For Pre-Meds: Top 3 SDN-Voted Most Difficult Interview Questions
I reached out to my old favorite haunt in undergrad, Student Doctor Network, to ask Pre-Meds to list the most difficult interview questions and vote for their favorites. I chose the top 3 to discuss here. As you will see below, it is all a matter of perspective. I kept my responses short for brevity’s sake and the responses below can easily be further elaborated on interview day.
Why should we choose you over all of the other candidates?
This question is not as intimidating if you re-phrase it to “What makes you more interesting than the other candidates?” This is actually a great question to be asked, assuming you prepared for it beforehand, since it is an opportunity to bring up experiences in your past that can truly make you unique in the eyes of your interviewer.
Any past experience that you consider important to your development as a person can be used. Here’s a random and shortened example:
“I was previously overweight until high school when I joined the wrestling team. I really suffered, almost puking during the first week of practice. A voice in me told me to quit, but I persisted. After two semesters, I lost 50 lbs, which I am extremely proud of. Although I never made JV or even Frosh, this experience taught me the value of hard work combined with long-term commitment, and never listening to doubters, especially if the person doubting is myself. Compared to others, my ability to set goals and persist will set me apart from my peers.”
Recap: This question is an opportunity to showcase, or go into further detail, a big part of your life that may not have come across in your application. Prepare for it by digging deep and choosing experiences that shaped you into a better person.
I hate the “Describe yourself” or “Tell me about yourself” question just because it is so open ended and I don’t even know where to begin.
The key to answering this question is to actually see it as an opportunity for you to “sell” yourself to the interviewer. Choose 2 or 3 positive attributes about yourself that you want your interviewer to know about you. What do you value most about yourself? Remember, interviewers are looking for positive traits that you possess, which may benefit patient care.
Start by making a list of your qualities that you value most. Of course, you cannot just tell the interviewer that you possess these qualities without backing it up with specific life experiences and examples. What experiences in your life highlight these virtues that you possess?
If you value honesty, was there an experience where you or somebody benefited from your honesty?
If you value hard work, what sort of hard work did you engage in? Did you work several part-time jobs while being a full time student because your parents could not afford to give you any financial assistance during college?
If you value compassion towards other human beings, what actions have you performed that shows this? Did you volunteer consistently to serve the underserved?
Lastly, to form your response, be able to tell these qualities you possess, followed by their relevant experiences, in story form (preferably chronologically but this isn’t necessary). Start practicing telling the story of your life, because this is a great communication skill to possess. Bonus points if you are able to explain how these experiences shaped and solidified your commitment to medicine. Your response is essentially a shortened autobiography about yourself that highlights your best attributes.
Recap: Make a list of virtues you value most. Then, next to each virtue, elaborate life experiences that highlight your possessing this virtue. Lastly, be able to tell these virtues in story-form.
What are your weaknesses?
This one is my favorite. Yes, it would be awkward and even detrimental to expose that you procrastinate or that you are a terrible multiple choice exam taker. You definitely want to avoid weaknesses that may be perceived as negative towards your ability to take care of patients in the future.
The key to answering this question is to preferably share weaknesses that you are currently working on, or at least have a plan to work on it. Because this weakness was important enough for you to spend time and effort to improve it, your sincerity and humility will shine through when you talk about it. More importantly, your interviewer will learn that you are currently in the process of improving yourself through this weakness. Here’s a random shortened example:
“I am a bit embarrassed to admit I have fumbled on public speaking on several past occasions. In a church bible verse recital in the second grade, I stood in front of an audience of parents and I froze completely because I forgot the entire verse. In college, I decided to no longer allow my fear of public speaking get in the way of improvement. After researching online, I discovered Toastmasters, a club of like-minded individuals who all want to improve their public speaking… (and so-on, elaborating on your accomplishments through Toastmasters).”
Recap: Your best bet is to choose a weakness that you are currently working on (or at least have a plan to address it). Avoid weaknesses that may be perceived as potentially detrimental to your ability to care for patients in the future.
In sum: Think about the underlying purpose of each question and how your response may be tailored to reveal the more human side of you. It’s great that you ace’d your exams or published 10 papers, but if you are also able to make it evident that you also developed as a dedicated and compassionate person through your experiences, that is like cream cheese frosting on the cake! Best wishes to those currently on the interview trail and prepare well so you don’t count on luck!
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