It’s a common question: “What should I wear for a medical school interview?” Why should it matter what you wear for you medical school interview? Does wearing different clothes make you less suitable for medical school, or likely to be a good doctor? Of course not, but there’s more to it than that.
Medical schools use interviews to help them to decide who they want to train. There are farmore applicants than places, so they simply filter out the less impressive candidates. This starts with academic results – the lowest proportion of the applicants fail at that stage. Then the BMAT and UKCAT results are often used to filter out another proportion. The dreaded personal statement filters out more, then the interview represents the final hurdle.
Your aim at the interview should be to show the medical school that you are taking the process seriously, that you have made some effort and that you understand the rules of their game and are willing to play it. This is sort of like a first date – do different clothes make you a better/worse potential partner? No. Do you make some effort? Certainly.
Changes to the way doctors dress have been underway for some time. Many male doctors don’t wear ties any more and relatively few wear a suit and tie. Female doctors have also begun to dress down to some extent. Ties are almost banned in some areas – as an infection risk, they can dangle on patients and transmit bacteria. Many doctors have given up on ties as a result (they are uncomfortable!) whereas others just tuck them into a waistcoat and some even wear a bow tie. Don’t wear a bow tie for your medical school interview!!
You should aim to wear something smart which you feel comfortable in and which won’t present any practical problems during the interview – remember that there can be stations with actors when you might need to bend down, provide practical assistance and put surgical gloves on and take them off again.
Avoid tight, restrictive clothing – you want to be able to move about comfortably and might need to kneel down, bend over, reach for things and so on. “Sensible shoes” are called for here – save the killer heels for the weekend. Equally, low cut tops can present unwelcome problems and might leave you feeling flustered at best. Avoid.
It should be relatively straighforward for men – just wear a smart suit, shirt and tie with smart black shoes. This, together with either a beard or a clean shaven appearance, does the job nicely. Don’t wear a suit over a T-shirt (really) and don’t go for the smart casual look with chinos and a jacket. Keep it simple and wear a suit.
For women it’s clearly slightly more complicated, but keep it simple. Wear a smart businesslike outfit – a suit would be good, with a matching skirt/dress/trousers and jacket. No-one cares if you wear trousers or a skirt/dress – this is the 21st century, but keep it smart. Hair can be up or down, just keep it tidy. Avoid killer heels and low cut tops and keep the length of any dress or skirt respectable – have a careful think about anything above the knee.
You should also try hard to make sure that you feel comfortable in what you are wearing. If you are not comfortable in such smart clothes, wear them around for a while so that you can relax in them. The aim is to present as well as you can in the interview. You don’t want the interview to be the first time you have worn a suit, and to be wearing your new suit for the first time. This comes across as slightly false and you won’t feel relaxed and able to give your best.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t express your personality through your clothes during the interview. This is easier for women than men, with rings, earrings, necklaces, brooches and so on. Don’t overdo it and remember the need to be able to put surgical gloves on and off and wash your hands. Think very carefully about facial piercings – doctors are a conservative bunch and you want to look like a natural candidate in terms of being accepted as one of them.
It’s very common now for people to carry bottles of water around with them. This is great – you might get a dry mouth as a result of nerves on the day of your interview. A bottle of water is a good idea. Just don’t take it in to the interview stations with you. Leave it on a table outside, but don’t wander about with it. Something else to avoid is carrying around a lot of spare clothing. This sounds bizarre and it is in practice. The examiner sits there all morning and smartly dressed candidates come and go. Then one comes in carrying a bottle of water, a large bag (why??), a coat and a heavy woollen jacket. It’s distracting for the examiner, and certainly for the candidate. Do they sit with all this on their knee? Do they put it on the spare hospital bed in the room? Will they forget it when they leave? Why are they carrying all this stuff when no-one else is? Just leave it on a table in the entrance area or waiting room – you don’t need it to confuse things in the exam.
Interviewers for medical school interviews have often been dragged off the wards and out of research labs. Some will be in suits ready to return to the wards after the interviews. Some will have come in jeans and T-shirts. Don’t allow this range of styles to confuse you – keep it simple and wear a suit!