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How Interviews Should be Used and What Their Limitations Are

As I am in the midst of writing many essays for my residency applications, I am also thinking ahead to the inevitable interview stage. I started to reflect on my experiences, the questions I was asked, and really the most important topic – what value do interviews contribute, why should we use them, and therefore, how should we use them?

Actions speak louder than words

Before I dive further into interviews, I want to point out why I think someone’s resume should be the most important part of the application process for anything. Really, it comes down to one simple reason:

Past behaviour is most predictive of future behaviour.

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Interview Advice: The Importance of Being Memorable and Telling Stories


I was once asked in an interview to talk about an accomplishment I was proud of. Prior to the interview, I had come up with a list of practice questions and what my general approach to them would be – the “accomplishment question” was one of them. I had planned on mentioning my TD Canada Trust Scholarship because of it’s prestige, the hard work it represented, and how it has allowed me to continue doing a lot of my volunteer/non-profit work during university without worrying about having to pay for my education. But as soon as I was asked the question, I decided to change my mind and pick an experience that I had spoken about before, but had not planned on using as my answer for this type of question.

Instead of the TD Scholarship, I decided to talk about June 29, 2006. It was 9 a.m., and I was at City Hall in downtown Toronto. I was also really, really tired. I was tired because the previous day was a big day for me. Not only was June 28 my 18th birthday, but it also ended up being the day of my graduation and high school prom (yah, my high school was weird that way). Needless to say, June 28 was a really big and exciting day for me, but also a very tiring one.

So why did I need to be up at so early the day after my birthday, graduation, and prom? The previous fall, my friends and I started a Make Poverty History student banner that was signed by students in over 30 schools and university campuses in Southern Ontario. June 29, 2006 was the one-year anniversary of the Live 8 concert, and so there was a Make Poverty History press conference held at City Hall to commemorate the event, as well as remind world leaders to put issues of poverty on the agenda for an upcoming G8 meeting. To celebrate the work of all the students involved, we were given the opportunity to present our banner at the press conference.

Part of that presentation involved me giving a speech about the banner. It was a really cool experience, especially the chance to share the podium with the likes of Gerry Barr (past-chair of Make Poverty History Canada), Steven Page (of the Bare Naked Ladies), and Toronto Mayor David Miller. The reason why I was proud of that moment was more than because it culminated the achievement of our banner campaign. It was a great personal achievement for myself – if you had told me four years before when I started high school that I would be at that podium a day after turning 18, I would never have believed it. That wasn’t the person I was when I entered high school – I was much too shy. For me, that moment also represented the personal transformation I went through in high school as I opened myself up to more experiences, and for that reason, I was very proud of myself.

Telling Stories

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Post-UofT Interview Feelings

So for some reason, I just could not sleep the night before again – even though I was in my own normal bed where I usually sleep just fine. I find it really weird, as I’ve had interviews or other important things before, but have never really had sleeping problems. Hopefully this doesn’t happen for McMaster again, especially since that one is longer and a bit more intensive.

When I got to the location this morning, it started off a bit weird. After getting off the elevator, the waiting room was already full of interviewees, as registration had not started yet. There were maybe a few interviewees chatting quietly in the corner, but there were a bunch of people just standing there not saying anything. There were even some people standing in a circle and not saying anything – that just blew my mind. I wonder how long some of these interviewees stood there staring at each other without saying anything – I was only standing near that circle for less than a minute, and I already felt super awkward.

But then I heard a few people behind me chatting about the Queen’s interview, so I joined in on their conversation, and met this guy who went to Harvard for undergrad. A few minutes later, we got into line for registration, and I started talking to a few guys behind me who turned out to also be in 3rd year, but from the McMaster Health Sciences program – that was pretty cool, because I ended up knowing a bunch of the people from their class.

There were three possibly interview times for the morning session – 9, 10 or 11 am. I ended up getting 9 am, which I was quite happy with because that means I wouldn’t have to spend 2 more hours thinking about the interview or anything.

After registration, we were led into a room with a bunch of chairs and a screen, and we listened to a quick presentation about UofT’s medical school from some 2nd year students, and also watched a funny video they produced about the interview process in the style of The Office. So that was nice for relieving any tension or stress in the room.

After the presentation, those of us with 9 am interviews got brought into a waiting room, where our interviewers would come and pick us up. The interviewers would be a 2nd year medical student, as well as a faculty member of the medical school. The interview lasted maybe a little less than an hour or so, I’m not really sure. I came out with rather mixed feelings.

Both interviewers were really nice, but I was a bit surprised with the format I guess. I’m not allowed to reveal much, but I will say I was a bit surprised in the sense that the interview was more formal and generalized than I expected it to be, mainly because most of the stories I’ve heard portrayed the UofT interview as more of a casual, personalized conversation. That being said, I have also heard that the interviewers are given a lot of flexibility in terms of deciding how they conduct their interviews, so I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised by anything thrown at me.

I definitely felt I didn’t answer some questions as strongly as others and some of the questions definitely left me flustered, and since I wasn’t being given too much feedback, it was hard for me to know whether what I was saying was clear, etc. So overall, it’s really hard for me to evaluate how well I did, because I didn’t get much information on how they were perceiving my answers – so in a way, I don’t really know what to feel – I feel uncertain, if that makes sense.

Also, they weren’t taking many notes or anything during the interview – they have about 10-15 minutes afterwards to discuss each interviewee, at least that’s how it seems. It makes you wonder – are they going to remember when I rambled? Or are they going to remember the good parts of the interview? What are they looking for and did they see any of that in me?

Although it was a bit different from what I expected, it was definitely an interesting experience nonetheless. Hopefully I end up with some good news on May 15!

The Power of Marketing: Because Perception is Reality


“What is real? How do you define real? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”

This is a famous quote from the character Morpheus of one of my favourite movies of all time, The Matrix. In this part of the movie, Morpheus is helping Neo to realize that the world he once believed to be his reality was no more than a computer simulation. Yet for everyone else stuck in the “matrix”, this simulation was as real as anything.

After watching The Matrix for the first time, I remember randomly asking myself: How do I know this world I’m in is real? I know I can hear my own thoughts, but how can I know for sure that everything around me is real? My family and friends seem real, but without being able to hear their thoughts, how can I know for sure?

But because I can perceive all of the world around me, I believe it to be real. Because I can smell roses, I believe them to be real. Because I can hear my brother speak, I believe he is real. In order to live in my reality, I have to rely on the notion that my perceptions are interpreting a true reality.

Marketing: Delivering a Perception You Want Customers to Adopt

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