Virtual Interview Musts

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, interviews are going to be conducted virtually for the 2020-2021 application cycle.  The AAMC has released tips for applicants interviewing virtually, and I would be sure to read through them.

Here are a few thoughts on what else you should be considering:

First, bring a healthy dose of patience into the process.  Programs and applicants alike will be chartering new territories.  Expect glitches, and don’t let them negatively impact your confidence or focus.

Carry yourself in video calls with the same professionalism you would exhibit for in person interviews. All the typical pieces of advice for interviews still apply.  While interviewers may be dressed down, you should be well dressed in standard interview attire (and yes, you should wear pants!).  Be well groomed, sit up straight, and be attentive.  

Image by visuals from Upsplash

For the background of your video feed, I would recommend a plain backdrop.  You would hate for any pictures, posters, decorations, books on your shelves, or other items lurking in your video feed to negatively influence your application and compromise your ability to match at that program.  Some people might try to craft a background to help their image in the interview.  Let’s imagine a student applying to internal medicine who happens to have a copy of the New England Journal of Medicine and Harrison’s Manual of Medicine casually in view.  That just feels like trying to hard, and it is very easy for programs to spot.  They are pros at interviewing students as they do it every year. 

You should eliminate all distractions.  Clear your desk completely.  Shutdown any program on your computer that would have notifications or make a sound.  Store your cellphone away.  If you are home with family or have roommates, be sure that they know your interview schedule so they don’t walk in or knock during the middle of an interview.  

Test all of your equipment.  Make sure that your audio and microphone work well.  Decide if you need to be wearing headphones to prevent echos.  Ensure that you have a strong, high-speed internet signal.  Consider having a back up plan for internet in the event that some unforeseen outage occurs on the day of your interview.  I am sure that everyone by this point has experienced someone speaking on a Zoom or Webex call without knowing that her or his audio is on.  To play it safe, I would assume that programs can see you and hear you the entire time you are on the call.  Make sure that the camera angle is appropriately adjusted.  Another important consideration is creating the best lighting in the space you will be interviewing.  You want the video image of you to be clear and well-illuminated with minimal shadowing.  

The interview experience will certainly be unique for students this year.  For all of the inevitable delays and glitches, just think about how much money you are saving on interview travel expenses.

What are you most worried about with virtual interviews? Are there any other tips you have to share? Comment below or contact us directly.

Back to more interview techniques and resources.

Carter J. Boyd, MD, MBA
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