only helping with my time management, but enables me to remember all of the projects that I need to work on. I now carry my pocket calendar with me everywhere. Here, let me show you what I have scheduled for next week. As you can see…

What are your strengths?
Describe two or three skills you have that are most relevant to the job. Avoid cliches or generalities; offer specific evidence. Describe new ways these skills could be put to use in the new position. If you have to talk about weaknesses, be honest without shooting yourself in the foot-avoid pointing out a weakness that could be a major obstacle in landing the job. For example, it might be wise to mention you barely have the required work experience for the job; the interviewer has surely noticed this much, and then you can explain how you're qualified nonetheless.

"My strengths are interpersonal skills, and I can usually win people over to my point of view. Also, I have good judgment about people and an intuitive sense of their talents and their ability to contribute to a given problem. These skills seem to me directly related to the job. I notice that you require three years' work experience for this job. Although my resume shows I've only two years' experience, it doesn't show that I took two evening college courses related to my field and have been active in one of the professional societies. I also try to gain knowledge by reading the industry's trade journals. I'm certain that my combined knowledge and skill level is the equivalent of that of other people who do have three years' of work experience. I'm also currently enrolled in a time-management course; I can already see the effects of this course at work on my present job."

3. What have you done to explore your chosen profession?  Internships, jobs, volunteer experiences, clinicals, research, etc.  Anything you can think of to substantiate your desire to get in the health careers program.

The Interview

Be prepared.
Make a list of strengths, achievements, and recognitions received.
Know who your audience will be.
Conduct research on the school, graduate program, and faculty before the interview.
Find a list of common interview questions.
Practice answering questions with friends, family, and graduate school advisors.
Rehearse Answers.
Expect the unexpected questions.
Be ready to answer personal and thought-provoking questions.
Have enough rest the night before.

The Day of the Interview:
Arrive early (at least 15 minutes early).
Dress appropriately – Look neat and professional. (No Jeans, T-shirts, shorts, etc.).
Bring copies of your resume (or CV), papers, and/or presentations.
Be yourself.
Be honest.
Be confident.
Be friendly.
Be polite. Shake hands with the interviewer or anyone else you meet during your visit.
Address the interviewer by their title and name (e.g. Dr. Smith).
Make eye-contact.
Be respectful and courteous.
Be alert and attentive.
Remember to have an appropriate body posture. Body language can express a lot of different moods so make sure you look interested.
Express your ideas and thoughts in a clear, intelligent, and straightforward manner.
Demonstrate your interest in the school and program in a passionate and enthusiastic manner. Let the interviewer know that you are really interested in attending their school without stating it directly.
Discuss your achievements.
Discuss your goals (career and graduate school goals).
Discuss flaws that exist on your academic record (without making excuses).
Be consistent in your answers. (Additionally, make sure your answers on the application are consistent with your interview answers.)
Ask intelligent questions. Knowledgeable and specific questions that show you have done your homework are a plus (e.g. questions about the school, program, or faculty).
Ask for clarification if you don’t understand the questions.
Sell yourself.

Remember to send a thank-you note/letter or email after the interview.
Stay Optimistic.
Use each interview experience to prepare for future interviews.

Don't forget to do your research on the school, program and faculty.
Don't forget to prepare and rehearse answers.
Don't reschedule the interview unless if it is extremely necessary.

The Day of the Interview:
Be late.
Come unprepared.
Be nervous or worry. Remember to relax.
Forget the interviewer’s name.
Talk too much or too little.
Interrupt the interviewer.
Forget to smile.
Lie or exaggerate about your accomplishments.
Discuss negative information.
Make excuses for weaknesses.
Criticize yourself or other individuals.
Try to be funny.
Speak in slang.
Take things personally.
Become emotional.
Act immature.
Talk about controversial or ethical issues (unless asked to).
Answer your cell phone (Turn it off before the interview or don’t bring it at all).
Answer yes or no only or make your answers too general. Make sure you give descriptive and elaborate answers.
Let your answers reflect what you think the interviewer wants to hear.
Forget to thank the interviewer before you leave.

Don't Forget to send a thank you note or letter to everyone you met.

What questions can you expect?

Tell me about yourself.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
If you're not accepted into graduate school, what are your plans?
Why did you choose this career?
What do you know about our program?
Why did you choose to apply to our program?
What other schools are you considering?
In what ways have your previous experience prepared you for graduate study in our program?
Any questions?
What do you believe your greatest challenge will be if you are accepted into this program?
In college, what courses did you enjoy the most? The least? Why?
Describe any research project you've worked on. What was the purpose of the project and what was your role in the project?
How would your professors describe you?
How will you be able to make a contribution to this field?
What are your hobbies?
Explain a situation in which you had a conflict and how you resolved it. What would you do differently? Why?
Describe your greatest accomplishment.
Tell me about your experience in this field. What was challenging? What was your contribution?
What are your career goals? How will this program help you achieve your goals?
How do you intend to finance your education?
What skills do you bring to the program? How will you help your mentor in his or her research?
Are you motivated? Explain and provide examples.
Why should we take you and not someone else?
What do you plan to specialize in?
What do you do in your spare time?
What can be determined about an applicant at an interview?
Why do you want to become a _____?
What other schools have you applied for?
Why did you get a poor grade in____?
Did you participate in any special projects in college?
Why do you think you are better suited for admission than your classmates?
What has been your most significant accomplishment to date?
Describe any research project you’ve worked on at Wartburg College.
What will you do if you are not accepted?
How do you rank among other students in your major at your school?
Have you ever worked with people, and if so in what capacity?
What made you apply to our school?
What are your weaknesses?
Describe your exposure to (subject) at Wartburg College.
If you are accepted to more than one school, how will you decide which to attend?
How do you see yourself ten years from now?
Can you explain why your admission test scores went up (down) when you took the test a second time?
What message would you like me to convey to the admission committee in your behalf?
What were your most favorite and least favorite courses in college?
Have you been interviewed or accepted at any other school?

Actual Questions Used by Medical School:

1.  What do you hope to gain during your medical education?
2.  Describe a typical day from your elementary school days.
3.  What questions do you have for me about our school?
4.  What is your weakness that concerns you most?
5.  Name some strategies to address the problem of smoking among teens; talk about some that haven't been tried before.
6.  What would your best friend say about you in convincing me I should admit you to our medical school?
7.  If you could be any character in history, who would it be, and why?
8.  How did you decide to apply to our medical school?
9.  Why did you choose our specific program?
10. How are you a match for our medical school?
11. What do you do in your spare time?
12. What other medical schools are you applying to?
13. How do you view abortion?
14. Would you perform abortions as a doctor? Under what conditions?
15. What are three things you want to change about yourself?
16. How would you describe the relationship between science and medicine?
17. Think back on your undergraduate experience at SU; what would you change about it?
18. If you were in charge of SU what would you change that would impact the undergraduate experience?
19. Name something you are most proud of…
20. Which family member has influenced your life so far and why?
21. What do you think about the health care system and which way should it go?
22. What do you think is wrong with the current health care system in the US?
23. Name a meaningful experience you've had and how it shaped you to pursue work as a physician.
24. Is there a good deal of drug use at your school? Possible follow up: Have you taken drugs?
25. Which languages do you speak? Why?
26. Which of your college courses interested you the most?
27. If you couldn't ever be trained to be a physician, what would you be?
28. In your present living situation, how do you settle disputes with your roommates?
29. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
30. What interests you outside of medicine and getting into medical school?

Recent Grads Offer Tips for Health Interviews

From a Student Who Applied to a Physician Assistant Program

"I spoke with my daughter and she did have some ideas on what might have helped her be so successful. First of all, she said that students need to do as much research as they can on the schools where they are interviewing. For example, she found out that xxxxx University has a big public health focus - so she spent a lot of time researching public health so that she could use some of the buzz words from that field. At yyyyyyy University, the focus is on underserved populations - so she did everything she could to bring herself up to speed on this topic and then included it in her interview.

Secondly, if there is a group interview - try to avoid just agreeing with what the other students have said. She was in a group interview with 10 other students and she found that everyone was just agreeing with what others had said. She was determined to add something new to the conversation even if it wasn't profound - one of the faculty at her private interview commented on how refreshing that was.

She also practiced out-loud what she would say to questions that she could anticipate. And once she had the answers down-pat she then rehearsed how to make the answers sound extemporaneous. She didn't always focus on saying only what she thought they wanted her to say but on her real thoughts and feelings. Her answers weren't always medically related - she said a lot of the students in the group interview always gave medically related answers and it made them appear to be trying too hard.

She said that all of the schools appeared to be very interested in her research lab experience. She spent a year in an animal lab (mice) doing medical research - so trying to get involved in research appeared to be a good idea.

Some of the questions that she answered that she didn't find on any of the websites were:
1 - How is a PA a leader?
2 - What are the problems facing PAs in the next 10 years?
3 - Tell me something interesting about yourself that I couldn't find from your application?
4 - Tell me what you like most about your patient encounters?
5 - What would you do if you thought that your supervising physician was intoxicated?

Hope that helps other SU students in their pursuit of PA school admission."

From a Student in Med Tech Who Applied to a Pathology Assistant Program

"I'm a student in the Medical Laboratory Science program at Salisbury University. I recently interviewed as a prospective candidate for a Pathology Assistant program in Chicago. It was in a group interview setting with three of the professors of the program and about seven competing students. They split the group into two one half went on the tour of the school and the second half had the interview. There was about 14 candidates total. It was very interesting to have a group interview because I think it was easier to stand out from the other students. You could hear their responses and have more time to formulate an answer that could make you unique. I never agreed with the other candidates by saying "me too" although some candidates took that approach. The group setting was also interesting because some of the students would speak quickly before it was their turn to answer the question and you have other students who wouldn't speak until the last possible moment. You could clearly see personality differences amongst the group. It is crucial that you research the school and find out how you fit in with the school. For example, I was asked if I am involved in community service. Some of the students said they were not involved in community service but I personally researched the college and found out that they have free foot clinics and children's health fairs free to the community. It was important that I stated how excited I was that the school focused on community service because I also take great pride in serving the community. It's important to tell them a story about yourself when answering the questions so they get to know you. The group interview process was more relaxed than an individual interview but still helped the teaching staff see which students could adequately fit into their program. I had a wonderful experience and was fortunate to attend the class Salisbury offered for health professions seeking admission into a graduate program. I truly believe that by having this class at Salisbury I was more confident in the interview process. I was prepared with a black business suit and a leather notebook and held my purse/notebook on my left side so I could shake with my right hand. The questions that were asked during the class were very close to the questions I was asked in the actual interview. I think it's also important to mention that over half the questions I was asked were hypothetical questions based on a given situation".

Four students spoke recently about their interview experiences of a year ago. Most health professional schools use the interview to help them decide who is the best match for their program.

Know the School:
When preparing for professional school interviews, these experts advise students to get acquainted with the schools' background, the programs they offer, and their research strengths. This knowledge tells the interviewers that you've done your homework; you know enough about their school to be able to say why it is the one for you. Says one student, " …it shows you've done some research and are serious about attending their school."

It is also helpful to be caught up on current events and field-specific trends. For pre-dents, a student suggests the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) website for links to various professional organizations and recommends skimming articles and the table of contents in journals such as Mouth Health Quarterly, published by the American Mouth Health Association. Consider registering (it's free) for the New York Times or Los Angeles Times online services for easy access to health-related articles as you prepare for your interviews.

Other than specific resources for your future profession, read the newspaper local to the interview school every day the two weeks before your interview so you'll be comfortable chatting about regional happenings.

Know Yourself:
In addition to adding to your knowledge about the profession and the school, definitely know your own information. Be fluent about the information on your application and statement and be able to speak honestly and genuinely about your life. You may be asked questions about you, your view of the health profession, of your own educational experiences thus far, and the way your encounter the world around you.

Questions to Expect:

Some questions dental school-interviewing students recall are:
What is your weakness?
Why should we pick you over other students?
Why do you choose dentistry over other professions?

Future optometrists were asked such questions as:
What is it about optometry that causes you to pursue it as a career?
What is the most difficult situation you've been in and how did you overcome the difficulties?
What are your hobbies?
How would you benefit from the field of optometry?

Some questions that have appeared in interviews for medical students include:
Tell me about yourself.
Why are you interested in medicine?
How have your experiences shaped your interest in medicine?

These questions are just a small fraction of the possible questions that professional schools could ask. When tackling interview questions, one student advises, "Don't be arrogant, but don't be afraid of the interviewer." All of these recent students agreed that it is very important to know why you are choosing that profession and how your experiences have shaped your interest.

These are the two most common questions, so prepare solid answers by keeping a journal, talking with others, or reading early drafts of your personal statement. A first-year medical student reminds prospective medical school students that, "An interview can make or break you. You must take interviews seriously. Be fluent about the reason why you want to pursue medicine. Do not doubt yourself."

During the interview, alums advise students to be honest about who they are and speak with confidence. a student suggests that, "Interviewers will appreciate you even more than 'show-offs' if you can speak confidently from the heart."

After talking with other applicants they know well and reflecting on their own experiences, our experts agreed that interviewers will respect honesty over someone who is trying to "impress" them. One suggestion to keep you from being self-conscious is to remember that not only is the school choosing you, but you are also deciding if that school is right for you.


These recent interviewers have named a list of tips, but how did each specifically prepare for their interviews? All alums suggest utilizing the services provided at the Career Center such as setting up mock interviews or having a video-taped mock interview. Some alums practiced with friends, family members, and anyone else who would listen. Successful interviewing does not only depend on what you say but how clearly you deliver your message, so PRACTICE!

Another key element to interviewing is eye contact, which will communicate to your interviewer that you can confidently interact with others. Several of our interviewees practiced wearing their interview clothes to check for comfort; the last thing you need to deal with at your interview is an uncomfortable collar or irritating sleeves. An interview is a high-stakes conversation; you want to be comfortable and relaxed enough to reveal your wonderful self during the conversation.

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