Career Insights: What are Multiple Mini Interviews and what should I know if I have one coming?

What is this new interview process and how can I best prepare for it? This column includes insight into how to be ready for the interviews that companies don't want you to be ready for. MMIs are notorious for rapid questions that make you think on your toes with very little reflection time in between.

By René Jackson, associate director of career services for graduate school programs and director of PACE Program

If you’re a student on a health profession track, you can expect to have to go through a rigorous interview process prior to acceptance to your program.

The traditional interview in these fields (medicine, dentistry, physician assistant, physical therapy, etc.) has been comprised of either one or several sit-down sessions with faculty and/or current students in the program. Prospective students are coached by faculty (at their undergraduate institution) and career services staff in preparing for questions like, “Why do you want to be a doctor/dentist/nurse, etc.?” “What will you do if you don’t get in?” “Tell me about a time when you had to overcome a challenge,” etc.

With time, training and practice — and some strategic Googling — you can go into an interview armed and ready. Ah, but fewer and fewer schools are using this kind of interview these days.

What you are more likely to encounter is the MMI — multiple mini interviews — instead. Knowing what these interviews are, why they’re used and what you can expect will go a long way toward putting you at ease and helping you to feel confident on your big interview day.

Originally conceived and developed at the DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, MMIs are short interview sessions (typically about eight minutes) that happen in rapid succession and can include traditional interview questions, role-playing scenarios, problem-solving, and/or writing stations. Candidates move through seven to 10 stations in different rooms, where they find instructions on the door and are given two minutes to compose a response or plan before entering the room.

They are evaluated after each station by different people in order to obtain a more well-rounded impression of the student, but students do not receive feedback themselves. Instead, at the end of the allotted time, they move immediately to the next station.

It’s quick by design. When there’s little or no time between stations, there’s no time for the student to reflect on the experience. Thus, there is no time to bask in the glory of a (perceived) stellar performance, just as there is no time to dwell on a poor one. They just move on to the next one and start over each time.

Why the change? First of all, MMIs aren’t as easy to prepare for as traditional interviews, so students are more likely to reveal their true selves instead of their practiced selves. MMIs allow interviewers to get a better sense of the student’s communication skills, their ability to think quickly, their sense of empathy and compassion, their ethical values, their cultural competence, their ability to work with a team, and their professionalism—all of which are vitally important skills and qualities of a successful health care provider. GPAs and MCAT/GRE scores can tell only so much. Admission committees want to know more about their future students.

In spring 2018 the Student Professional Development Center, the School of Health Science and the Health Professions Advising Committee hosted Elon’s first MMI workshop to help prepare our students for this type of interview. Students attending the workshop were applying to medical, physical therapy, physician assistant, occupational therapy, and veterinary schools.

The workshop included a 45-minute information session, where MMIs were explained and students worked through a practice scenario together as a group. Afterward, they participated in three 15-minute stations which, unlike a real MMI session, included feedback at the end of each one. After cycling through the stations, students met again as a group to debrief and to ask questions.

Feedback from participants indicated that the experience was valuable and worthwhile; every student who attended recommended that the workshop be repeated. And so we will! If you are a student with hopes of entering the world of medicine, be on the lookout for our next MMI workshop. Let us help you prepare for these all-important interviews. We want you to get in!

This is one in a series of columns written by the Student Professional Development Center’s professionals who offer industry insights and career guidance.