Online Medical School Interview Tips
Setup, Setup, Setup
This is underestimated by the majority of online interviewees. However, the first and most important initial impression will be your setup; this includes the following essential factors:
- Background: Preferably a clear, professional background, rather than an untidy bedroom with an array of posters and ornaments
- Webcam: This should be a minimum of 1080HD; many older laptops and desktops will have lower resolutions, and hence it is highly recommended to invest (around £20) for a 1080HD webcam
- Webcam Position: This should be in line with your face with around 20% empty space above your head, and your shoulders, arms and upper body visible. Avoid the common mistake of using the webcam on your laptop which is at the level of your chest and hence more focused on your chin than your face!
- Audio: Test the audio on your computer thoroughly; if the quality is not satisfactory, consider investing in an external microphone.
- Attire: Whilst only the upper half of your body will be visible directly in the interview, ensure that you are also appropriately dressed below the waist. Unscrupulous interviewers have been known to ask students to stand up during interviews (which can be rather embarrassing if you are wearing a suit jacket with pyjamas!)
Familiarise Yourself with the Interview Format
There are two possible broad types of virtual interviews: live virtual interviews and pre-recorded (asynchronous) virtual interviews. A live virtual interview is more likely, and will involve you answering the interviewers’ questions in real-time, just as you would in an in-person interview. In an asynchronous interview, you will be given a series of virtual prompts, either via text or video. You will then be asked to record responses to the prompts, which will be reviewed at a later date by the admissions team. Next, you should research if the interview is a panel format, or an MMI (multiple mini interview). Many universities have changed from MMI to panel interviews whilst they are taking place online, so ensure that the information you are looking at is up-to-date and relevant for the current interview cycle.
‘Get There’ on Time
You should expect that the timings and agenda will be more variable than in-person interviews. Therefore, make sure you keep on top of any information from the university, and ‘show up’ (log-in to the meeting room or waiting room as appropriate) well in advance of the slot you have been assigned. Depending on the platform, this may be more or less possible; with Zoom for example you will be added into the meeting wait room as soon as you log in to it, with the interviewer then able to accept you into the actual interview when they wish. Showing up in good time also gives the interview a good impression - that you are organised and ready in advance. Make sure you have a ‘buffer,’ timing wise, both before and after the interview. The last thing you want is to be stressed about the interview running over time.
Respond Naturally to any Technological Problems
Whilst you will hope that no ‘tech issues’ appear, if they do you should approach them naturally. An echo, feedback, or camera issues are perfectly normal with video calls and acknowledging them will help to make the interview run more smoothly. Everyone (be they admissions staff or interviewees) is in much the same boat, with video interviews being new all-round. Therefore the staff will be understanding. Additionally, showing a natural ability to deal with a difficult situation (perhaps through humour, or simply a quick confidence) will impress the interviewers and reassure them that you have some of the qualities needed of a future doctor.
Show the Correct Body Language
Consider the differences between in-person and virtual - you should sit an appropriate distance from the webcam and ensure that your head and shoulders are clearly visible. Try to align your eye level with the webcam - by making eye contact with the webcam rather than the screen, it will appear to the interviewers as if you are making eye contact with them. Be respectful, polite and attentive as you would in an in-person interview. Try not to fidget, and adopt a pose that feels comfortable, whilst appearing professional. Sitting with hands crossed in your lap may help you resist the urge to fidget. Try to avoid adjusting the webcam or referring to / engaging with anything off-screen.
Adjust your Speech Appropriately
The quality of communication will necessarily be slightly lower through a video call than in-person. There may be a lag, or other audio issues. Therefore, (especially if you have a natural tendency to speak quickly) you should make an effort to speak a little slower and articulate words clearly. You should also practice active listening (smile, nod or offer other verbal or non-verbal cues that you are following), and make sure not to interrupt your interviewers - always leave a small pause to make sure that they are finished and there isn’t any more audio to follow.
Consider Your Style of Answering Questions
You may wish to reflect slightly on the way that you answer questions in interviews, and consider if it will suit a virtual interview. Notably, if your style is heavily reliant on back-and-forth (if you provide a small amount of information, before checking in with the interviewer and continuing, or if you are prone to adopting an informal ‘chat’ approach) you may wish to change it slightly. Remember that there is likely to be at least some lag, or some other form of difficulty that may make this level of ‘natural’ conversation more difficult to attain. Therefore, you should focus on providing a complete response to each question - but try to avoid a monologue, and make sure to show that you are watching your interviewers’ reactions by making eye contact when speaking.
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