Guide to the HPAG Interview

Many health professions schools, medical schools included, require or request a letter from a college pre-health advising committee. HPAG is the Roanoke College committee charged with writing these letters. To do so, and to give you practice for the interviews we hope you receive, all students requesting committee letters are asked to participate in an HPAG interview. This helps us write a more well-informed letter, plus it gives you some helpful interview practice. HPAG is also happy to conduct follow-up practice interviews upon request - it's our goal to help you be as prepared for the real thing as possible!

Be aware that your HPAG interview is being used by us to gather information about your suitability for the health profession to which you're applying. In other words, the HPAG interview affects the strength of your HPAG letter (and thus your overall application). The HPAG interview is not an informal chat, but rather a formal interview conducted in a conference room with 2-3 HPAG members. Our goal is to closely model the interview process of the health professions schools to which you're applying.  Because of this, we have compiled the following list of interview tips we expect you to keep in mind as you prepare:

  1. Do your research. There are multiple websites devoted to health professions school interview experiences - entire message boards, in fact. Spend some time looking over the sorts of questions that are often asked, then prepare responses to these questions. Your responses shouldn't come across as mechanical and memorized during your interview, but nor should you appear unprepared for questions such as "Why do you want to be a Doctor?" or "What would you like to see changed about our nation's health care system?".
  2. Explore thyself. These interviews tend to seek elements of your experience and personality that do not come across on your transcripts. The best interviewees are students who have a good sense of the traits that make them well-suited for a health professions career. Having a hard time with this? Try this exercise: brainstorm 15-20 traits that you have (punctual, strong writer, empathy, speaking ability, problem solving ability, etc.). Now, which of the items on that list can you back up with specific examples? Better still if the examples are related to clinical experiences. Be prepared to share the ones that seem most health-relevant during your interview. (This exercise may help you write a better personal statement, too!)
  3. Be specific. You should never, never utter the phrase "because I want to help people". Never. We could survey 100 RC pre-health students, and no one would tell us that they are disinterested in helping others. The interview is not a time for cliché, modesty, or  grand proclamations of your desire to save the world. Rather, share specific information about yourself and your experiences. Tell stories about your life, and especially about your clinical encounters, to help us learn more about who you are, and about how well you understand the field you wish to serve as your career. Using medical terminology is acceptable, unless you're using it incorrectly.
  4. Dress the part. Yes, your HPAG interviewers might have seen you in the Commons in your pajamas the day before, but dressing appropriately is a sign to us, and to yourself, that you take the interview seriously.
  5. Plan ahead. Give HPAG as much time as you can to schedule your interview. Be clear in your request. What type of school are you applying to? Are you requesting a committee letter? When are you available for the interview? (Allow about an hour.) Have you completed at least a draft of your resume and personal statement to share with the interviewers (you should!). For Juniors who plan to apply to medical and/or DO school over the summer: mid-spring term interviews make us smile. Late-spring term interviews stress us out. Summer interviews make us wonder what took you so long to take the initiative to figure out how to apply. (But we'll still be here for you.) Ready to schedule? Email the HPAG Secretary, listed here.
  6. Take a breath. Most interviews contain at least one question designed to knock you off your foundation a bit. It is perfectly acceptable - ideal, even - to say "That's an interesting question. Let me take a second to think about my response." After all, you'd want your health care provider to do the same thing if she/he were stumped!
  7. Be program-specific. Most interviews end with some variation of "What questions do you have for us?". You should be prepared to ask a question or two that shows that you have researched the specific schools to which you're applying, and that you have clear interest in one or more aspects of their program. For the HPAG interview, you could simply tell us which questions you'd ask of particular schools.
  8. Practice. Your roommate, your dog, and your mirror should all know a whole lot about your health professions interests prior to your interview with HPAG. Juniors, there are seniors walking around campus with actual health professions school interview experience. Find them.
  9. Body language counts. Eye contact, posture, whether you're fidgeting or not - all of these things matter. Practice makes perfect here, too. Same with volume and speaking speed.
  10. Bring paper. Once the interview is over we'll break character, go back to being supportive RC professors, and chat with you about how things went. We'll be giving you feedback that, ideally, you'll want to write down. You may want to jot down a few thoughts or a question during the interview, too.