An interview can be a terrifying experience. A poor performance can overshadow a stellar academic record, lay waste significant accomplishments, and derail a promising career.


I was contacted recently by a young man who asked if I would meet with him to talk about his application for medical school. He also told me he wanted to gain insight into the life of a doctor. His only prior contact with medicine was as a patient.

Before I started to feel honored for being singled out, the young man said he had made more than a dozen calls and I was the first one who agreed to meet with him. I have been retired for more than a dozen years from academic medicine and was eager to help.

We met for lunch. The young man was uncomfortable at first. Hoping to put him at ease, I asked him about his undergraduate experience. He said he had majored in chemistry and his grade point average was 3.85. Then he volunteered, “I was not accepted when I first applied to medical school, so I completed a year of graduate study in the sciences also earning good grades. My re-application is complete except for the interview next month.”

After talking for a few minutes about the courses he had taken, I asked what kind of activities he enjoyed outside of school and about any work experience. He said his primary interest was school and that he had never had a job. “My parents said school and study should come first. I volunteered as a patient transporter at a hospital but that’s all,” he explained.

My advice was that he should get a job doing something, any thing, immediately. I told him it should be a real job, something where he reported to a boss and was paid for his effort. Volunteer work was commendable, but it was not the same as a real job with responsibility and accomplishments worth the pay. Flipping hamburgers would be OK, anything would do. The next challenge was how to prepare for the interview.

My advice was for the young man to read a book and be prepared to talk about it. “After your interview has gone on for a few minutes you should interject saying you have been reading about a very interesting topic,” I suggested.

I gave him a book stressing the importance of a youth working during his high school years. “With this opening,” I said, “the interviewer will invariably ask you more about the book. Now is your chance because you will now know and understand what you have read and have plenty to talk about.”

A few months later I received a call from the young man. He said he had gotten a job with a home-schooling agency tutoring troubled dropouts. He said he completed his interview, which he thought was a success, and thanked me for my advice. “Now it’s time to wait,” he said.

A few weeks after that he called to say he had been accepted to medical school.


[[The last time I heard from this young man he was in his third year of medical school and doing well. Not mentioned in the story, he was a first generation citizen whose parents arrived from Vietnam with no English. They worked hard since arriving here establishing a home and raising two successful children. The young man is on his way to finishing medical school and a daughter graduated from college and is employed as a social worker. 10-10-21]


By Savvy Senior

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3 thoughts on “The Interview

  1. A very excellent interview. I admire Gene not only as a former M.D. but a very loving person. He speaks from a life that reflects the advice he gives.

  2. I wish more interviewers had your approach on how to make interviewees feel more at ease. Sometimes open ended questions “tell me about yourself” can be disarming to potential employees. I liked the idea of mentioning a book one has read to add interesting points to an interview.

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