Optimize Your Virtual Interview Interface

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A recent article from Ohio State University carefully demonstrates how the audio/visual components of one’s Zoom experience can be dramatically improved. Sarac and colleagues discuss small changes that can be made by individuals to improve the professional appeal of their audio and video background for virtual interviews. The authors provide helpful commentary on the environment and background in which you conduct your interview from. Finally, they deliver a pressing reminder for professionalism and common etiquette that should be expected in any interview setting.

Follow these steps to stand out compared to your peers. Have you already started interviewing? It is not too late to modify your approach. Don’t worry about interviews you may have already completed. Instead, focus your efforts on optimizing your virtual interview interface.

A great way to get feedback on your interview background, audio, and presentation is by participating in one of our mock virtual interview sessions with one of our interview experts. Participating applicants have reported that they received superb feedback not only on the content of their interview responses, but also on their audio/visual presentation through a virtual interview interface by participating in our mock interview sessions.

For a full listing of ways to improve your virtual interview experience, check out our article on virtual interview musts.

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The Psychology of Interviewing

Part 1: Before the Interview

Interview season is upon us, and we all want to put our best foot forward to ensure we land the residency of our choice. I have laid out a few, science backed, ways to help you look your best in the eyes of the interviewer. While some of these things will seem like common sense, others may surprise you. Believe it or not, I tried all of these tips last year during my interviews, and I truly believe they allowed me to feel more at ease, more confident, and gave me an advantage during the interview process.

What to Wear

The first thing to address before interview day is what outfit to wear. Your outfit is usually the first thing a person notices about you, and it can leave a lasting impression on the interviewer before you even have a chance to introduce yourself, making it important to dress for success. The latest research shows that a blue suit is the best choice for men and women. Blue is a classic and non-threatening color that is seen positively by both males and females. It conveys trust and reliability with just the right amount of confidence. Black suits are another option; however, they can be more intimidating and convey a larger sense of power. Interviewers want to be in the position of power, so limit outfit choices that may stand out too much or be too authoritarian. For the dress shirt, it is best to wear a neutral color, such as a white or soft blue, as to not distract from the rest of the outfit. In terms of accent colors, use these to express your personality. Most accent colors are fine to wear to interviews (yellow, green, purple, orange) and can add personality to your outfit without compromising the overall feel. One exception is the color red. Use this color sparingly as it is a color associated with power and can subconsciously make some interviewers feel threatened.

Do Your Research

This should be common sense but get know as much as you can about those who are interviewing you beforehand. Research does two things. First, it allows you to pretend like you are “talking to a friend” and will decrease nervousness before the interview. It is much easier to talk to people that we know and feel comfortable with. By familiarizing ourselves with the interviewers and the program beforehand, we become naturally more comfortable when it is time to interview. In addition, research allows you to tailor your answers to the individual and find common ground with the interviewer. Discussing common interests is one of the easiest ways to do well in an interview and to get an interviewer to like you. It allows the discussion to be less question and answer and more of a conversation, which will make you stand out significantly from the other applicants.

“Our bodies change our minds, and our minds change our behavior, and our behavior changes our outcomes.”

Dr. Amy Cuddy, Harvard

Prime Yourself to Feel Powerful

After watching Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on body language, the power pose has been one of my favorite things to do before an interview. She found that taking up a short “power pose” can actually change body chemistry, increasing testosterone and lowering cortisol, and make people feel more confident. A power pose comes in a couple different forms, one with feet in a wide stance with arms held in a “V” shape above your head, and the other with feet in a wide stance with hands on your hips. The power pose can be used to get rid of pre-interview jitters and makes you feel like you belong and will succeed in the interview room. While this may seem silly, I’ve used it in many of my interviews to help me feel more confident and at ease. The research suggests that holding the pose for two minutes produces the full amount of hormonal changes; however, if two minutes is too long, start by posing for 30 seconds to one minute and work up from there. I would suggest doing the power pose in a private place, like the restroom, prior to the interview as doing this out in the open would probably have people questioning what you are doing.

I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of The Psychology of Interviewing. It is my hope that you can use a few of these tactics in your upcoming interviews. While we are in unusual times with the presence of COVID-19, many of these tips hold true for virtual interviews as well. In the words of Amy Cuddy, “Our bodies change our minds, and our minds change our behavior, and our behavior changes our outcomes.” Just remember, first impressions are very significant, so be well prepared, dress for success, and enter the interview with confidence. Part 2 of this series will come out shortly and will address psychology backed tips to help you succeed during the actual interview.

What have you done before an interview to feel more confident, prepared, or at ease? Comment below or contact us directly.

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Be sure to check out our mock virtual interview practice sessions.

Practice Your Interview Skills Today

With interview invitations being released, now is the time to start preparing for interviews. With interviews being conducted virtually, it is critical that you master your performance in the residency interviews.

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To help you perform at the highest level, we have been offering mock virtual interviews. We have enjoyed getting to work with students from all over the country applying this cycle. Read some of our recent reviews from individuals participating in our mock interview sessions.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“I highly recommend the mock interview practice session to every applicant.”

Psychiatry Applicant 2021

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

“I received immediate feedback on different aspects of the interview. Posture, background, and approaches to questions.”

General Surgery Applicant 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“This was so helpful. I feel more confident and prepared for my upcoming residency interviews.”

Pediatrics Applicant 2021

Our mock virtual interview sessions allow you the opportunity to practice and simulate two separate interview encounters and receive immediate feedback from one of our team members. The mock interviews are strategically designed to challenge you, but also show you the breadth and diversity of questions you may be asked while simultaneously allowing you to hone your virtual communication skills. Get honest feedback and actionable advice so that you can put your best foot forward on interview day. You will be paired with an interviewer from your specialty where available.

Before your mock interview, be sure to prepare by visiting our interview prep center. Here we have structured response guides to the most common interview questions and other general tips on interview technique and virtual formatting.

Mock Virtual Interview

This is a one-time non-refundable mock virtual interview session for residency applicants. The mock virtual interview session includes two 15 minute interviews, followed by 10 minutes of feedback with one of our team members. Upon purchase, please complete the questionnaire below so that we can pair you with the most appropriate member of our team.

59.99 $

To provide you with the best mock virtual experience, please complete this questionnaire.

Have questions or are not sure if a mock virtual interview is right for you? Contact us.

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Don’t Forget to Smile!

We’ve enjoyed working with a lot of medical students across the country through our mock virtual interviews. It has been really great working with students, getting to know them, and helping them refine their pitch to residency programs. While I’ve been impressed with each of the applicants I’ve worked with, I have to remind each of them of one thing.

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At the end of our interview I have to tell them to smile! I can tell that these individuals are determined and focused on performing well and excelling in the interview. It is too easy for us when we are focused to forget the small things.

“Smile!”

Dr. Carter J. Boyd, Founder, Med Student Edge

This year more than ever, your facial expressions are invaluable for conveying your story and personality. Programs won’t have access to some of the intangible qualities about you that they would have in an in person interview. Examples might include how you carry yourself, your posture, your handshake, your fidgeting, your tics. Your facial expressions are their only view of your feelings and emotions.

All career counseling websites and interviewing tip experts recommend the same thing: smile. Interviewers are more likely to have a positive evaluation of you as a candidate for the position when you smile, but don’t just take my word for it. Experts agree too.1, 2, 3, 4 Residency interviews are serious and you want to do your best. Be sure that while you are focusing on performing at the highest level, you also let your personality and charm shine through.

Be sure to smile in your interviews. It will make you more successful, more confident, and more likeable.

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Be sure to sign up for a mock virtual interview session today!

“Prudent” Medical Student Keys to Financial Success

A recent article from second year medical student Michael Tokov on the financial blog The Prudent Plastic Surgeon details five important strategies that you can employ as a medical student to begin working towards financial freedom. These tips are extremely valuable. The earlier you hear them, the better.

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The article provides a full host of resources on each topic and discusses in depth what you should know and how to use that information to develop a personal strategy. Many financial decisions that are made while you are a medical student can affect you years (and decades) down the line. Financial success as a physician begins with responsible stewardship of money as a medical student. The habits and practices you develop as a medical student will stay with you throughout residency and a career in medicine.

Five Steps for Medical Student Financial Success

  1. Read
  2. Know your loan agreements
  3. Budget
  4. Find mentors
  5. Look to the future

Be sure to check out the full post here and explore The Prudent Plastic Surgeon‘s full website.

Back to more financial resources here.

Pre-Interview Morning Routine

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Interview season is almost upon us! As a resident, I am very excited for the upcoming interviews to meet all the bright and capable new faces of medicine. But I also remember the nerves that plagued me on the applicant side of interviews. While I felt confident and excited, the anxiety was impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, the excessive anxiety can affect your performance. Having a solid pre-interview routine that keeps you relaxed is key to starting the interview day off right. I will go over my personal pre-interview routine and how it helped me. Yours may look quite different, but it ought to have the same calming effect to set you up for success. Fortunately, an effective morning routine is easier to achieve from the comfort of your own home rather than an unfamiliar hotel room!

Wake Up Extra Early

This is one of the harder things to do. It can be hard to get good sleep the night before an interview. Ideally, you’ll have gone to bed early to maximize your rest.  I am a morning person, so my strategy will be different from night owls. I usually set my alarm for 4am on interview days. This gave me time to hit snooze, lazily scroll Twitter in bed for a bit, and take a nice long shower. To me, giving up an extra 30-60 minutes of sleep is worth extra time in the morning to avoid feeling rushed. Over the course of an interview season some mishap will occur and you’ll be grateful for the extra time you built in.

Caffeine and Breakfast

For those of you who can function without caffeine, I envy your superhuman strength. For the rest of us, enjoy your morning caffeine. With in-person interviews, I stuck to the cheap hotel room coffee for simplicity. The benefit of virtual interviews is that you can caffeinate as you please. You can have that gourmet coffee in the cabinet or your favorite flavor of tea. Use it to your advantage and reward yourself early. My one tip is to avoid overdoing and creating the caffeine shakes. Caffeine can make anxiety worse, so try not to pass the sweet spot of caffeination and turn yourself into a jittery mess. The same goes for breakfast. Make yourself those scrambled eggs or avocado toast that make your stomach happy but not bloated.  Use the virtual interview season to your advantage and start your day off right with a nice breakfast.

Distraction / Enjoyment

If you’ve approached the interviews with solid preparation you shouldn’t have to spend the morning going over last-minute practice. On top of a nice coffee and breakfast, you can also incorporate some entertaining distraction from the nerves. I would turn on whatever binge-worthy podcast or audiobook I was currently addicted to or my favorite music station. This helped get my mind off of the pre-interview nerves.

Meditation / Prayer / Quiet Time

The last thing I did every morning before leaving my hotel (or now, logging onto the computer) was to take some quiet time to try and settle my mind. For me, this came in the form of prayer. For others, this time of quiet reflection might be meditation or listening to peaceful music. The point is to try and settle your nerves with mindfulness and intentional calm for a few minutes prior to the interview.

Other Ideas

No one is exactly like me. My routine may be of no help to you. What are some other strategies people might use? If you are a night owl and waking up early is a set up for disaster, make sure to get to bed early. Do anything you can the night prior to save yourself time in the morning. Maybe you need exercise and a short yoga or treadmill session to get your day started right. Maybe you need an episode of your favorite tv show or a few minutes with your favorite book to distract you. Maybe you need to talk to a friend or loved one. Since you’ll likely be at home, a quick walk with the dog or snuggle from the cat might be what you need.

Whatever your individual style, everyone has different needs to keep their anxiety at bay. Be honest with yourself. Try to find what helps you feel as relaxed and prepared as possible for the day ahead. If you have a bad interview day, consider the effect your morning routine had. Is there something you can change that will help you start the day off better?

I found a routine during my interview travels that worked quite well despite my relatively high anxiety level. By the end of interview season, I had come to actually enjoy my pre-interview mornings. Virtual interview season brings entirely new challenges for applicants. However, it allows for easier and more effective morning routines that will set you up for success on interview day!

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It’s Here! Mock Virtual Interviews

With residency applications submitted, interviews are right around the corner. Even though you may not have invitations yet, now is the time to start preparing for interviews. With interviews being conducted virtually, it is critical that you master your performance in the residency interviews.

people on a video call
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To help you perform at the highest level, we are excited to offer mock virtual interviews. Our mock virtual interview sessions allow you the opportunity to practice and simulate two separate interview encounters and receive immediate feedback from one of our team members. The mock interviews are strategically designed to challenge you, but also show you the breadth and diversity of questions you may be asked while simultaneously allowing you to hone your virtual communication skills. Get honest feedback and actionable advice so that you can put your best foot forward on interview day. You will be paired with an interviewer from your specialty where available.

Before your mock interview, be sure to prepare by visiting our interview prep center. Here we have structured response guides to the most common interview questions and other general tips on interview technique and virtual formatting.

Mock Virtual Interview

This is a one-time non-refundable mock virtual interview session for residency applicants. The mock virtual interview session includes two 15 minute interviews, followed by 10 minutes of feedback with one of our team members. Upon purchase, please complete the questionnaire below so that we can pair you with the most appropriate member of our team.

59.99 $

To provide you with the best mock virtual experience, please complete this questionnaire.

Back to more interview prep resources.

Interview Season 101

Interview season is officially upon us.  Thus far, you have stressed over writing a personal statement, ensured your letters of recommendation were uploaded on time, and reviewed your activities section countless times in search of typos which all culminated in successfully submitting and certifying your ERAS residency applications.  This culmination marks a major transition in the application cycle. 

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Your paper application is locked in and pending review by programs across the country.  No looking back.  All efforts must now be focused on preparing for interviews.  While a daunting task, we are here to walk you along each step of the way.  Here we provide an outline of what to do these upcoming weeks.  Each of these topics will be addressed in more detail as we progress but use this as your road map to interview success.

Waiting

One of the more anxiety provoking periods of the application period is waiting for interview invitations.  Some specialties may begin releasing interviews the day after ERAS applications are submitted, while other specialties allow programs time to comprehensively review applications prior to releasing interview invitations.  Many students will remain idle as they wait for interview invites.  Maximize this time to prepare for interviews.

Prepare

The best way to excel in interviews is through preparation.  An applicant should know her or his application backwards and forwards.  You should know what is in your personal statement and be able to discuss at length any activity, experience, or research project that is listed on your CV.  There are important questions that you will be asked frequently that you can already pre-contemplate and pre-formulate responses to.  Use our list of the most frequently asked interview questions and accompanying response aids to help think critically about how you will answer these questions. 

“Practice helps bolster your confidence and allows you to take control of an interview.”

Dr. Carter J. Boyd, Founder, Med Student Edge

Practice

The final step of preparing for interviews is practice.  This is crucial for interview day success.  Real life rehearsals of your interview answers help to parse out how responses could be phrased more eloquently or otherwise tweaked.  Practice helps bolster your confidence and allows you to take control of an interview.  To assist you, we are offering virtual mock interviews with immediate direct feedback.  Stay tuned for details tomorrow on how to sign up.

Scheduling

Scheduling interviews can present a critical challenge, particularly as interviews are occurring in a condensed period.  It is to your benefit, however, that you do not have to account for travel considerations.  The most important item here is to stay organized.  As conflicts arise, reach out to program scheduling coordinators to rectify any potential conflicts.  Always remain courteous in these communications—they can make or break you. 

Interview Day

Given the virtual formatting, interview days will be unique this application cycle.  Virtual socials and info sessions will vary based on the program.  By this point, you will be well polished and ready to deliver.   Focus on listening and interpersonal skills during interviews.  Be patient with technological difficulties as they arise.  Show flexibility and patience as delays will inevitably occur.

There is a lot ahead of us this interview season.  Don’t worry—this is just the framework that we will be walking you through in much more detail over the upcoming weeks.  Check back regularly for updates and new content.  Have specific questions? Contact us directly or leave a comment so we can address them. 

Visit here for all interview prep resources.

Pause, Relax, Press On

Submitting your residency application to ERAS can be an extremely anxiety provoking endeavor. Was there a typo on your personal statement that you missed? Did you leave off an important research project from your CV? Did all of your letters of recommendation get uploaded on time?

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On Wednesday, October 21st, 2020, everything is finalized with your application. While submitting can cause significant anxiety, trust the process. You have spent countless hours, dedicated hard work, and demonstrated perseverance to get to this point. Reflect on your journey thus far. Consider where you have come from. Realize where you are going.

Thank you for allowing our team at Med Student Edge to play a role in your journey thus far. We will continue to support you as you progress through the remainder of the application cycle with interviews, generating rank lists, and match day. We commend you on your hard work. Still, now is not the time to stop. There are many new challenges on the road ahead. Interviews are more critical this year than ever before. They present considerable unique challenges given their virtual format.

The students that do best in interviews aren’t those that speak the most eloquently or have the most gregarious personalities. The students that are the most prepared are the students that stand out to programs the most year after year. Start now. Visit our full guide of interview resources which includes a listing of the most frequently asked interview questions, each with a structured response aid. We also are excited to be offering mock interviews. Click the link for more details.

For tips on getting started, see Interview Season 101.

As questions come up, reach out. We are here to help you and help maximize your chances of matching at your dream program. Comment or contact us directly.

The Most Important Factor for Board Exam Success

Time. It is the most important variable for Step 1 preparation. It is the great equalizer. Everyone has the exact same amount, but how one spends it will determine his or her board score.

For the most part, people who get into medical school possess the raw intelligence and test taking ability to do well on the USMLE Step exams. I do not want you to read “time” as whoever spends the most cumulative hours in the library scores the highest. Sure, time spent is an important variable but efficiency is equally important. You have to spend the countless hours, but you also have to spend them well.  Although feeling inadequate or not smart enough to score in the top five percent is a common feeling, I am here to tell you that you can. Below are some tips on how to spend the precious resource of time.

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Make a Study Plan

Make a study plan. After you are a few weeks into your study plan, adjust it as needed. No one make’s an initial flawless study plan because you cannot accurately factor in all of the natural variables. With time, your study schedule will become more refined.  Once you have a battle tested schedule, try to stick to it. Start early and with a light load.  Gradually increase the intensity and efficiency. I started light studying about 4 months prior to my exam date. I focused on one topic as opposed to broadly skimming the entirety of the material. I found this beneficial for multiple reasons. First of all, I relearned some biochemistry that I had for the most part forgotten. Secondly, and more importantly, I learned about what resources I valued and developed a system that helped me learn and retain information.

Establishing good study habits and practices four months away from test date was ideal for me.  Over the next month, I was constantly fine tuning my strategy so that at three months out from test date I had all of the kinks out. I could let the exam be the priority and keep pushing harder and harder until test day.

Some people devote an entire semester for Step 1 prep ignoring normal coursework. Although it may work for some, this is generally not a successful strategy. I know Step is far more important than classroom grades at most schools. While this was also true for my school, keep in mind that all of the material presented in the pre-clinical years is also tested on the Step 1 exam. It would be a shame to learn all previous material flawlessly only to have your score falter after not learning the newest material. I reviewed practice tests with a few students who employed this strategy and their scores were lacking in the areas that they neglected to establish a baseline level of knowledge. My solution to this was to study class work as a priority and then have a dedicated amount of time for Step 1 time at the conclusion of most days or on the weekends. If you learn this new classroom material well, it will not require much or any review prior to the exam.

Dedicated

Once you enter the “dedicated” period of study where Step 1 is the only focus and classroom work has largely concluded, Step 1 is the only thing on your mind. There is not really much to expand on here. Everyone is studying at this point for long hours and working towards the finish line. Finish strong and cover your weak points at the end of dedicated. For me this included a final biochemistry review as well as the statistical sections of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 just before the test.

Resource Management

Do not get resource overload. Most resources say the same thing in a different format or learning style. Pick three or four resources and utilize these from start to finish, making sure to cover them in their entirety. My choice resources were Sketchy Micro and Pharm (pathology was a budding idea so that was not an option for me), First Aid, Pathoma, and Boards and Beyond. On top of these four resources, I used Anki. Although, I only used Anki to cover material from the four previously listed resources in flash card format. Anki was not for new material.

Well Being

Do not forget about your personal mental and physical health. This is an important part of your time allocation. No one can excel educationally nor perform on an exam if they are mentally and physically spent. I am not saying this road should be leisurely, but remember you do have to be alive and awake to take the exam. Do not think you are immune to burnout. Let’s be honest, no one plans on burning out. It sneaks up on people. It could happen to you. Know yourself and know your strengths and weaknesses. If you can’t study for 100 days in a row, then don’t.

Time is all you need to do well on these exams. Thousands of efficiently spent, intensively focused hours will get you the end result. And lucky for you, everyone has the exact same amount of time, spend it wisely and you will succeed.

Do you have thoughts or questions about the study strategies from above? Leave us a comment!

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