People have been asking me for last minute interview tips… and honestly for many of you, interview season is actually wrapping up now. Some still have some more in January. Others only have one more and want to make sure they do really well. You’re probably all pros by now, but here are my seven last-minute tips to help you take it to the next level.
- BE YOURSELF: “Be yourself” is such an annoying cliche, but you should actually try! This includes not trying to be funny if you’re not typically a jokester, not comparing yourself to other applicants, and being “the most comfortable version of yourself”. I describe that last step to people as thinking of the version of themselves that they are around family during the holidays… When we are comfortable we look more relaxed, smile and laugh more, and show more of our personalities than we do when we are nervous. It’s very tough, but try to “mind over matter” the situation and reach deep down for that best, most friendly, most comfortable version of yourself. This is particularly important for introverts, or people who don’t have as much energy for back-to-back interpersonal interactions.
- STOP YOUR NERVOUS HABITS: Ask your friends about the “weird” things you do, and be aware so you can curb them. This includes foot tapping, hair twirling, finger biting, lip licking, throat clearing, not looking people in the eye, staring at people’s lips when they talk, shifting your weight from foot to foot incessantly and any other nervous habits you might have (we all do something weird!). You really might not notice the things you do that make people uncomfortable, so ask someone that will be honest. When you know better, you can do better.
- PRACTICE: Mock interviews! Kinda late for this tip, and all the interviews you have had until this point have probably served as excellent practice. If you are still very nervous, google “sample interview questions”, grab a friend, and spend 10-20 minutes answering questions without studying them first to get practice improvising. You can do this on the phone if you are traveling, or in person with family during the holidays.
- HAVE A GOOD ANSWER FOR THE “TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF” QUESTION: Although many people won’t actually ask you this outright, there are many other questions that give you an opportunity to tell the interviewer what you think is most important about yourself. Open questions are annoying because it’s tough to know where to start. What do you like best about yourself? What is most interesting about you? What are you most proud of? Who and/or what do you love the most? What are you passionate about? The answers to this question will help you develop a short “about me” spiel that puts the best and most interesting parts of you at the forefront! Your answer should be short (one minute or so!) but chock full of the best of your personality. Don’t just answer with something boring, like why you decided to choose your specialty. Talk about your hobbies, loved ones, non-medical accomplishments, etc.
- HAVE A GOOD ANSWER TO THE “WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WEAKNESS?” QUESTION: The old “turn a negative into a positive” trick is washed up, and everyone sees right through you (IE “I work too hard sometimes”, “I am too much of a perfectionist”, or “I care too much about work”). STOP USING THESE. Also, please refrain from weaknesses that make you look terrible like “I tell small white-lies on occasion,” or “I tend to run a bit late.” Instead, say a real weakness that won’t really handicap your ability to be a good resident, but immediately discuss your proactive efforts to improve. Spend less time talking about the weakness than you do talking about the solution. To do this, actually THINK about what your real weaknesses are. RIGHT NOW. For example, let’s say you have the following five weaknesses: you’re a late person, you tend to micromanage people, you’re shy, you drink too much, and you are a people-pleaser. I’d consider the following answer: “I am a bit shy and nervous when speaking in front of groups. To mitigate this, I have been deliberate about taking opportunities to speak in front of small groups, present posters, and tutor other students, so that I can get more comfortable over time. It’s really been helping. I’m excited to see how I will continue to develop, especially since I’m interested in medical education in the future!” You can be less wordy than that, but you get the point! Pick a real weakness, make sure it’s not horrible, and spend more time talking about how you are working on it.
- WATCH YOUR BODY LANGUAGE: Maintain good eye contact: some experts say 50 – 70% of the time. Too much eye contact is creepy, too little makes you seem dishonest or unconfident. Smile when you are walking in (makes a great first impression). Leaning in towards the interviewer makes you seem more interested in the conversation. Try to match your interviewer’s tone to help build rapport (for example, if they are very quiet and soft spoken, bring your volume down).
- DON’T FORGET THE BASICS: Shake the interviewer’s hand on the way in and out. Don’t be tangential or go on and on when answering questions. Be confident, not cocky. Fight your imposter syndrome like the plague. Have a question prepared for the end incase they ask, “Any questions for me?” Maintain a positive attitude.
FEEL FREE TO REACH OUT WITH QUESTIONS! YOU GOT THIS, CONGRATS FOR MAKING IT THIS FAR!