This article gives you advice and tips on how to deal with difficult, rude or hostile interviewers. We explain why interviewers may behave in this way and how you should respond.

There are many types of medical school interviewer. Some will be remarkably nice, sometimes a little unusually so. Many will simply be nice, and others will be relatively neutral. Medicine interviews are challenging and require high levels of skill, but the interviewers themselves tend to lean towards the nicer spectrum of interviewer types. Much less commonly, you will come across interviewers who appear very critical or disapproving of what you say or do and perhaps even hostile. They can also do unusual things to throw you off such as not shaking your hand if you offer or appearing to ignore you. Within an interview panel, one member could be delightful while the other may be harsh almost like a good cop – bad cop set up. It is more likely that you will come across people like this in MMI interview stations with actors, where the actors are playing a role where they are upset, angry etc. This article is more focused on panel interviews, but all the tips and advice contained are the same for MMI interviews with actors. Also, most MMI interviews have panel stations too so this information is still relevant regardless of your interview type.

It is important that you realise that the few times Medicine interviewers act in these ways, they are not doing so to upset you or to be horrible. They are doing this to test you and bring out the best in you. In fact, instead of being rattled by this, you should instead be pleased that interviewers are being tough and challenging you. By handling these situations well, you can show many positive traits such as your ability to manage pressure, debate, to stay calm and to communicate well in tough scenarios. If they were just very pleasant to you, then you would not be able to show these abilities as easily.

Also, as a general rule, if interviewers are very tough on you, that means that your interview is going well so far. The interviewers are challenging you to allow you to demonstrate more of your abilities. If your interview was going horribly, it is unlikely that most interviewers would make your day worse by making your interview very harsh on you. Although you should certainly not worry if your interviewers are being very nice to you! Most will be. As we have said, most interviewers are either friendly or at least neutral and will not go down this route.

Here are some practical tips for you to deal with harsh, rude or hostile interviewers at your Medicine Interviews:

Tip 1 – Don’t mistake follow-up questions or a little challenge to your responses as being hostile.

Some inquisition is healthy. Often interviewers are just playing devil’s advocate or trying to facilitate your final answer, so you can give the panel your best final answer. Be prepared to defend your opinions and arguments and do not fold just because you receive a little resistance. Do not do this in a dogmatic or bigoted way and remain open and aware of multiple opinions. If the interviewer’s comments make you realise that you were indeed wrong than just admit it and move on.

Tip 2 – Watch what you say

Do not be provoked into saying something that you shouldn’t or acting inappropriately. If an interviewer is being sarcastic, abrupt, difficult etc. then do not respond back in such a manner yourself. Remember, in real life doctors may come across patients behaving in such a way. Doctors need excellent communication skills to handle these situations and will usually be able to bring the interaction back to a more constructive one. If a doctor cannot have a meaningful interaction or a patient’s behaviour is completely unacceptable, then they may end a consultation or even a patient-doctor relationship if they think it is irreparable. However, what doctors are not supposed to do is respond angrily, rudely, sarcastically to patients just because that is how the patient has acted.

Tip 3 – Don’t feel you have to respond instantly

You do not need to answer immediately. You can take time to think before you respond. Silence is not a bad thing and is a tool in your communication skillset if used competently. A momentary pause will give you time to gather your thoughts and has the added benefit of making your answers sound less rehearsed. Moments of silence will usually appear longer to you than they are in reality, so don’t feel like you have to fill them all. If you need a little longer than a momentary pause than you can say “that’s an interesting question” or something to that effect and then take a few seconds.

Tip 4 – Remain calm and don’t take things personally

We have explained why interviewers may be tough and how instead of being rattled you should appreciate that you now have a good opportunity to demonstrate many desirable skills such as staying calm under pressure. One of the Medicine Answered team, who like all of our doctors passed all four of their Medicine interviews, recalls a situation like this at his interview. He recounts that when one of the interviewers did not shake his hand and later asked deliberately provocative and reaction seeking questions, he in fact in his head felt pleased. He knew that his interview was going well and that they were doing this to test him and this was rather obvious. He remained calm, followed tips 1 and 2 above and didn’t bring up his guard or act harshly to the interviewer as a retaliation. He also did not take the criticisms and probing questions personally, knowing that it is merely the job of the interviewers to elicit from a candidate evidence that they possess the appropriate skills and attitudes to be a medical student. He received an offer several days later.

Medicine interview coming up? Medicine Answered Can Help

Medicine Answered have a range of services to help you with your Medicine Interview. All our services are delivered only by doctors who passed all four of their own Medicine interviews. We offer intensive one-day Medical School interview courses, one to one tutoring with a doctor in person, online or over the phone as well as bespoke plans for schools and colleges.