When going into your medical school interview, it’s important that you remember the purpose of the interview – to connect with your interviewer, have a conversation, and allow them to get to know YOU. It’s not to sell yourself or pitch your skills.
If you look up tips for how to answer medical school interview questions, you’ll find a bunch of different techniques and frameworks to follow. One of the most popular is the STAR technique. But you SHOULDN’T follow these frameworks.
If you want to learn more about interview tips, check out my book The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview. And check out all our podcasts on MedEd Media.
[01:04] The Problem with the STAR Technique
STAR stands for situation, task, action, result. It’s a framework for answering behavioral questions in all types of interviews.
But I don’t recommend using it, as an interviewee because it will most likely distract you from your most important goal – authentically connecting with the interviewer.
The problem I have with this technique and any other framework that you may read about or learn about is that you are so focused on the framework that you lose being you.
You get so caught up in trying to remember the framework that you get nervous and you get distracted. You could get so worked up in the framework of the answer, that you either don’t answer the question, or you answer it poorly. You’re all over the place trying to remember the framework.
And this point leads directly to today’s topic: Should you use frameworks like the STAR technique for answering your med school interview questions?
[02:14] Drop the Frameworks“Just be you. It is you that is they are interviewing for medical school to get into that medical school.”Click To Tweet
It’s not the framework that you read about. It’s not the structure to how to answer moral and ethical questions that you read about in a book or online, or you saw in a YouTube video.
Remember, the medical school is interviewing YOU, not the STAR technique.
Drop the frameworks for how to answer med school interview questions. Be you. Be authentic. Share YOUR thoughts, experiences, and interpretations. Forget about the frameworks.
[03:15] The Coffee Shop Conversation
You want the med school interview to be a coffee shop conversation. Would you use the STAR technique when chatting with your friend in a coffee shop conversation? No, you would just genuinely and authentically share your thoughts in the most natural, authentic way that made sense.“Please drop the frameworks and just have that conversation because that is ultimately how you will succeed in a medical school interview.”Click To Tweet
[04:10] Frame Your Answers Your Thoughts
A lot of students are worried about what if they don’t know the answer or the ethical rules behind the situation they’re put in. Well, you don’t have to know that information. They know that you are not an expert in medical law and medical ethics.
You don’t need to know all the laws and details about medical ethics in order to answer interview questions about them.
But what they do know is that you are a human being with a brain and that you can think for yourself. So don’t get wrapped up in some of these questions where you may think you don’t know the answers.
Most of the questions are framed around your thoughts. And that is how you answer every question by sharing your thoughts and ideas without claiming to already be a physician who is prepared to act in all of these scenarios.
[05:19] Connect with the Interviewer
Way too many interviewers walk out of the med school interview not knowing who the student is. All they know is that you gave a canned answer or you regurgitated back some parts of your CV using the STAR technique.“The more rehearsed, frameworked, and scripted your answers are, the more barriers you are putting up between you and the interviewer.”Click To Tweet
You want to CONNECT with the interviewer (and everyone else there) on your interview day and come across like a real person.
The goal of the interview is to show who you are, to connect with that interviewer and everyone else on your interview day, and show them that you are going to be a valuable member of the community.
[06:47] Take a Pause
Another point: Don’t be afraid of silence. Don’t be afraid of asking for more information. Don’t be afraid to take a pause so you could gather your thoughts around.
It’s okay to say “I need a moment to think about it.” This allows you to take your time and be concise, instead of just bouncing around between different threads of ideas.“When you pause to think about something after the question is asked, you have the opportunity to figure out what you want to talk about before you start talking.”Click To Tweet
When you are answering authentically, you can handle any question the interviewer throws at you: Just pause to think about the question, and then answer.
One of the worst things that you can do is start talking too soon and not knowing where you want to go. So take that split-second pause, figure out where you want to go. Get there, and then stop. And don’t be afraid of that silence.
Our brains are very good at thinking, and we can get to where we want to go in our heads very quickly. It may seem to you like a long time. But in reality, it’s only a split second.
[08:09] A Quick Recap
Drop all of the frameworks that you have likely read about. Be present with that interviewer. Have a conversation. Be willing to pause and think about your answers before starting.
Do this, and you will be able to answer any question they throw at you, and authentically, too.“When you stick to those frameworks, you are being inauthentic in a medical school interview, And the whole goal of the interview is to be authentic.”Click To Tweet