Talking about yourself can be difficult, even in a medical school interview. Read on to learn how to answer the ‘tell me about yourself” question for medical school.
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 following these tips, you can learn how answering “tell me about yourself” thoughtfully in a medical school interview can help you stand out.
The med school “tell me about yourself” question is common in all traditional interviews. When you start to prepare for this question, put things in perspective first.
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/extracurriculars to include in your life story, these experiences will focus on what is important to you and show your character. The interviewers will see how you respond under pressure, react in unfamiliar situations, and 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 looking for traits such as empathy, discipline, and many other qualities needed to be a successful doctor, as reflected by the AAMC’s Core Competencies.
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 how to talk about yourself early in the process. So, how do you answer, “tell me about yourself?”
Follow our tips below to help you formulate your response to this question.
Think carefully about your experiences. What are your interests and passions, and what gets you excited? What makes you unique? You can offer personal details that are not in your CV or in your personal statement. You want to be memorable.
Think about your life and choose a few personal experiences that will show how these experiences have shaped you. You can ask yourself:
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 without bragging.
Interviewers want you to succeed if you become a student at their medical school. Speaking confidently can show them that you are a good fit for their school.
Showcasing your traits like being a good problem solver, liking a challenge, or thriving in a fast-paced environment using concrete examples is helpful.
When you show them that you can rise to the challenge of handling stress and uncertainty, you show them your character as someone who would succeed in a medical career.
Pick two or three main experiences from your brainstorming list. The goal is to show your strengths and offer the interviewer proof of why you would be an excellent doctor. Communicating your experiences with impressive storytelling can show your best self and leave a lasting positive impression.
Use your two or three experiences to generate a thoughtful response. Your answer should not be longer than about 90 seconds. Keep it brief; if the interviewer or panel wants to follow up by asking you for more information, they will.
Consider talking about your most impactful experience first if it makes sense for your response.
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 response 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, your experiences are not memorized, but you will not forget them. Just remember to be yourself.
Timing is everything, and so is preparation for your med school interview. You may want to practice your response so 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 you ace med school interviews by reducing nervousness while you answer other frequently asked questions besides “tell me about yourself.”
You do not want to ramble on in the interview and lose your focus. You want to be succinct and honest while sounding unrehearsed.
Don’t memorize your answer, as it may sound stilted. It’s a great idea to rehearse with a professional to avoid sounding monotone. An interview coach can give you expert feedback on whether or not your answer to “tell me about yourself” for your medical school interview works.
A professional can identify weaknesses in your story and help you tell your experiences powerfully.
You know how to respond to ‘“tell me about yourself,” but it can be difficult to keep it succinct, especially if you’re nervous. Telling your whole life story is not what the interview wants from this question: avoid unnecessary tangents or elements that don’t really relate to who you are.
While giving some background is important, you don’t want to spend all your time talking about how you dreamt of being a doctor in grade two.
It’s not the most interesting use of your time: give a quick overview of your background, but ensure you talk about your recent most meaningful achievements, what you like to do now, and what you’re currently most passionate about.
You should certainly talk about what you’re doing now but don’t neglect to talk about how you’re preparing yourself for the future. Do you want to complete your residency in dermatology, cardiology, or another field? What are you doing now to help you toward that goal?
Remember, the famous med school “tell me about yourself” question can also relate to who you’re trying to become, not just who you are right now.
“Tell me about yourself” sample answers can help you understand what your own response can look like. Although these sample answers for “tell me about yourself” will undoubtedly be different from your answers, they can help you formulate your own response.
Beginning: I lived in New York City with my grandparents from three years old. My parents were out of the picture, and the court awarded my grandparents custody of me.
Middle: I fondly remember baking cookies with my grandmother, playing chess with my grandfather on hot summer days, and cozying up to read books by the fire during long winters. When I was 13, my grandfather suffered from a heart attack. I remember feeling like I was sinking into the dark as I sat in the waiting room. The attending doctor took the time to explain what had happened and what may happen next. Thankfully, my grandfather made a full recovery, and I was filled with hope and comfort as the physician gently explained next steps.
End: My initial introduction to cardiology inspired me to shadow a cardiologist and cardiothoracic surgeon in college. I have volunteered with the American Heart Association and worked for 2 years in a local hospice. My personal experience and volunteer work has inspired me to become a cardiothoracic surgeon – I aspire to be like the physician who gave my grandfather a second chance at life.
These “tell me something about yourself” sample answers are concise, but you can even expand more at the end to talk more about your current passions. Remember to make the main focus of your answer in the present!
When you’re answering “tell me about yourself” for medical school, remember to concisely describe your background, motivation for medicine, what you’re doing now, and your future goals.
The purpose of the interview question “tell me about yourself” is to let the interviewer see the real person before them beyond your MCAT scores and GPA. 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.
The question gives you a chance to connect with the interviewer in a meaningful way. Remember, they want to know more about you! This question is a great jumping-off point and can help steer your interview in different directions, depending on your response.
When interviewers ask about you, they are really asking you to be self-aware, tell them something meaningful, and show what you bring to the table.
If you still have questions after reviewing the “tell me about yourself” sample answers, these FAQs can provide more clarity.
The med school “tell me about yourself” question is so important because your responses can help steer your interview in different directions.
For example, talking about a research project you’re working on can invite your interviewer to ask follow-up questions related to the research. Of course, the main purpose is for the interviewer to get to know you!
You should give context about your background (where you grew up, how you grew up, etc.), your passions, hobbies, interests, and what you’re doing now related to medicine while subtly describing why you’d be a good doctor and your goals for the future.
If it is a traditional 30 to 60-minute interview, keep your answer brief, between 60-90 seconds.
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. However, ensure you keep the focus on what you’re doing now.
According to Harvard Medical School, under the eligibility requirements, the ability to communicate effectively is described as “crucial to the delivery of care.” Your communication skills can make a good impression during your interview and will be an integral part of your path to acceptance.
Now that you know how to answer “tell me about yourself,” admissions committees will see that you are the right choice for their school based on your passions and experiences. You will rise above the noise and hopefully stand out from the crowd. Your unique life story will resonate with the interviewers.
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. It is definitely worth the effort!