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Answering "Tell Me About Yourself” In A Medical School Interview

Answering “Tell Me About Yourself” In A Medical School Interview

Updated on: December 3, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

“Tell me about yourself” is possibly the most common question used by medical school interviewers to kick off an interview.

Facing any interview can be daunting, but being prepared to answer common questions like this can make all the difference.

This seemingly simple inquiry can throw even confident candidates off balance, but with a little forethought, you can craft the perfect response.

In this article, I’m going to walk you through step-by-step how to build a great answer that you can then have up your sleeve- just in case an interviewer asks you “Tell me a bit about yourself” at your medical school interview.

Understanding The Question

Before beginning to build out an answer, it’s important to understand why interviewers actually ask this question in the first place as well as what they’re looking for in a candidate’s response.

Why Interviewers Ask This Question

One simple reason why interviewers ask you to ‘tell them about yourself’ is because it’s a great ice-breaker question that can help make nervous candidates feel a bit more comfortable at the start of the interview.

The question puts the ball in your court- you can essentially take the question wherever you’d like and have free roam to bring in topics or interests that you’d be confident in discussing later in the interview in more depth.

Being asked to tell an interviewer about yourself gives you a chance to showcase your strengths, establish a connection with the interviewer, and demonstrate your communication skills.

It’s important to answer this question confidently because it can set the tone for the remainder of the interview.

Interviewers additionally use the question as a shortcut to getting a quick summary of the person sitting in front of them.

They’ll have read your application and CV, but want to hear in your own words who you are and what’s brought you to being sat in this interview today.

What Interviewers Are Looking For

When interviewers ask “Tell me about yourself,” they’re generally looking for the following key aspects.

Tell Me About Yourself Pixel Infographic
  1. Who you are: A bit of background as to who you are as a person and where you’ve come from. Think where you grew up, a bit about your family, where you went to school etc.
  2. Your interests: What do you enjoy in life? What are your hobbies and interests? What gets you up in the mornings and what sort of things do you enjoy doing the most? 
  3. Why medicine: Although this is a distinct question to “Why do you want to be a doctor?” an interviewer will still want to know what made you decide on medicine as a career.
  4. Career goals: Explain what you hope to achieve in both the short and long term, showing your passion for medicine as well as an understanding of healthcare.
  5. Personality traits that make you a good fit: Briefly mention the personality traits that would make you a great doctor, such as adaptability, problem-solving abilities, and a strong work ethic.
  6. Concise and clear communication: Deliver your answer in a brief and structured manner, highlighting your most relevant and impressive achievements.

Now to be clear, you don’t have to hit every single one of the above points in your answer to the question.

I’ve included them more to help give you an idea of what your interviewers will be expecting to hear about.

An excellent answer might hit all 6, or even just 2, but if you’re struggling to think about where you should take an answer you’re brainstorming to then I’d simply refer back to the above list.

Creating A Strong Answer

In this next section, I’m going to guide you through brainstorming an answer to the question “Tell me about yourself.”

It’s by no means the only way to develop an answer, but by the end of the process you should have a framework that will let you impress interviewers however they choose to pose the question.

Self-Introduction Formula

When answering the “Tell me about yourself” interview question, it’s helpful to follow a simple self-introduction formula. This formula should include:

  1. An introduction: Tonnes of candidates forget to even introduce themselves at the start of an interview and simply launch straight into their prepared answers. Try to remember to at least say your name!
  2. Where you’re from: Mentioning where you’re from, whether that be within the UK or abroad, will help your interviewers put you into context geographically.
  3. Your family: It can be worth just one or two lines of your answer to talk about your immediate family. Do you have any siblings? Do either of your parents work in healthcare?

Here’s an example:

“Hi, my name is Ollie and I’m originally from London but I grew up near Reading with my two younger brothers. My mum is actually a dentist so I’ve always had a bit of exposure to healthcare and what it means to work as a clinician from a very young age.”

Building On Your Answer

Once you’ve introduced yourself, you can get on to the meat of your answer.

Your aim here is to give your interviewers a snapshot of who you are as a person and to start building a relationship that will last over the interview.

To keep things simple, I’d try and work chronologically.

A medicine applicant undergoing an online interview
A medicine applicant undergoing an online interview

This means creating a timeline where you start at the beginning (a.k.a. your childhood) and then work towards the present day.

Here are a few tips to help you customise your answer:

  • Don’t dwell too long on the past: Try not to get bogged down too much in the distant past and your childhood. While they’re important to mention, more recent events will likely have more relevance to your interview. If there was a significant event in the past that put you onto medicine as a career path then talk about it, but don’t feel the need to describe every change of your favourite colour growing up.
  • Choose a few key experiences to expand on: I’d recommend you build your answer around 2-4 key experiences or events that you can expand on. The best answers often aren’t a laundry list of events that led the candidate to applying to medicine but rather some more detailed explanations of key events that shaped them as individuals.
  • Keep things concise: When brainstorming and writing out example answers, it’s easy to go overboard. An interview answer to a question like this should only really take 60-90 seconds. Don’t forget, an interviewer could interrupt you at any time which could be a disaster if you’ve kept the best till last in your 5-minute long monologue. By keeping things concise you’ll keep your interviewer’s attention and decrease your chances of confusing them.

By following the self-introduction formula and bearing the above points in mind, you’ll be well on your way to creating a strong answer.

Remember to keep it brief, focused, and clear. And most importantly, be confident and authentic in your delivery.

Example Answer To “Tell Me About Yourself”

Hi, my name is [blank]. I was born and raised in a small town outside of Bedford, where I grew up as an only child. I think my parents, who are both healthcare professionals, instilled in me a deep appreciation for medicine from an early age.

Throughout my childhood, I’d hear about the transformative power of medicine around the dinner table as well as being able to clearly see how much both of my parents enjoyed their jobs.

However, I definitely haven’t always wanted to be a doctor. I used to play a lot of cricket growing up so professional cricketer was top of my list for a good few years! While I was big into my sports, I did always find learning about the human body in school fascinating and I immersed myself in biology and chemistry.

It was only after my grandma was admitted to hospital when I was in year 10 that I seriously decided I wanted to pursue medicine. While I’ve continued the cricket, sadly not at a professional level, I blended it with volunteering at a local care home and have undertaken a few shadowing placements to get a better idea of what working in healthcare was really like.

Driven by my experiences, I’m now committed to being a doctor as I believe medicine offers the perfect blend of scientific inquiry, intellectual stimulation, and the opportunity to positively impact lives.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

Your medicine interviewers will likely have heard hundreds of responses to this question and will also have seen hundreds of candidates make the same simple mistakes.

Simply Repeating Your CV

When answering the question “Tell me about yourself”, you should avoid merely regurgitating the information already presented on your CV.

Your interviewers will have read your application and will very possibly have your personal statement right in front of them.

They’re not just looking for you to narrate what they’ve just read about you.

Instead, focus on providing a brief summary of your career journey and highlighting specific achievements, experiences or skills that demonstrate your suitability for medicine.

Remember that the interviewer has likely gone through all your basic information, so this is an opportunity to expand on the most relevant aspects and inject elements of your personality into your answer.

Rambling Or Losing Focus

Another common mistake is going off on a tangent, either by sharing too much personal information or discussing irrelevant details about your life story.

To avoid rambling, keep your answer concise and focused on the core elements that showcase your expertise and suitability for medicine.

Structure your response by starting with a general overview, then smoothly transitioning to the most pertinent examples.

If you completely lose your interviewers, they’re likely to interrupt you with other follow-up questions that are more likely to throw you off track.

Sounding Too Rehearsed

Although it’s essential to be prepared for your medicine interviews, overly rehearsed answers can come across as insincere or robotic.

A young lady sat in a medicine interview
A young lady sat in her medicine interview

Ensure that your responses sound natural and engaging by incorporating a conversational tone, rather than reciting a memorised script.

Practise your answer, but also be flexible enough to adapt it based on the interviewer’s reactions or follow-up questions.

This approach will reveal your genuine interest in medicine and allow your personality to shine through.

Practice And Prepare

Finally, I want to talk about your preparation for the big day and how you should practice your answer to this question.

High-quality preparation forms part of the key to avoiding the last common mistake I just discussed.

Develop A Script Outline

I’d suggest the best way to avoid sounding too robotic and rehearsed is to only ever develop a script outline in bullet points.

Don’t write out and learn word for word your answer.

This outline should encapsulate your thoughts and experiences and will help you better articulate your response but will help you avoid appearing insincere.

  • Your outline should summarise all the key points of your interview answer
  • However, there should be room for variation in your answer plan
  • This will keep every delivery natural and add an air of authenticity
  • Don’t focus on exact sentences and phrases, but rather the broad experiences and points you want to make
  • Learn your outline so that you’ll have something to fall back on when put on the spot

Conduct Mock Interviews

Practising mock interviews with trusted friends, family or mentors can be extremely beneficial in refining your answer to the “Tell me about yourself” question.

  • Prepare questions: Provide your practice partner with a list of potential questions, including a few variations of the “Tell me about yourself” question, so they can help prepare you for a variety of topics.
  • Record the session: If possible, record your mock interview to review afterwards. This will enable you to examine your body language, tone and pace, and make improvements accordingly.
  • Ask for feedback: Encourage your partner to provide honest feedback and constructive criticism, identifying areas you can improve upon and providing guidance on how to do so.
  • Be open to change: Refine your script outline and make modifications as needed, based on the feedback you receive. This will help ensure your response is both natural and polished.
  • Repeat the process: Practice multiple times, with different people if possible, as this can provide fresh perspectives and additional insights.

By following these steps, you’ll be well-equipped to answer the “Tell me about yourself” interview question with confidence and professionalism.

Although mock interviews can be nerve-wracking, and it does take a bit of work to sit down with an interview partner, live practice deliveries of your answer can be the most beneficial thing you do before the real thing.

Final Thoughts

By following these guidelines and using the information provided above, you’ll be well-prepared to answer “Tell me about yourself” in a way that impresses the interviewer and sets you apart from other candidates.

Remember to focus on your skills, experience, and qualities that make you an ideal candidate for medical school. Be concise, but also provide enough detail to pique the interviewer’s interest.

Practising your answer beforehand ensures that you can confidently and fluently convey your key points during the interview. Do not merely recite your CV, but instead, use this opportunity to leave a lasting impression that sets you apart from your competition.

Lastly, always strive for a genuine, self-reflective response to the question “Tell me about yourself”. This not only shows the interviewer that you have a good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, but it also demonstrates your authenticity and can help build rapport with your interviewers.

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.