By Sanam Darougar Farshidi
You’ve made it to the medical school, dental school, pharmacy school or PA school interview, and you’ve spent countless hours preparing for what you want to say and how you want to say it. You’ve carefully assessed every possible question you might be asked, and crafted answers that are sure to impress the interviewers.
But did you know that only a small percentage of meaning in communication is in the words that are spoken, while the majority of meaning is derived from non-verbal factors? This means that people size us up and make decisions about who we are before we even speak.
Communication is heavily weighted on non-verbal elements especially body language. As a result, it’s vital that we are self aware of what our body is doing in our interactions, especially in something as important as a health professional school interview like medical school or PA school.
What You Need to Know About Body Language
Body movement is the first thing the interviewer will notice about you, and the last thing they remember after you’ve left. In fact, body language is so important in communication, that each tip following this one is highly influenced by it because elements of body communication are woven into each non-verbal cue.
There are far too many body language tips to be aware of in interpersonal interactions, but for the purposes of this list, we’ve honed in on the few key essentials:
Posture – When the interviewer walks through the door to welcome you in, the way you sit is already sending them a message about who you are. Do you slouch, or do you sit up straight?
- For men, are your legs so far apart you can fit an ocean between them, or are they moderately spaced?
- For women, are your legs crossed so tightly together that you barely take enough space to exist, or are you in command of your physical space?
You want to appear confident, comfortable, and most importantly, convey you deserve to be there. After all you would not have received an interview invitation unless you had scored a high GPA and performed well on your DAT, MCAT, PCAT, or GRE.
Eye contact – The second thing the admissions committee member who interviews you will notice is your use of eye contact. Making direct eye contact and maintaining it, sends the message that you are confident and not intimidated by your interviewer or the interview process.
Remember, you deserve to be there, and each time you hold eye contact with your interviewer you are reminding them of this.
Handshake – If you haven’t already practiced your handshake, make sure you do before you embark on your health professional school interview. A proper handshake is firm, but not aggressive, dry and not clammy, practiced but authentic.
Also, always remember that a proper handshake is paired with direct eye contact!
Hand movements – Sometimes hands are autonomous in that they do things we didn’t even realize our brains informed them to do. When we are nervous, our hands tend to take on a life of their own and engage in erratic movement.
Playing with a pen, touching our hair, and hiding our hands in our pockets are some ways our hands alert our interviewer about our level of nervousness. On the other hand, incorporating hand gestures as you speak can display sincerity and the right amount of self-assurance. This sincerity and self-assurance are paramount to impressing your medical, dental, pharmacy, or PA school interviewer.
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Sanam Darougar Farshidi is Director of Client Relations for the medical marketing and education agency, BroadcastMed, Inc. She is a communication expert with experience teaching communications and public speaking to students and professionals of all ages.