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Crayola227's Interview Tips (General and MMI)

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Crayola227

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So I just finished my first round of MMI as an interview rater this year. I will be doing more, but before I can forget, I would like to share with you a few take aways.

-- Never, during an interview, remark more than once, or possibly even once, "This is so hard."

-- Pauses, instead, are fine. You can silently pause for far longer than your nerves would have you believe, and it is not inappropriate or awkward. Thoughtfulness is OK. Tongue clicking noises, too. Almost anything besides a litany of "This is hard," "I don't know," or "Um."

-- FIRM handshake. Seriously, practice it so it's not too hard or too soft. I didn't notice issues with too hard, but too soft was just sorta awkward and it does come off as less confident. I won't argue this with anyone. I'm sharing the first hand experience of one rater and stickler for traditional notions of professionalism, of which one is the handshake.

-- Dry, warm handshake if you can. I would be sure to wipe my palm off on my clothes before going in the room and shaking hands. You are probably nervous and caffeinated. It doesn't make me think less of anyone to have damp palms. Dry palms though, do come off more confident. It was a hard thing not to notice. Again, not a huge deal, but if it were me interviewing, I would just as soon wipe my hand before being interviewed myself, so I thought I would pass this on.

-- EYE CONTACT.

-- Anticipate requirements. I was in a circumstance where all applicants had to give me some piece of paperwork. Some people forgot entirely and I had to prompt them at the end. Most of the time, I remembered to prompt them at the start. One person had it already in their hand, in a way that the moment they walked in, it was clear they were on top of it before I would even have to ask. It's a small thing, but that really impressed me. Exactly the sort of thing you want to see in a medical student, and needed in the physician. Anticipating requirements and meeting them swiftly, easily, and without prompting.

-- I introduced myself by title and name. A few applicants remembered this at the end of the interview and thanked me using them. I was really impressed at this. Understandably many forgot the moment I said who I was. No big deal. But the people who held that together, it shows just that - attention to detail. Social grace. You could even jot it down so you don't forget. I probably wouldn't have noticed that, and if I had, I still would have thought it was clever to do so. This is also a very simple thing that physicians do as part of bedside manner. It's not enough just to be competent, these sorts of superficial things are part of earning trust from patients. So showing attention to that sort of detail is also part of the job in my view.

-- My feelings on taking notes with paper and pen during interview. One person, it was less personable the degree to which they used it, but it was probably appropriate given the nature of the challenge. So don't hide behind it too much, don't be afraid to use it when you really should, and have the wisdom to know the difference. If the rules don't say you can't, go ahead and use it to improve your performance and better integrate things. I was assessing ability to use logical reasoning skills and integration of information, and note takers did better. Note taking also helped camoflauge longer pauses for thinking.

-- Hemlines, ladies. I find that the men, for whatever reasons, are perfectly put together. Possibly because our society thinks men can't dress themselves or whatever (let's not have a flamewar), I always see entire stores or department sections completely dedicated to suits and formal wear for men. I don't know that the equivalent truly exists for women in a broad fashion. Yeah, there's Ann Taylor and such, the problem I find is that the salespeople are more familiar with dressing customers coming in, in "fashionable" ways and business casual, and struggle a bit with not being too trendy or "sexy" for what should be an extremely serious and conservative job interview. Please explain that to them when they fit you.

-- I think when an interviewee can make a dress work, that's fine, but I tend to see sleeveless and too short, and that doesn't scream future doctor to me.

-- NO SEE THROUGH BLOUSES, LOW CUT, or BRA STRAPS. NONE. It's not hard. If you can't trust yourself, just go with an oxford shirt that isn't too v necked, button it up, wear a coordinating camisole under for any button gapping. Blouse woes solved.

-- I would just avoid a blouse that is white, for women. You can "stand out" from your conservative suit with your blouse's color, your hair, make up, jewelry. Not by dressing inappropriately, but standing out as attractive for the occasion. It is possible to be unique and attractive but in a way that is also conservative and appropriate.

-- My personal feeling that if losing the jacket, you look ready to hit da club, you have gone wrong with your blouse, hair, jewelry, make up. All the female candidates that I saw, did not violate this rule (except for one). Still, among them was a nice range of hair styles, jewelry, and make up. You can look like an attractive doctor in a suit without looking like a bar fly or robot.

-- I had applicants in white blouses, no make-up, un-styled hair. That was fine. How much they stood out or not, was more related to their own personal charm. In fact, at the time, I was pretty impressed that these applicants came off confident, put together, and personable, without a lick of anything. Still, when I was entering ratings and trying to remember each one, I wished they had done one thing with themselves to stand out in my mind so I wouldn't mix them up with one another. My impression of them was independent of their "plainness" in appearance, it only mattered for my geriatric brain in remembering who was who later. I took notes during sessions, but it still would have helped end of the day.

-- PLEASE take a professional appearing photo for the admissions department. It doesn't have to be professionally taken. You don't have to have your exact outfit you plan to wear, but the more it looks like you will look interview day, THE BETTER. That will greatly be your hair, and make up if you wear it. Bonus points if you do wear a distinctive blouse or earrings, to wear them in the picture, or something similar to what you do interview day. In my day, I knew it would be a blue blouse, so I wore one even though it wasn't the same one I wore interview day. Same idea with shirts and ties, guys. Jacket wasn't necessary, but color coding yourself between your pic and your interview outfit helps.

-- ALSO, PLEASE do what you can to ensure that the photo you use meets whatever upload guidelines and will actually print out on my little list. There's only so much you can do there, but do your best. The photo of someone in their tank top that actually showed on my list, AND had the same hair/general appearance, was more helpful than one that didn't show. Still, why the odd cropped photo in a tank top with the pub in the background?

-- If you doubt your ability to impress in black, white, no jewelry, no make up, then consider sprucing yourself up a bit. Looks matter, sorry. Bright (not neon) colors and pastels of all sorts worn by both genders. Fun geometric patterned socks and ties on men. In the interview clothing thread, I see people hand wringing about ridiculous things. Keep the suit simple, use some color but don't go crazy. Easy.

-- I personally don't like pencil heels, and I didn't see any. I don't have any view on flats vs heels, beyond not liking pencil heels, and that flats are fine as long as they aren't towards "ballet" territory. I had one applicant wear sloppy ankle boots in a color that definitely did not go with the suit at all. You can do better at PayLess for $20. Your shoes don't have to be amazing, just not inappropriate. I have no idea if she lost her shoes on the plane or what, and she was otherwise a great candidate, so as you can imagine, I didn't hold it against her. But yes, we will notice your shoes. There's not a whole lot else to notice about these suits besides things like shoes and ties.

-- YOU are the one who keeps your interviewer engaged, is what I learned from interacting with the swarm of applicants in black suits. Fun professional colors and accessories are a small part of engaging anyone viewing you, or to remember you that day. So go ahead and have personal touches that make you feel more attractive and confident and reflects your personality a bit - it will show. But know that more important than little things like neutral lipstick vs chapstick, or solid vs striped tie - is how you feel how that affects how you carry yourself off.

-- At some point during MMIs, there was often time to just BS at the end. Technically I wasn't rating anyone on any of the content of what they were saying. But it was in my purview to rate their communication skills.

IMHO, for the most part, you don't need to re-emphasize standout aspects of your app that appear on paper. Your interviewers will either have this in front of them, or they are meant to be ignorant to it. The admissions department will see to it that your 4.0 GPA and cures for cancer are factored in somewhere in the process.

Most of the time, interacting with a human being admissions day, is meant to show how likeable you are. Physicians need to be likeable even if they're quiet, serious, and not the life of the party charisma types. It's great when you can remain *likeable* while reiterating what your PS says, that your mom's brush with lupus is what made you interested in family medicine. BUT never sacrifice likeability in the effort to control the interaction. Don't railroad the interviewer.

Applicants that really impressed me, where able to do both: tell me something about themselves, AND get me to talk about myself in a way that didn't put me on the spot. Being a doctor is a lot more about your ability to get OTHERS to talk and carry a conversation, while simultaneously putting them at ease.

I was directing the interview, but applicants that could get me to effortlessly expound on topics like why I chose my specialty or what I liked about living near the school, took that lead from me, and it was refreshing.

It's also what you have to do as a physician, leave good impressions while possibly communicating actually very little about yourself personally, while getting people to open up. Leading the convo but not leading the convo.

That isn't to say you don't want to have some of the focus on you during your interview. But two way exchange is good, and feel free to encourage it. Especially when you know the person you're talking to is only meant to assess your communication skills, and nothing else in particular about you.

Take aways on my thoughts above:
-- Why is it fair to judge applicants on any of the above? I considered each thing that bothered or impressed me about an applicant, and how much I thought that might bias me unfairly, and I considered it fair if it really seemed to have some bearing on what you really want/don't want in a physician.

Many of the above things aren't deal makers or breakers. But I mentally noted them all for you, because it would not be that hard for anyone to make slight adjustments to these things to improve.

TLDR:
--You don't want to repeatedly say what you're doing is hard.
--Pauses or other "fillers," are mostly OK, as long as you avoid too many "ums."
--A firm, dry handshake is achievable with a little intention.
--Eye contact.
--If you have paper, take notes to keep your act together when appropriate.
--Note taking can also camoflauge pauses a little.
--A mental or even paper note to address your interviewer by title and name, can't hurt you.
--Anticipate what is expected of you, from handing over paperwork, introducing yourself, to what "rules" there are for the session.
--Ladies, it's easy to have a short hemline, put in the effort and err on longer.
--Just one fashion choice that is appropriate but highlights you in some way, is very helpful.
--Remember that confidence and social grace go very far.
-- You don't have to work too hard to communicate maybe one or two nice things about yourself, while still letting the interviewer go on about themselves. It's more about how YOU get them to talk than what is said between you two.
--For the love of God, take a decent photo and upload it properly for the admissions department, AND have it resemble what you look like interview day, as much as possible.
 
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drsombra

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this is very helpful! thank you!


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Crayola227

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Another note, and a big one.

I was instructed not to give feedback to applicants. The nature of the challenge, made it so that you could definitely walk out feeling like you "failed." I couldn't really tell applicants how to feel about their performance.

Keep in mind, this is quite literally most of what it is to be a doctor. Certainly most of the time you train, which is long. You go in a room and almost any challenge, you really know not what, could be facing you. You only have 10 minutes to try to accomplish anything. You take a stab at it relying on the best organization (and possibly note taking!) that you can manage. You quite often walk out still having almost no idea what in the hell just happened, how you did, what was wrong, what to do next.

Now, you have to shake that off, and go into the next room. Rinse, repeat.

The rest of your career, you will walk out of rooms and it will be the similar. That's normal. Training is just meant to help you deal with the ambiguity that is inherent in your job, that never fully goes away. Training is also meant to help you move on from that to meet the next challenge. Absolute and objective measures are sorely lacking if you expected any number of them. Training is about how to approach problems, how to think about them, work through them, attempt solutions, and try to measure how you did. But ambiguity.

So remember, that's OK. Testing how you do with this, could be the very point of the exercise. Do your best not to let how you think you "performed" in a specific room have any bearing on your confidence moving forward to the next.
 
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CaptainMan

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Would acknowledging that the scenario is a difficult situation fall under the umbrella of "this is hard?"
 

AttemptingScholar

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Would acknowledging that the scenario is a difficult situation fall under the umbrella of "this is hard?"
I think yes. Don't stall in such a noticeable way, and don't stall is a way that makes it seem like you aren't up to the task. They know it's hard, that's the point. Imagine if your doctor told you that you needed surgery, and paused to say the conversation was hard for them too? I think the big take away is "act like a doctor you would want to have", and that wouldn't make me very confident in my doctor.
 
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Crayola227

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Do not talk about how hard it is for you. It's fine if you are commenting how hard it is for Mrs. Smith to lose her husband or something, or that global management of carbon emissions is challenging.
 
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Crayola227

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Some more tips:

--Some stations you may stand the entire time. So consider that with your footwear and how comfortable you will be doing so, moving about, and interaction. One station the table was at an odd height, so you could be hunching over in heels.

--Remember, it's always about how you go about things. So in your interactions, consider the structure of what you are saying, not just content. Meaning, if you are asked to consider something, consider the converse of any argument you are making. Consider hitting more than one point. It's OK to take notes on what you've been asked to comment on. (Say I want you to tell me what you think about outlawing guns and what policies would you enact. You could jot down: opinion - mine, and show consideration for alternate viewpoint. Policies - . Then when you finish discussing the first part, you could look down and remember that you were to comment on policies. There you could take a minute to consider policy. Who/what/when/where/why? I don't know the exact structure to help you do this. Point is, that having a structure to address what's been put before you, can help you be more comprehensive in your answers, have more to talk about, and repeat yourself less. All of which is good.)

--If you are asked to give someone feedback, consider something called the "feedback sandwich." This is taught in med school and in other business management type situation. Basically, in feedback sandwich, you say something you think went well, then what needs to be improved, and then possibly following up with something positive.

OK, I just read something on why the feedback sandwich isn't good IRL. Doesn't matter. It's taught to docs, we know why it's done, and it's a legit way for you to handle this. The big issue I see when students are asked to give critical feedback (and even being told directly to comment on something for themselves or someone else to improve) is that they end up criticizing the challenge, and not the person they are giving feedback about.

Here's the issue. If you are asked to give feedback or critique something, I'm grading you. On how well you follow instructions, your ability to articulate, and you ability to actually do what you've been asked to do. So you better figure out a way to be the "mean" guy. Meaning, you need to make something critical or negative come out of your mouth. Yes, you need to be nice about it, not a jerk. But it can't be a wankfest. Yes, you need to not throw anyone under the bus.

But you MUST ALWAYS address the question or whatever you were directed to do. Jot it down if you must. But seriously, listen to the words being directed at you as your tasks, and be literal in interpreting and carrying out. If you're asked to identify something someone could do better, then don't only say what a good job everyone did, and how this one thing could have gone better, but that probably would have been OK if the challenge had been different.

--Here's a HUGE MISTAKE: You are asked to collaborate. Do you think dividing and conquering addresses that challenge? Also, it's a collaborative station. Do you think by its very set up, anyone can do well by trying to work on their own?

These are quite literally designed that performance will be poor if you try to go it alone. If you're lucky, the task is designed to be so impossible to really do on your own that you're basically forced to work with the other person. But believe me it goes better if you try to do that to start. Point that out, if you like. "It's a collaborative station, and given the nature of the challenge, I think we'll do better if we do it together rather than divide and conquer."

It's OK for the other person to lead, but do not be afraid to speak up to improve performance. I'm not always impressed with the "leader." I'm not always impressed with the quiet person. I am ALWAYS impressed with the person who might not have taken lead point, but was able to nicely and effectively stand up to the other person to offer their input when they thought change was needed. Because being able to follow AND being able to shift the team, THAT is EXACTLY what the perfect physician in training does. Also, as I said, these things are designed so there is no one right way. So if you have taken lead, IT IS MORE IMPORTANT that you compromise than insist that things be done your way. Because your way is not the right way if you are not collaborating. The ability to work with someone is the point of the exercise, not the exercise itself. Capice?

--Note that some tasks you may be given, might be PURPOSEFULLY impossible. Again, it's always about how you do things in these stations.

--Also, in any scenario, you need to pay your direct attention to whoever you're interacting with (like if there's a standardized patient or such) but it never hurts to try to angle yourself towards your rater. It's a subtle body language thing that makes it easier to rate you (literally been asked to rate body language and facial expressions) and it can affect the psychology of your rater favorably.
 
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mariposas905

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TLDR:
--Just one fashion choice that is appropriate but highlights you in some way, is very helpful.

Thank you for this post @Crayola227! It is very helpful :) Could you share some options for appropriate fashion choices? I was bit confused on this part...what did you see on the interview trail that helped you remember female applicants in positive ways?
 
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Crayola227

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Thank you for this post @Crayola227! It is very helpful :) Could you share some options for appropriate fashion choices? I was bit confused on this part...what did you see on the interview trail that helped you remember female applicants in positive ways?
Bright coloured blouse that complimented their complexion, nice fabric, necklace or earrings. Possibly having their hair up in some way, like a bun or a barrette, or styled. That's mainly it. It's not hard. Just pick something unique that doesn't scream stare at me, and you're probably good. What was hard were women with no make up, no jewellery, white blouse, hair down and unstyled (which is fine, if you do something else to stand out, like a coloured blouse). Also, for guys, it was hard if they were wearing a white shirt and a very blah tie and blah socks. Use colour wherever you can where it isn't obnoxious. Also it is essential that if you submit a photo to the school, that you essentially resemble that photo as much as you can interview day.
 
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mariposas905

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Bright coloured blouse that complimented their complexion, nice fabric, necklace or earrings. Possibly having their hair up in some way, like a bun or a barrette, or styled. That's mainly it. It's not hard. Just pick something unique that doesn't scream stare at me, and you're probably good. What was hard were women with no make up, no jewellery, white blouse, hair down and unstyled (which is fine, if you do something else to stand out, like a coloured blouse). Also, for guys, it was hard if they were wearing a white shirt and a very blah tie and blah socks. Use colour wherever you can where it isn't obnoxious. Also it is essential that if you submit a photo to the school, that you essentially resemble that photo as much as you can interview day.

Thanks for the input! Regarding the photo, do you mean when we submitted it for secondary apps?
 
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Matthew9Thirtyfive

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Thank you for this post @Crayola227! It is very helpful :) Could you share some options for appropriate fashion choices? I was bit confused on this part...what did you see on the interview trail that helped you remember female applicants in positive ways?

You could join the military. They really liked our uniforms, particularly the females lol.

Edit: for clarity, I mean that they liked the females in uniform, not that the females liked me in my uniform lol.
 
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