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Tell me about yourself

How To Respond To “Tell Me About Yourself” During Interviews

October 3, 2021
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Part 1. IntroductionPart 2. Purpose of the “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview QuestionPart 3. How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”Part 4. BrainstormPart 5. SelectionPart 6. Put It All TogetherPart 7. RehearsePart 8. Sample Answer to “Tell Me About Yourself”Part 9. FAQsPart 10. Conclusion

Introduction

When preparing for medical school interviews, one of the most challenging interview questions, “tell me about yourself,” seems to cause anxiety for prospective interviewees. However, it does not have to be this way. With ample preparation and by following these tips, answering the interview question “tell me about yourself” can make you stand out positively.

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Purpose of the “Tell Me About Yourself” Interview Question

The purpose of the interview question “tell me about yourself” is to let the interviewer see the real person before them. Your answer will shine a light on your character and allow the interviewer or panel to see how you would fit into their medical school. Will your personality and character fit into their medical school culture? Where do your motivations and passions lie?

The interviewers are looking for candidates who will be an asset to the school and can fit in well with the other students. All the world’s psychological tests will not substitute for a real-time interview, one on one or with a panel.

The interview question “tell me about yourself” gives you a chance to connect with the interviewer in a meaningful way. You can offer up your unique personality traits in simple storytelling. Two mistakes interviewees often make is relating material that is already on their CV. This material is redundant and not really what the interviewers are looking to explore.

Also, to make your response personal, choose a few of your own life experiences that are meaningful to you.

Doing so will help you forge an emotional connection with the interviewer. When interviewers ask the interview question “tell me about yourself,” they are really asking you to be self-aware and to show them what you think you bring to the table.

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How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself”

When you start to prepare for this question, don’t think of the interviewer as being judgmental about your life experiences.  As the AAMC puts it, “When you’re invited to an interview, you should feel confident — it means you’ve already impressed interviewers with your strong personal statement, letters of evaluation, and academic history.”

 Even if you only pick a few experiences to include in your life story, these experiences will focus on what is important to you and show your character and personality traits.

The interviewers will see how you respond under pressure, how you react in unfamiliar situations, and how you interact with strangers, all in a matter of minutes. 

Eventually, as a medical student, you will have to deal with patients, doctors, nurses, and teams of medical staff. The interviewers are evaluating your personality to see what kind of doctor you would be. Empathy, discipline, and many other qualities are needed to be a successful doctor.

It is okay to talk about your upbringing or early youthful experiences if this left an impact on you or shaped you significantly. It’s essential to start thinking about the interview question “tell me about yourself” early in the process.

It is never too early to begin to prepare for this crucial question. Follow our steps below to help you formulate your response to this question.

Step 1: Brainstorm

Think carefully about all the experiences you have had in your life. What are your interests and passions and what gets you excited? What makes you unique as a person? You can offer up personal details that are not in your CV.

You want to be memorable. Think about your life and choose a few personal experiences that will show how these experiences have shaped your personality. What are you passionate about in life? Examine your interests and see what they say about you.

What started your journey to become a doctor? What experiences and what is it about your personality made you desire to go to medical school and become a doctor? 

Most people are not used to talking about themselves. You do not want to come across as boastful. However, you do not want to act too bashful. You want to talk about your accomplishments and maybe even cite a few examples of when you helped other team members at places you worked. 

Interviewers want you to succeed if you become a student at their medical school. By confidently talking about wins you had, you will show them that you are a good fit and an excellent choice for their school. Showcasing your traits like being a good problem solver, liking a challenge, or thriving in a fast-paced and chaotic department, such as an emergency department, is helpful.

You want the interviewers to see these life skills. When you show them that you can rise to the challenge of handling stress and uncertainty, you show what kind of person you are, someone who would succeed in this type of environment.   

Step 2: Selection

From all of the ideas and experiences you have written down on your brainstorming list, pick two or three at most. Choose a background story that best represents who you are. Or choose an experience that was significant in starting you on the road to medical school.

The goal is to show your strengths and offer the interviewer proof of why you would be an excellent doctor. Communicating your experiences by storytelling will showcase your best qualities and help the interviewer form a positive impression.

Step 3: Put It All Together

When you have decided upon two or three of the most important experiences of your life, please put them in order. Chronological is usually best. Write them out the way you will tell them. 

Your answer should not be longer than about 90 seconds. Keep it brief, and if the interviewer or panel wants to follow up by asking you for more information, they will. 

You may want to put your most crucial experience first, the one that changed your life. You want to show the interviewers that you are realistic, professional, and dedicated to your goal to become a doctor.

Rehearse

Practice answering questions in front of a mirror to get comfortable. Time your response so it is not too long and give yourself time to get used to telling your story. Once you go over your account a few times, it will start to flow and be natural.

You may want to have a list in point form jotted down to refer to while you’re practicing. That way, the experiences are not memorized, but you will not forget them. Just remember to be yourself.

Timing is everything, and so is preparation. You may want to practice the interview question “tell me about yourself” so that you do not speak too quickly. If you are at all nervous, this can happen. Practice does make perfect, so allow time to practice. Mock interviews can help reduce nervousness and you may find in the actual interview you have already studied all the questions the interviewers will ask you. 

You do not want to ramble on in the interview and get stuck in a circular train of conversation and lose your focus. Pick two or three of the most important experiences and practice telling these. You want to be succinct and to the point. You want to be honest and not sound rehearsed.

Tips

Don’t memorize your answers, as they may sound stilted. In addition, it’s a great idea to rehearse with a professional. A professional coach can give you expert feedback and provide unbiased responses. A professional can identify weaknesses in your story and help you tell your experiences powerfully. Besides, practice will make you less nervous and more confident.

Practice confidence! Do not allow any negative thoughts to invade your thoughts. Do not think about the statistics of how many candidates apply to medical school and how many succeed in getting offered a placement. Visualize success.

Be personable, warm, friendly, and smile. Try to relax and enjoy yourself. If you have prepared to the best of your ability, relax and let your good communication and people skills take over. Don’t think of it as an interview; think of it as a conversation among friends.

Nothing is worse than starting the interview well and then halfway through realizing you are floundering. Sometimes you can recover, but you need to anticipate that. Mental toughness and practicing every scenario you can think of will make you confident that you have covered all the angles in your preparation and that you are ready for anything!

If you want to read a sample answer from a medical student on a few things she did to prepare, such as learning about the medical school beforehand to ask pertinent and intelligent questions, please see the doc diaries in the paragraph below.

Have a look at some general interview tips from a medical school student below:

  1. Before entering the interview room, take slow deep breaths to manage any anxiety so that you can go in calm, collected, and confident.
  2. Know your application well and be able to talk about everything in a genuine yet prepared manner.
  3. Treat your fellow interviewees as friends and not competition.
  4. Don’t wallow in what could have been better—move past any mishaps.
  5. Enjoy yourself! Out of numerous applicants, you got an interview. Allow yourself to celebrate that victory and each of the many that are sure to come from all of your hard work.

Sample Points For Answering the Medical School Interview Question “Tell Me About Yourself”

Sample 1

Sample 2

FAQs

1. Should I tell a story of an impoverished childhood and make the interviewer feel sorry for me?

No. Going for the sympathy vote is not good. However, showing how you overcame obstacles in your life shows perseverance and a significant commitment to your desire to go to medical school. That is a plus.

2. Can I use humor to tell my experiences?

Yes, if you are used to using humor in conversation, by all means, go for it. Don’t overdo it though, do not make it too comical. Keep it simple and light-hearted.

3. Should I talk about other aspects of my life, not just my desire to go to medical school?

Yes, you can talk about your hobbies and interests and your family if that is part of your chosen two or three experiences. Or if it shows qualities in your personality that you want to highlight. However, do not just inject a bunch of random information into your answers. It will make your story lose focus and clarity.

You want to show you are a well-rounded person, not just a prospective med student. Focus is good, but you will be under extreme pressure in the next few years at med school. So if you can show you have outside interests that you can use to balance the pressure, whether it is tango classes with a partner, playing tennis twice a week or camping on weekends with your large extended family, tell your story. Show them you have the support that will help you with the rigorous path ahead.

4. Should I talk about simple everyday things such as where I like to travel?

That depends, everything is relevant if it shows the kind of person you are. Perhaps you will talk about the wonderful memories of vacationing at the family cottage every year. This is not just idle chatter. 

If this is a big part of your life and part of your top two or three experiences, then talk about it.  Choose to mention things that show you are focused and know what is expected of you to become a doctor.  Don’t just fire off a list of everyday things you like to do. 

The interviewers are assessing, among other things, your level of maturity. They also want to know if your expectations of becoming a doctor are realistic.  

5. How long should my response be?

If it is a traditional 30 to 60-minute interview, keep your answer brief, between 60-90 seconds.

6. How far back can I reference an experience? 

You can reference as far back as you wish. You want the interviewers to know who you are as a person. You could go back to your early life if it was influential in your desire to become a doctor.

Conclusion

According to Harvard Medical School, under the eligibility requirements on HMS’s website, the ability to communicate effectively is described as “crucial to the delivery of care.” Your ability to communicate well and make a good impression during your interview will be an integral part of your path to acceptance, and you should consider this an opportunity to display your interpersonal skills.

By showing your passion when answering the interview question, “tell me about yourself” admissions committees will see that you are the right choice for their school. You will rise above the noise and hopefully stand out from the crowd. Your unique life story will resonate with the interviewers.

In conclusion, make your interview question “tell me about yourself” real. The interview is your chance to put yourself out there. Show the interviewer your real personality and the qualities you possess to make you successful in medical school.

Give the interviewer a chance in a few minutes to get to know you. By opening up emotionally, you will allow the interviewer to remember you as a person. This life-changing interview is a make or break situation between achieving your life goal and being rejected. It is definitely worth the effort!

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