The Stress Test -- Medical School Interview Urban Myth?
My first medical school interview occurred at Stanford University. I had arrived promptly at 7:45 AM whereupon I was immediately escorted to my faculty interview. The interview began as I had expected; my assigned faculty member (let's call him Dr. Smith) asked me how I liked California, why I applied to Stanford in particular, and then proceeded to say: "So let's get to the question I have to ask or else I'll get booted off the admissions committee&Why do you want to be a doctor?" Well-prepared for this question, I began to answer when 3 words into my speech, Dr. Smith picked up the phone and called his daughter. No "excuse me, I have to make a phone call," no "I'm sorry, but this is a really urgent matter&." In fact, Dr. Smith simply asked his daughter how she liked the warm weather they were having this week, if she enjoyed the steak dinner he cooked several nights ago etc. And he spoke with her for a good 15 minutes, apparently unaware of the fact that I was sitting in the room, expecting an actual interview. So what did I do? I simply looked around at the pictures on his desk, checked out the posters on the wall&visually scanning everything simply to keep myself calm. And really, I had no idea whether this type of behavior was standard in interviews or not, given that this was my first real interview ever. So finally, Dr. Smith ended the conversation with his daughter and simply stared at me for a while -- whereupon I continued what I had been saying before he picked up the phone (as if the incident never even happened). Assuming that the rest of the interview would be more according to my expectations, we moved on, and Dr. Smith began asking me about my research. When I brushed upon an experimental tool we had used known as the Morris water maze (essentially a mini-pool for rodents with a platform submerged in the water -- it typically tests learning behavior and memory, but can also be simply used as a stressor -- how appropriate!), he stopped me: "Stand up and show me how big such a maze really is&and then go ahead and show me what a rat would look like doing such a test." So I proceeded to do all this, but could not given how cramped his office was, and simply tried to verbally explain what it would be like if I were a 4-legged rodent rather than an extremely baffled medical school interviewee. Finally, the interview came to a close -- he told me how wonderful his previous applicant was and how she was definitely going to be accepted into the school -- and escorted me out of the office. Perfect ending, right? After that, I spent the next two hours simply sitting outside, recovering from whatever had happened, trying to convince myself that not all my interviews were going to be like this.
Honestly, I have no idea what Dr. Smith was looking for when he interviewed me, but apparently he liked what he saw because I was accepted into the school very shortly thereafter. All that I know is that I stayed calm throughout the entire fiasco. I never took any of his behavior personally and ultimately the interview remained more like a conversation (albeit an extremely bizarre one) throughout its entirety. And that's really how all medical interviews should be -- a conversation -- for virtually every other interviewer I had would talk just as much, if not more, than me. So the only advice I can give applies to all interviews in general -- remain calm, open-minded and light-hearted and you'll do just fine. And interviews are going to be highly spontaneous (especially the stress interview) -- so although it is beneficial to have some idea of what may be asked and how you might respond, never simply spit out a rehearsed speech word for word. Interviewers will see right through that&no matter their methods.