5 Biggest Interview Mistakes for IMG Applicants

Steve and I wanted to share with you the 5 biggest mistakes we’ve observed when coaching IMG applicants. When you finish interviewing, your interviewer doesn’t remember the specific details of your answer within the 10 or more applicants they interviewed that day. They remember the gestalt of the entire interview with you, they might write down a few details that you talked about, but it ultimately boils down their overall impression. For this reason, we think avoiding these mistakes dramatically improves the overall impression that you leave.

Coaching top 5 mistakes

#1 Answer Is Too Long!

Our natural inclination is to talk more because we feel that a longer answer is a better one. We also have a natural drive to be complete in our answer. Sometimes we repeat ourselves when giving an answer. I’ve frequently seen these problems, leading to an overall weaker answer because they drag on too long! Try to keep all answers 3-5 minutes.You should practice making your answer more impactful rather than longer. Here’s the analogy I like to use: your answer is the movie trailer, not the movie.

#2 Not Enough Details – Bring Your Story to Life

This is not just the opposite problem as #1. Some candidates have a long answer that is also not detailed. When answering questions, talk about a quality you have and then back it up with examples. Consider the difference between the two answers:

  • “I was a clinical observer in St. Jude’s Hospital, I shadowed my attendings, joined in the on the morning rounds, and worked on a case report. It was a very good experience and learned a lot about numerous topics such as heart failure, dialysis and sepsis.”
  • “I was a clinical observer in St. Jude’s Hospital for 4 months which was part of 4 hospitals I rotated in Philadelphia, Tennessee, and Texas. The most interesting was in the medical ICU ward where I worked with my attending and a team of 4 residents. I would join in the discussion on how to manage heart failure, dialysis in the ICU, and the acute management of sepsis. I saw many interest patient cases, such as a patient who had spontaneous bacterial peritonitis due to alcoholic liver failure, or another patient who required ECMO after a massive MI. The clinical experience was broad and even led me to join in on a case report about a GI bleed after foreign body ingestion.”

You can see how detail in your answer brings your answer to life. You need these examples to provide proof and legitimacy to all of your past experiences. Like every answer in our guide, you must provide answers that demonstrate a) how special you are and b) why you are a good fit for the program.

#3 Not Asking Good Questions

Asking questions happens during every interview. The most common mistake is simply not having any good questions to ask.

Make sure you always ask specific and intelligent questions. Always have open ended questions, rather than questions that can be answered as a yes or no. However, in the case that you simply run out of questions or cannot remember the ones you were going to ask, you should have a series of questions to fall back on. Remember, it’s OK to ask the same questions to every interviewer  RIQ provides a list of intelligent example questions that will serve in every case.

#4 English Language Proficiency

This can be fixed by practicing the answers of the most common interview questions. I’ve coached applicants who have clearly practiced their answers, and trust me they they are able to deliver fantastic answers which really elevate the interview experience. Practicing also gets you comfortable speaking about yourself, your past experiences and talking about how amazing you are. This can be a difficult thing in cultures where we are expected to be humble. You must fight that urge and truly provide an interesting story for your interviewer.

#5 Poor Eye Contact

This is part of the larger problem of body language which is super important to a successful interview. In my experience, more than 75% of applicants I’ve coached have had problems with eye contact. There’s a simple way to help this. Start your interview with a firm handshake and start maintaining eye contact the first time you meet them. If you have more than one interviewer or a panel interviewer, actively look at each interviewer one-by-one, so called the “lighthouse”. Keep your eyes off of the floor or ceilings! Make sure you have a smile, and listen to the interviewers talk – this is extremely important!

We wish you the best of luck in the interview season!