INTERVIEW
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Get to Know Your Interviewer: Who Does the Med School Interviewing?

Published on
April 15, 2024
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Even if you were to practise 100 medical school interview questions, the answer would only be appropriate if they were tailored to your interviewer. An important tip for medical school MMI and panel interviews is to prepare yourself for your audience. At Fraser’s Interview, our advice is to put yourself in the shoes of your listener, and consider what a good or bad medical school interview would contain in the context of various cultural and professional backgrounds.

In previous articles in our interview prep series, we have focused on the ethical and moral principles relevant to medical admission. We have also discussed the various types of interview questions and MMI stations that you may encounter. It is worthwhile to read through those articles if you are new to our blog series. After you have familiarised yourself with the questions asked during the medical school interview, it is time to learn about the different types of interviewers that you may encounter. 

In this article, we will try to introduce you to the people that may sit across from you in the interview room, on whom your medical admission may depend. 

What To Expect At A Medical School Interview

Medical school interview questions aim to identify the candidates that are best suited to medical school training, as well as a future in the medical field. However, the medical field is so diverse and multidisciplinary that any single interviewer would likely only consider a candidate from a limited number of perspectives. GEMSAS as well as other Australian universities are well aware of these biases. In order to eliminate any possible weaknesses in the medical school interview process, these faculties actively hire people of various cultural and professional backgrounds to assess candidates from a variety of perspectives. This is a well substantiated practice, and the callouts for interview staff are often readily available on university hiring websites.

Volunteers for Medical Selection Panel

During the interview, it is nearly impossible to identify the background of your interviewer - but neither should this be attempted. Instead, focus on communicating a holistic interview response that would appropriately address areas of concern relevant to possible interest groups. In the next part of this article, we are going to introduce you to some possible members of your interview audience, as well as discuss their priorities.

Faculty Members as Medical School Interviewers

It is almost a certainty that at least some of your medical school interview answers will be assessed by the staff of the relevant university. After all, there is a significant amount of logistical and financial challenges in running a medical faculty. This is precisely why universities expend a large amount of time and resources to maintain the prestige of their medical school. The bottom line here is that as a medical student, you become a very important representative of your university, and it is critical for the staff to feel safe entrusting you with this responsibility. What this means for your first stop in medical interview prep should be the university website. 

This is because the site would contain all the relevant information about values prioritised by the school. It is important to specifically refer to these values, especially when discussing your motivation for admission, or the ethical scenarios for medical school interviews. 

Having said this however, we should also warn you that referring to the medical school values is tricky business. Almost every single good interview candidate will have some awareness of these medical school priorities, and may mention them during the interview. This is especially the case if the student has previously attended said university, and is familiar with their culture. As such, when you discuss the values of your interviewing institution, the staff will be most impressed if you can demonstrate your understanding of the meaning of these principles, as well as why they are specifically important. Ultimately, a deeper understanding of faculty will impress the staff much more than a recollection of brief Google search! 

Medical Practitioners as Medical School Interviewers

The next type of interviewer that we encounter on this tour are medical practitioners. These individuals come second on the list of “what to expect at a medical school interview”. The reason for this is that hospital staff are often incredibly busy with patients, and are already heavily engaged in other teaching activities. Nevertheless, there are often staff members at the university that are also healthcare professionals, tha are recruited into the interview process. 

Medical practitioners are often less concerned with university values than are med school staff. You should always try and think of the interviewers as pragmatic people - their priorities are specifically related to their future interactions with the medical students they are interviewing. From a doctor’s perspective, a medical student in a hospital environment has the potential to be a helping hand almost as much as they can be a potential risk or nuisance. In a clinical environment, a medical student has three roles:

  1. Learn by listening to and observing senior staff
  2. Develop their medical interview and examination skills by respectfully interacting with patients
  3. Assist the junior medical staff with minor clinical tasks and documentation

From a practical perspective, this translates into two key medical interview focuses. These are communication within a team, and understanding the scope of your practise. This means that you should always remember to communicate with all the relevant stakeholders during interview ethics scenarios. Furthermore, remember that you are only an undergraduate at the time of your interview, and are not expected, or legally qualified to participate in the medical field in any way. In fact, this applies to most complex cases that may be presented to you during your interview. The solution to this difficulty is always calling for help. When you are out of your depth, demonstrate your responsable character to the medical interviewer by knowing that it is time to call a senior supervisor. This way, the doctor across the interview table will be certain that you will be a safety-oriented medical student. 

Members of the Community as Medical School Interviewers

In the previous section on medical staff as interviewers, we mentioned that a key med student task at the hospital is respectful interaction with patients. The best way for a university to assess your competence from an average patient’s perspective is to get the insight of a member of the public. Ask yourself - what would a patient consider a bad medical school interview? In other words, what are the negative qualities of a medical practitioner from the perspective of a person working outside the healthcare industry. Relevant mistakes to avoid include using overly technical language, as well as appearing dismissive of patient concerns. 

Another important factor to consider when discussing interview topics with an interviewer from the general public, is rapport.

Rapport is really difficult to master. On the other hand, you should try to be respectful and professional. On the other hand, being incredibly dry and distant may alienate you from your assessor. The key here is to consider how you normally converse with other seniors, with whom you have a good relationship. For example, perhaps you are on good terms with a university lecturer, or maybe you have a great working relationship with your employer. You should try and replicate these tones of conversation during the med interview. Remembering to smile, being expressive with your gestures and voice, as well as reserved and careful use of humour are all useful tools to impress these types of interviewers. 

Other Types of Medical School Interviewers

There are a few other, key, interest groups that may or may not be present as interviewers, depending on the specific interests of the interviewing medical school. An important special type of interviewer are members of the Indigenous community. Given that Indigenous health is an important component of healthcare policy in Australia, it is important to have a working understanding of the challenges faced by members of this community. A good interview candidate should express their cultural competence through well considered answers. 

Occasionally, medical students from the clinical school are also invited to participate in the selection process. These individuals often hold leadership positions and are respected within the local community. As with members of the public, the key with this final type of MMI examiner is to build a strong, friendly relationship that will show you to be a ‘good fit’ with the university’s medical cohort!