By Sanam Darougar Farshidi
In the first part of this entry, we discussed how the importance of confidence and appearing low-maintenance as important non-verbal communication tactics in the health professional school interview. Here we will consider other factors, including how your appearance can affect the impression you leave on the medical school, dental school, pharmacy school, or PA school admissions committee:
Dress the Part
The costume designer Edith Head once famously said, “You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it”. Although things like clothing and accessories, makeup, and hair styles seem superfluous to many, the fact remains that our appearance speaks volumes to everyone we encounter in our lives.
Studies have shown that people who take the time to take care of their personal appearance are perceived to be smarter and more confident than those who don’t. While this may not seem like a fair guideline for evaluating a candidate’s capabilities, accepting this fact will give you a competitive edge.
A clean, freshly pressed suit, and lightly worn shoes are the foundation to looking sharp for your interview. Try to refrain from wearing loud colors that might be distracting. And while you want to appear modern, you’ll want to avoid wearing clothing that is too trendy or fashion forward.
- For women, natural or light makeup can accentuate your best features and make you feel your best, but too much makeup can be distracting and lead interviewers to question how serious you are about a career in healthcare. Similarly, while light to moderate accessories are perfectly acceptable, over accessorizing is distracting, especially if your jewelry creates noise.
- For men, a light spray of your favorite cologne is a great way to feel good about yourself, but don’t overdo it as you don’t want to be spoken of during reviews as, “the guy who wore too much cologne”.
In summary, use your appearance to positively highlight your best features and reflect who you feel you are on the inside.
One of the most underutilized methods in conversation and especially in interviews is listening. Interviewees are often so concerned with providing the right answer that they tend to form their response to questions while the question is still being provided.
The interview is not only a chance for the admissions committee to learn more about you, but also an opportunity for you to learn more about them. Active listening requires that you refrain from developing an answer in your head until someone has asked you a question and you have taken time to thoroughly digest and understand that question.
This is where adopting pauses can be useful. Listening allows your interviewers to know you are sincere and serious about the opportunity to attend their medical school, dental school, or PA school.
Show your interviewers you are a good listener by nodding and repeating information back to them. To mirror a speaker’s intent, say something like, “It sounds like your program is focused on teaching disease processes and clinical skills in the first two years of medical school.”
This simple listening tactic shows your interviewer that you understand this interview is not all about you.
Although you might be tempted to bring along lots of paperwork, samples of past work, awards, and certificates with you, it’s best to leave everything but a few essentials at home. There’s nothing worse than a candidate who shows up to a medical, dental, pharmacy, or PA school interview with a portfolio full of papers, who then cannot find what they are looking for when prompted.
Stay organized by bringing a thin portfolio with a few pieces of paper and a pen for note taking, along with a couple of essential items, just in case. Organization reflects a polished and put-together presence, while disorganization can make you appear disheveled and unkempt.
Practicing and adopting the five non-verbal tips listed above will equip you with some of the tools needed to make a good impression in your interview. While it’s extremely important to be mindful of what you want to say during the interview, how you say it is equally important. And perhaps just as important is what you say when you’re not saying anything at all. Incorporate appropriate body language and non-verbal cues in your interview and you’ll leave people with a positive gut feeling about you that can’t be described with words.
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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.