Friday, April 9, 2021

How to Answer the Medical School Question: "Tell Me About Yourself."

 “How to Answer the Medical School Question: “Tell Me About Yourself.”

Jan. 21, 2021

Brock University

At face value, it appears like a relatively manageable question to answer, but when we open the door for self reflection, it may be more difficult to determine what should be included in the response and what should be excluded in the response to, “Tell me about yourself.” Within this article, you will be advised on what information this type of interview question is seeking, as well as the insights you should offer in order to produce a reputable answer for the interviewer(s). 

Message from Co-op, Career and Experiential Education (CCEE)

Speaking with Brock University’s Med Plus Consultant Katrina Volpini, she emphasizes and reiterates the critical requirement to fuse your own narrative in the response to this resourceful inquiry. “As you prepare to answer this question, really focus on what makes you unique, and what motivated your passion for pursuing medicine,” says Volpini. By basing the responses on how you found “your own story,” you convey and explain to the interviewer(s) how you ruled out every other potential profession that also could utilize your abilities, skills and qualifications. Volpini recommends avoiding clichés such as the most frequent example: “I want to help people.” She says you must dig deeper into why your journey led you into medicine. “What will you get out of practicing medicine that you won’t be able to get from any other career?” 

They Want to Understand Your Motivations

To begin, in order to encapsulate who you are, you need the ability to produce evidentiary responses that support the following:

a) How are you committed?

b) How are your motivations genuine?

c) How have you conducted sound, thorough research? This also includes recommendations and requirements from the specific medical school of interest (fun fact: there are 17 medical schools in Canada and 6 are in Ontario)?

The process of becoming a physician or surgeon is lengthy, difficult and demanding – but rewarding at scale. The interviewer(s) need to determine who you are, collectively, and if you demonstrate certain potential. This question sets the stage for your interview, so consider it the triple-base hit you needed before crossing home plate.

Interesting, Specific Information About You

An integral component of career education, exploration and development is the ability to know yourself and to know yourself well. An open-ended question such as this should be an eye-opening opportunity to express yourself in ways that go beyond your application portfolio. It is important to note that you want to keep the relativity to medical school very, very clear. Think about it: if you were to explain your best self to a stranger, who has an agenda for your aspiration to become a doctor, what would you want to say? What type of impression would you want this individual to have of you? It is vital to consider what information you plan to give to better secure your opportunity. Additionally, to the first method of self reflection, consider what you have done in the past, what you are doing in the present and what motivates you for the future. Interviewers want to know how you began, how you’ve grown and what ambitions you have moving onwards and upwards to and beyond medical school. Towards the end of your answer, complete your response with a summary who you are as well as what you uniquely bring to the table.

Tips and Insights

  • Keep your answers concise and detailed but also brief
  • Distinguish yourself from the other applicants
  • Include quick general information like age, where you grew up, etc.
  • Touch on several relevant areas but provide detail on just a few. I call this the “Mental Table of Contents” of chapters or topics for the interviewer(s) to choose from. Yes, they have an information agenda, but they also want to know where and how they can find those answers. 
  • Stay calm. This interview is meant to feel more like a conversation – much like a conversation you would have with a patient. 
  • You potentially can control the conversation based on the information you give.

Table 1: For relevant areas to draw from, consider the following:

a) Your abilities

b) Your community involvement

c) Your education

d) Your experiences and extra-curriculars

e) Your interests and passions

f) Your research

g) Your skills

h) Your volunteer works

i) Your qualifications

Table 2: Remember, apply the preceding items to the following:

  1. Your future
  2. Medical school
  3. Present time 
  4. Your past

Table 3: Steps to aid your efforts:

  1. Self-reflect
  2. Ask superiors, colleagues, etc., on how they would describe you in a professional setting
  3. Ask customers, clients, etc., on how they would describe you in a professional setting

Sample Response

Q. “So, tell me about yourself, Angela/Angelo,” says the Interviewer while passively pulling the door open. 

A. “I’m 25 and I was born and raised in the Niagara Region. I have a strong passion for mental health since my younger sibling suffers from severe anxiety and depression, so I’m interested in assisting other youth who have mental health struggles. With my spare time, I always read the newest research on mental health, which benefited me well in my previous academic setting. I also donate to the Canadian Mental Health Association on a yearly basis. When I’m not researching, studying or swimming, I can be found travelling. I have visited about 15 countries to date, which has taught me greatly about other cultures and the importance of direct communication” answers Angelo/Angela.

In the response, Angela/Angelo gives the Interviewer many self-disclosures to draw from. They could speak about her/his academic experience, mental health interests, research findings, future in research and/or mental health, lessons learned from travelling, and so on. These insights draw from Tables 1, 2 and 3. Lastly, Angela/Angelo referenced a personal connection that can suggest he/she is intrinsically motivated for this prestigious, rewarding role. 

Happy self-reflecting, my friend! You can do this. 

Onwards and upwards,

Written by Lisa Brown, Career Assistant and Blog Manager
Edited by Med Plus Staff and Kara Renaud, Supervisor of Career Education, CCEE Department

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