Having interviewed more than 50 candidates in past 3 months some actual interviews for the program and a lot more mock interviews as a part of a premium service; I now know what the program directors and residency attendings go through during the interview season.
I am happy to have met so many great students and doctors in past few months. It was an absolute pleasure knowing about your passions, dreams, and fears. I have nothing but immense respect for all the hard work you have and are still putting in to realize your dreams. This is a difficult journey and despite so many challenges, you are going strong. I feel honored to be a small part of your journey.
These are the most common mistakes made during interviews that may be preventing you from getting those pre-matches or matching at your top programs.
If you have just one interview coming up, it is super important for you to avoid these mistakes.
1. Focusing on what to say rather than how to say it.
After interviewing hundreds of IMGs, if think of one specific IMG I don’t remember what answer she gave when I asked her “Why this program?” But I do remember how she expressed herself, what was she proud of, how passionate was she when she told me about her career goals.
Instead of focusing your interview prep entirely on finding the perfect answer for each question, spend some time preparing on how you say it.
VOICE TONE: Do you sound monotonous? Or do you sound too nervous? Do you have an uptalk? Try to end your answers with a voice tone that is down trending (Youtube link). Record your answers on your phone recorder. Or turn on a voice recorder when practicing mock interviews with your friends on skype.
HAND GESTURES: Are you using your hands when you speak? If not, you should do that. Hand gestures convey your message better and make you sound confident. TIP: keep your palms open instead of making a fist or clasping them together(Youtube link).
POSTURE: How is your posture when you are practicing for interviews? Your brain will remember this and do the same in an actual interview. While you are practicing, sit up straight, feet uncrossed and chest facing the interviewer.
EYE CONTACT: Have an eye contact with giving your answer with normal blinking. Look in one direction (preferably up) when thinking of an answer.
2. Not knowing your self-worth.
I was talking to an IMG from India recently. He had mentioned on his CV that he went to a polio prevention camp during his medical college. Most Indian IMGs have this experience. So I asked him a little bit more about it. He says: “oh it’s nothing, every medical student in India does this”.
If this was a real interview, the PD would have lost interest in him at this time. Since this was a mock interview, I inquired a little bit more about that experience. He told me that he would go to this villages and give polio vaccines to the kids. But once in a while, he and his team would just stay in that village for a whole day and deliver primary care because there was no other way these people would get their chronic wounds checked, blood pressure measured, possibly get diagnosed with TB or malaria until they are too sick.
Now this was huge. Imagine an American PD hearing this. He or she would be beyond impressed. This not only shows that you would go an extra mile to for your community but it displays that you have a passion for medicine in general. And just saying this, puts you ahead of so many other IMGs who are going to say they just went to villages and distributed polio vaccines.
I know how you feel. I have felt the same way in past and still do sometimes. We as IMGs have a much lower pride in our achievements than our American counterparts. We think the awards we won in our medical school, the jobs we did back in our home country or the rotations we did in the US are not quite as impressive. You are not impressed by your own achievement so when you talk about them during the interview, you are not able to impress the PD.
3. Not knowing how to research the program’s website.
During some of my mock interviews, we will open up the program’s website that the applicant is going to interview next or is very interested in. We would do this mostly to prepare for the most common and important question asked during an interview “ Why are you interested in this program?” Most IMGs would look at the website for fellowship options, current residents, attendings research work. This is all good. But look deeper.
What is the program proud of? (look in their motto or letter from PD section) .
What unique clinical experience do they provide? (look in their curriculum section)
What are their achievements? (look to find out where their previous residents are now)
Is the program involved in the community? (outreach activities, field trips with residents, church involvement).
Is the program mentioned in local papers of something good? (google the program’s name and see if a link to local newspapers show up).
4. Generic answers and failing to be ultra specific.
See more details here (the rifle approach)
5. Forgetting to smile
For God’sake, when someone asks you about your family, your hobbies, your weakness- don’t forget to smile. Give them a glimpse of who you are as a person.