How NOT to Dress at Medical School Interviews

I have had a handful of unconventional experiences and encounters during medical school interviews. I’ve traveled across the country for my interviews; I once even rode a storming-loud, bone-shaking eight passenger airplane to a living room sized airport in Missouri in order to get remotely near a medical school.

While each of these interviewing experiences was both nerve-wracking and unique, I trudged through the interview processes accompanied by memorable, quite interesting interviewees. [adsense] Some people look great on paper. As a medical school admissions member, one must be skilled at accurately inviting interviewees based on the applicant’s self-presentation in his or her AAMCAS/AACOMAS, secondary application, and resume. The admissions board sorts through thousands of applications, about 100 applications per open seat in the class, and chooses who they think is worthy of an interview. It takes a lot to beat 75-90% of the crowd and be invited to interview at a medical college. One time, I tactfully arrived 30 minutes early for my interview, thinking I would be the first interviewee to greet (and hopefully impress) the secretary.

I found myself entering a waiting area where two other interviewees already sat, one of which whose back was facing me. I courtly greeted the two, introducing myself with a nervous smile. As the one’s head turned to face me, I was shocked to find myself dropping my jaw at the most unprofessional, makeup covered girl I have ever seen in my life! It looked like she slapped mascara onto her eyelashes 3 times over, then went to sleep, woke up, forgot to brush or style her hair, and applied another 6 layers of mascara and foundation to her already small and now overcrowded face. She could have starred as the female antagonist in “IT”.

Her pencil skirt had a high slit up the back, and throughout the day she asked the most important people all the wrong questions. She interrupted the Dean as he answered an off-topic question of hers, and she constantly giggled at herself after she spoke. My goodness! I truthfully felt bad for her and now regret not suggesting to her to peel off a few layers of makeup, put her hair back neatly, and remain calm and mature for her next interview. She admitted how nervous she was; apparently she had quite a few interviews but hadn’t gotten accepted anywhere. She probably looked much better on paper.

At another medical school interview, I was surprised to find myself trying to unsuccessfully make conversation with the other interviewees. At my previous interviews, all the interviewees would chat amongst ourselves, casually mentioning some great experiences or jobs we’ve had while freely getting to know our competitors. At this interview, everyone must have been nervous, because I tried to arouse conversation but seemed to only annoy my competitors. They barely talked, and when they did, they didn’t present themselves with confidence. Maybe it was because all ten of us were females, and we know medical schools are usually divided about 50% based on gender.

This gender-, jealousy-based competition was bumped up a notch when the last two interviewees to arrive were dressed in army uniforms; I had no idea those outfits came in skirts and loose-fitting, “bannered” tops (wouldn’t have been my first choice of dress… there’s nothing like forgetting you’re applying to medical school and not military school). These weren’t crisp, clean uniforms; they looked more like colored potato sacks. The whole experience was awkward, except for when I actually interviewed. It was surprisingly one of my best interviewing experiences! There is a general consensus that professional, interview attire includes grey-to-black suit/skirt and shoes with modest coverage of skin, especially for women. At one interview, two other interviewees had low-cut, party shirts on. One girl wore bright purple, alligator-skin high heels, and the other girl was noticeably wearing a strapless, tubetop shirt under her jacket. These might have sported well at their local frat parties on 4/20 or homecoming but not at a medical school interview, the chance of a lifetime.

The way a person dresses doesn’t always dictate what kind of person he or she is; however, when you only have an hour or two to leave an impression at a school you’ve been working 4+ years to get accepted into, you might take the extra time to look professional. I don’t know whether or not these girls got accepted to that school, but I do hope they at least decided to wear button-up shirts for their next interview(s).

Looking good on paper isn’t everything. You may have good grades, life-changing experiences, and a kick-ass personal statement and resume, but unless you follow through and present yourself as a professional, mature candidate at an interview, you might as well just get an online degree. It’s not about looking beautiful, it’s about showing a medical school that you know what professionalism looks like, not just on paper.