From law schools to dentistry, it seems like every Canadian professional school is hosting an interview period this month. This means it’s time to finesse your communication skills so you can make the best possible impression. How do you do that? Just follow our top five interview tips on communication.
Most professional schools are hosting their interviews online this year. So, while these tips also apply to in-person interviews, they were assembled with this virtual format in mind.
Our top five virtual interview tips are:
- Review and Practice
- Use the STAR Interview Technique
- Ask Your Own Questions
- Be Conscious of Your Body Language
- Send Thank You Notes
Tip #1: Review and Practice
Taking the time to review and practice can help alleviate any interview anxiety! If you know what to expect, you won’t have as much to worry about. There are two phases to preparing for your interviews.
Firstly, review everything you included in your application. Any information you included will be fair game for your interviewers to ask about, including details mentioned in your supplementary essays. You need to be ready to answer questions such as:
- What your responsibilities were in each previous position you held
- What you learned from these experiences
- How these experiences have prepared you for the program that you are interviewing for
Having concise answers to these questions will help you touch on the important points. For example, if one particular role taught you effective conflict resolution strategies, that’s something you’ll want to mention. Reviewing your application is also a good way to ensure that you’re providing the admissions committee with consistent information.
Secondly, spend time responding to practice questions. This will help you become familiar and comfortable with the kinds of questions you might be asked in your interviews. Practicing will also help you effectively structure your responses in a way that feels natural, comfortable, and avoids rambling.
One of the reasons people tend to ramble in interviews (and even why they use fillers such as “um,” “ah,” or “like”) is because they’re trying to avoid awkward silences, so they rush into a response without pausing to give it adequate thought. The best thing we can suggest for you to do is to lean into the silence! Give yourself a moment to gather your thoughts and to structure them appropriately.
When you practice your responses to interview questions, try recording yourself. Time how long it takes you to finish responding and count how many filler words you use. A well-thought out response should be filler-free and it should only take you about a minute or two to state all of your key points.
Tip #2: Use The STAR Interview Technique
Regardless of which professional school you’re interviewing for, you’ll likely be asked some behavioural questions. These are questions that sound something like “describe a time you had to…”
Interviewers structure these questions around the key competencies required for success in their program. The point of these questions is to give them insight into how you go about solving problems. For example, they might ask you to tell them about a time you and a co-worker couldn’t agree on a course of action.
The most difficult part of answering these kinds of questions is figuring out how to give a clear, succinct response. But have no fear! The perfect structure is here!
Just use the STAR Method. Here is how it breaks down:
- Situation: When/where did this story take place?
- Task: What were you trying to do?
- Action: What steps did you take to accomplish your task?
- Result: What was the outcome of your actions?
Even when using this format, there are key pieces of information you might neglect to mention. Or conversely, you might include irrelevant information in your response. So put a lot of thought into which details you include in your story.
When describing the situation you were in, you could just say that it happened a few years ago, but that wouldn’t provide any context for what your life was like at the time. Something like “when I was working on a group project in my first year of university” tells your interviewers exactly what the situation was and also tells them that you were in the process of adapting to a new environment and new challenges.
Apply this level of detail to each part of your STAR response. It should take you between a minute to three minutes to properly answer a behavioural question. Any shorter than that means you’re probably missing some key details. Any longer and there’s probably some information you can cut out.
Tip #3: Ask Your Own Questions
If you’ve read some of our residency interview posts, you’ve heard this one before. But it’s worth repeating. Asking your own questions makes it clear to your interviewers that you’re invested in the program and you want to learn more. It’s also an opportunity to gauge whether this is the best program to teach you the skills required to meet your career goals.
There isn’t a perfect number of questions to ask your interviewers, but they generally expect people to ask around three questions. Of course, if you have more questions, ask them! Make sure you’re getting all of the information necessary to help make your decisions once acceptance letters start rolling in.
Your questions should be well thought out and should demonstrate your interest, professionalism, and maturity. You shouldn’t be asking questions that are already answered on the program’s website or that will require your interviewers to repeat things they said earlier in the interview. If you need them to clarify something, by all means, ask them for more information! But avoid asking questions just for the sake of asking questions.
Looking for some questions to ask during an interview? Check out these MBA, residency, and medical school interview questions and make note of the ones that reflect what you’re hoping to get out of a particular program.
Tip #4: Be Conscious of Your Body Language
Most professional schools are conducting their interviews online this year. This means you have to communicate a little differently or take different elements into account to make sure you’re communicating what you intend.
This format primarily impacts your body language. Your interviewers have so much less to go off of. So you need to make sure you’re not doing anything that will further impede your communication. This means keeping your hands away from your face so you don’t accidentally distort your speech and making sure you are sitting upright.
We all know that making eye contact is really important in an interview or in any kind of presentation. While you can’t make real eye contact in a virtual interview, you can simulate it by making eye contact with your device’s camera.
However, it’s important not to look into your camera throughout the entire interview because you also need to assess your interviewer’s body language! Instead, look into the camera only when giving your own responses. This will demonstrate your confidence and it’ll show the interviewers that you’re giving them your full attention
This is another area where recording yourself while responding to practice questions is particularly helpful. Along with assessing your eye contact, you can…
- Count the number of filler words you use
- Count the number of times you touch your face
- Determine whether you’re using excessive hand gestures
- Assess your posture
- Determine whether you’re fidgeting
Tip #5: Send Thank You Notes
Making a good impression doesn’t end once you leave the interview! There’s one last thing to do to cement the impression you’ve made: sending thank you notes to your interviewers. While sending a note through the mail adds a personal touch, an email is perfectly acceptable and is generally what most interviewers expect.
It’s good etiquette to send a thank you note within twenty-four hours of your interview. You should send them directly to your interviewers. If they are faculty or students, you’ll usually be able to find their contact information on the university’s online directory. If you can’t find their information, an alternative is to send it to the admission’s office. They’ll be able to forward your note to the right person.
Here’s a template to give you an idea of what you should include in your thank you notes.
Dear [interviewer’s name]
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about [university’s name]’s [program you interviewed for].
I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the program’s [qualities they discussed that stood out to you]. Our conversation left me more eager to contribute to the program’s goals and mission.
I look forward to hearing from the admission’s office soon.
Make sure you’re including specific details from your conversation with the interviewers. This added personal touch will help you stand out from the other interviewees.
There you have it!
Those are our top five communication tips to help you ace your virtual professional school interviews. Whether you’re applying for dental schools, MBA programs, medical residencies, or another program entirely, following these tips will make you stand out.
Looking for additional interview techniques? Want to finesse your interview skills and build the confidence to wow your interviewers? Book a free consultation with one of our experts today to help you prepare. I Got In offers medicine, residency, dentistry, and MBA interview prep to get you started on the path towards your career goals!