Appropriate Medical School Interview Attire
The way you present yourself at an interview is much more than the way you respond to interviewers’ questions. This guide will provide you with information about all of the important things you may not think about during your medical school interview preparation, including how to dress and present yourself professionally, how to minimize stress, and what to do before and after your interview.
At a Medical School Interview, First Impressions Are Crucial!
Studies have shown that the initial impressions formed within the first few seconds of meeting the interviewer can set the tone for the rest of the interview. Your overall appearance and hygiene are among the first things an interviewer will notice. As such, you should present yourself professionally, because you want to be remembered for your friendly personality, sharp intellect, and strong interview responses, not for your fashion statement!
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While we have some specific guidelines for feminine and masculine attire below, there are some general notes that apply regardless of gender. For clothing, neutral tones - like grey, navy blue, black, or cream - are best, with soft, complementary colors or white for foundation pieces (e.g., a shirt under a blazer). Natural fibers are ideal, but not mandatory; just ensure the fabric breathes enough that it keeps you comfortable if the interview room is a bit warm, but that is also substantial enough that you'll be comfortable if the room is a bit cool.
Accessories and Makeup
Any makeup or accessories should be minimal. If you choose to wear makeup, it should be understated - think of polishing your natural features, rather than creating a more striking or glamorous look.
Shoes should generally be black or brown, complementing your clothing, and - most importantly - your shoes must be comfortable! You'll likely be on your feet for quite a while on interview day, so avoid considerably high heels or shoes that haven't been broken in.
If you choose to wear jewelry or other accessories, again, these should be minimal, understated, and complement your look, rather than standing out as statement pieces. If you have visible facial piercings, either take them out and use concealer to cover them, or invest in an invisible retainer, if you plan on keeping them.
Longer hair can be pulled back or left down, at your preference, as long as it is clean, neat, and professional. Your hair shouldn't obscure your face, and pulling longer hair at least partially back will keep you from absent-mindedly touching it during the interview (a common gesture indicating nervousness, self-consciousness, or anxiety). Finally, while you may want to get a haircut in advance of your interview, try to schedule this a couple days ahead of time, if it's more than just a trim. We also tend to frequently (and unconsciously) touch our hair in the first day or two after it's been cut, especially if it's a new style. Since touching one's hair signals discomfort or nervousness, it's best to avoid conditions that can make this occur.
Shorter hair should also be clean, tidy, and professional. If you regularly keep your hair short, a haircut a day or two before the interview is likely fine, if you're just getting a trim or touch-up. Again, though, if you make any significant changes to style or length, it's best to give yourself a little time to adjust, so that you're not unconsciously touching it during the interview.
Be aware that it is now common for most workplaces to have scent-free policies in place, and this includes universities. You should avoid perfumes, colognes, or heavily-scented lotion or after-shave on interview day, and - if possible - try to use scent-free products as you get ready. This includes things like shampoo & conditioner (especially for those with longer hair), soap/body wash, and hair products. Before your interview, check your products to see if they are too heavily scented, and if so, please use non-scented products for your interview - giving the interviewer an allergic reaction would not make for a great first impression! Even if no one has allergies, our sense of smell is quite sensitive, and strong smells can distract from what should be the main attraction: You!
Ensure that you have bathed or showered the morning of the interview, or the night before, if you prefer. Your skin and hair should be clean, and you should wear deodorant. If you can't/don't use antiperspirant deodorant, there are pads that can be worn under your clothing to help minimize the appearance of sweat. Even in ideal climate conditions, most of us perspire when we are stressed, so ensure you're prepared so that you look fresh and put-together throughout the day. If you get sweaty or clammy hands when you are nervous, you can try running cool water over your hands and drying them thoroughly just before entering the interview. This is often enough to keep clamminess at bay for several minutes. As well, you can consider keeping a tissue, handkerchief, or a piece of fabric in your pocket, so you can discreetly dab your palms before shaking someone's hand.
Feminine attire should generally consist of a skirt or pant-suit in neutral colors, such as grey, navy blue, or black. A white or pastel/soft colored button-down or pullover blouse under the blazer is ideal. If you choose to wear a skirt suit, ensure that the skirt comes down to at least the tops of your knees and that it rises to no more than 2-3 inches above the knee while in a sitting position. Wear neutral-toned stockings and coordinating dark-colored closed-toe shoes that are comfortable. You will likely be walking around a lot on your interview day, and you will not want to be worrying about pain or blisters!
If you wear makeup, be conservative in your makeup application – aim for a neutral, everyday look, rather than a look fit for a night on the town. Note also that today isn't the day to experiment with new or dramatic makeup techniques - put away the smokey-eye-cut-crease video tutorials and stick to tried-and-true looks that gently polish and accentuate your features.
Jewelry should be understated and complement your overall look. For example, small stud earrings are more appropriate than large hoops. As with fabrics, natural material is preferable, but should always be understated and not overly flashy.
Masculine attire should consist of a fitted grey, navy, or black suit with a white button-up shirt, a simple silk or silk-like tie. This should be paired with coordinating dark-colored dress socks and shoes. Ensure your shoes are clean, comfortable, and polished, removing any scuff marks or dullness, if applicable. Jewelry other than watches and wedding rings should be kept to a minimum, and any jewelry you do wear should be understated and complimentary, not something that stands out or is flashy. You should be clean-shaven or have neatly-groomed facial hair, and a fresh haircut. Also, ensure that your fingernails are neat and trimmed, and consider using some unscented hand lotion in the morning if your skin is rough - you'll likely be shaking a lot of hands, so take hand grooming into consideration (if you don't already).
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