If your application caught the eye of the faculty, then you’ll probably be called in to interview. This will generally require a full day’s commitment, and often an overnight stay as well, depending on how far you have to travel. However, it’s common for the institutions to meet these costs.
Preparing for the interview process
Before you go to the interview, make sure to be prepared. For that, you should have:
- Researched the faculty members that you’re likely to meet, including their core academic focuses
- Prepared yourself to talk about the business area in which clinical medicine operates; applicants are sometimes required to speak with clinical enterprise representatives
- Fully arranged your travel plans, including transportation, accommodation and meals
- Found out about the institution’s location; having a simple source of small-talk in the language is valuable
- Ensured that your attire is sufficiently professional for the position
More generally, you’ll also need to think about how best to ‘sell yourself’. To do this, spend time considering why your work is so interesting, and also the ways in which you’ve previously shown yourself to be both a leader and a team player.
Preparing your interview presentation
Once the interview process has begun, you’ll be required to give a presentation on your current work and research. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘job talk’, and will typically take around an hour (including time for questions and answers).
You’re probably already given similar presentations before, so you’ll already have some idea of what works well for you. However, a few key tips include:
- Considering your audience – Spend time thinking about who your audience is and what you want to say to them. Remember: this isn’t like presenting a scientific paper. You’ll be talking to people who won’t have studied the details of your topic, so keeping things clear is essential.
- Dividing the talk into sections – Clarity can be aided by splitting the presentation into several well-defined and concise sections. To add a further touch, give a quick overview of these sections before you begin.
- Finishing with a summary – When you’ve finished presenting your core content, go back and restate your conclusions. Then briefly acknowledge those who helped you in your research, before going on to outline your future research plans.
- Writing everything down – When you’ve decided what you want to say, write the whole presentation down. This will help to solidify its contents and structure in your mind.
- Digitizing your talk – PowerPoint is a great tool for adding to your presentation, so try to make use of it. Keep each slide as a simple topic overview, though: adding everything that you’re planning to say to the slideshow will only bore your audience.
- Practicing – This is the most important aspect of your presentation preparation. Do your talk in front of a mirror, timing yourself and getting used to the sound of your own voice. Keep on doing this until you can deliver the material easily, only using your slides as a memory aid.
Giving the presentation
No matter how experienced you might be at public speaking and how much you’ve practiced your talk, it’s still impossible not to feel anxious about actually doing it. Try the following techniques to overcome these issues:
- Arrive for the presentation early to set up, and before you begin, let your audience know how glad you are to be speaking with them
- Ensure that your posture shows confidence, with your feet planted firmly on the ground
- Pay attention to your hand gestures so that you don’t come across as being uneasy
- Focus on your breathing; slowing it down can control the rapid heart-rate sometimes associated with nerves
- Maintain eye contact with as many audience members as possible – but don’t be put off if certain individuals seem uninterested
- Stay enthusiastic about your work and research at all times, but avoid coming across as arrogant
- If you’re running out of time, jump to your conclusion and explain that you’ll cover the missed sections during the discussion section
The discussion section should be the most enjoyable part of the presentation; you’ll be explaining something that you’re an expert on. Once you get a question, repeat it for the audience’s sake, and keep your response clear and concise. If you’re challenged on something, take the criticism well by providing a courteous, professional answer.
If questions are slow in coming, take the initiative by expanding on an aspect of your work that you’ve already covered. Doing so will engage your audience, while also giving you the opportunity to talk about something that you find to be particularly interesting.
Meeting Potential Colleagues
At every point in the interview process, do your best to connect with the people around you. If you’re speaking with faculty members, talk about your interest in their field. You may end up performing the same type of work, so candidates who engage during the interview stage are likely to be more highly regarded when it comes to selecting a new employee.
If possible, also make the time to connect with other people – including residents, post-doctoral students, other students and trainees. These conversations can give you valuable insight into life at that institution.
As the interview process comes to an end, you’ll be told when the hiring committee will make their decision. When you get back home, follow up on your visit by sending a formal thank-you letter to the committee. This is more than just good manners, as it gives you a final opportunity to stress your interest in the position.