Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Learning to ask questions

I signed up to be a student interviewer for the incoming class of 2011, and today was the training class for interviewers. I was most impressed by one point the instructor made. She encouraged us to ask difficult, controversial questions of the applicants, just to see that they can think on their feet, etc. But she added, "the one question you aren't allowed to ask is anything relating to abortion." I was rather mystified. But rules are rules. The other great line, she said "please reserve a ranking of 1 (the highest we can award an interviewee) for someone who walks on water, leaves you breathless, and is generally everything you could possibly desire from an applicant."

I'm excited about interviewing though. I love my school, and I look forward to having some say in what its future looks like. I'm also looking forward to asking odd questions. When I prepped for med school interviews, we were told to be prepared for such off the wall questions as "who won the 1968 World Series" or "Who do you think killed JFK?" But no one ever asked me any odd questions. The hardest one I got was "what historical figure would you most like to meet and why?" I think that interviewer will probably always remember me, because my answer, with only a second's pause, was "Genghis Khan." That was an interesting conversation.

I wasn't accepted at that school.

More to the point, I'm looking forward to the opportunity to hone my interviewing skills from the other side of the table. I've done quite a few interviews in my scholastic and professional career, and seeing all angles will probably make me better at them.

I'm reminded, in writing this, of something I read today in Dorothy Sayers' Mind of the Maker. She states "[i]t is a plain fact that ninety-nine interviews out of a hundred contain more or less subtle distortions of the answers given to questions, the questions being, moreover, in many cases, wrongly conceived for the purpose of eliciting the truth."

Here's hoping I can elicit truth effectively and fairly, without distortion.

Good thing everyone gets two interviews, eh?


christine said...

student interviewer for the class of 2011? whoa. that's a little... that's a long time from now. must be some school if the wait is that long. lol. good luck with it.

zhoen said...

I suspect the abortion question could work as a religious question, so it's a banned subject. Too bad, really.

The best fictional interviews are by John Le Carre, I think.

Nathan said...

christine - it isn't really that long. If you get accepted to med school this year, you start next year, 2007, and four years later, in 2011, you graduate.

zhoen - yeah, that was my thought. It is a pity, since ethics bears so closely on what we do in medicine. I'll find other ways to phrase ethical questions though.

S. Lee said...

Nathan, something I learned from Dr VW is that when he does interviews, he tries to force people into judgment calls concerning right and wrong. He says that he finds that people are very shaky on this ground, not wanting to offend, etc., and he gives them scenarios in which they are forced to say whether or not something is right and wrong. Abortion aside, you can certainly ask about a whole host of other issues to probe this very important and interesting behavior.

thebeloved said...

One of my favorite questions to ask people is if they were a piece of furniture what would they be and why.

Donkey Boy said...

Genghis Khan? You know he'd swipe your lamb chop.