I know, I know, I’m skipping ahead in my series on applying to midwifery school. In part, this is because it’s Interview Season and I have received numerous emails from folks asking for advice on interviews. There’s definitely some specific things I could offer on my particular program, but what I want to offer here is a general overview of the interview and things to consider when preparing for what most people find to be the most anxiety-inducing part of the process.
You’ve made it through the long nights of writing essays. You’ve agonized over whether you were detailed enough or too detailed; personal enough or too personal, ad nauseum. You’re probably sick of those essays, in fact. But my first piece of advice is this:
Step 1: Take a deep breath.
Step 1 and a half: Re-read your essays.
Spend some time re-reading your essays. This is what the midwifery faculty had to go on when making their decision to extend an invitation to interview, so it’s useful to make sure that you can address and expand upon any aspect of those essays. There’s nothing worse than an interviewer saying, “I read in your essay that…” and you having that moment of disconnect when you try to remember what you wrote. I’d also pick one or two things from the essay that you especially want to be sure to highlight during the interview.
Step 2: Write a list of questions that you imagine a midwifery faculty would want to know about you to help make their decision.
Step in their shoes for a minute. How might you go about evaluating a potential midwife? Make a list of those qualities. Then think about how you might assess for those qualities in a candidate. Generate a list of questions that might help you highlight those qualities. Now answer those questions for yourself, drawing upon examples from your past experiences.
I am lucky to be married to someone in a completely different field than me: my husband is a software engineer, with an undergrad in theater and computer science. He was in business school when we met, and I’ve learned a ton from him about interviewing, personnel assessment, recruiting, management etc. One of the big take-homes I’ve learned from him is that the best predictor of future performance is past performance.
What this means for you as a candidate for midwifery school is that the best way to look for potential midwives is to find people who have demonstrated the qualities of a good midwife in their previous experience, even if it’s completely unrelated to birth or reproductive health. To repeat: The interview is not about seeing how much birth experience you have, but about assessing your capacity to step into the role and responsibility of a midwife.
So spend a good long time thinking about what led you to midwifery and how your experiences have guided you to this path. In particular, be able to talk about:
- how you have overcome challenges
- how you handle conflict, both interpersonal and ethical
- how you work as a member of a collaborative team
- how you see yourself as a leader
- the core values that will underlie your practice as a midwife
Keep in mind, none of these things are set in stone. They’re not looking to see that you have the right answers. They’re looking to see how you craft an argument, how to present your ideas, how you maintain flexibility even in the face of ambiguity. A midwife is nothing if they are not flexible and open to change and it will serve you well to have examples of that to share with the interview committee.
Step 3: Practice.
I mean it. It sounds silly, but it’s so worth the effort.
Find someone to do a mock interview with you. This doesn’t have to be a health care professional, just someone you trust and who’s willing to take it seriously. Practice with your language, practice being concise. This is the time to get used to telling your story about what drew you to midwifery. You’re going to have to answer this question a lot. My husband was a great model for this. He would have to do presentations in business school and he would actually rehearse. Like, with note cards. At first I thought it was silly. But I realized what a gift he was giving himself…in his presentations, it was clear he was prepared, confident, and polished.
Now, this is not to say that you should have pat answers memorized. The interview is a conversation. But, practicing helps relieve the anxiety of the unknown…and that’s what makes this such a nerve-wracking experience!
Step 4: Make your list of questions for the faculty.
This is not just a time for you to be grilled by your prospective professors. This is a chance for you to make sure this program is the right fit for you. Not all programs are the same. You should have a solid list of questions about the program and its culture. Many people are afraid to ask questions because they worry it will make them appear unprepared. And yes, there’s a balance. But what you’re trying to suss out is: can you imagine yourself here? do you share the same values? will you find the kinds of support you need as a learner?
So, you need to understand what your own learning needs are. (Add that to your list of things to consider and be ready to talk about what you anticipate your learning needs to be.)
Step 5: Be Yourself.
I know this sounds cheesy. But it’s true. The most important thing we bring to the work of midwifery is ourselves–our complex, unique, individual ways of being and moving through the world. So as much as experience is helpful to your application, it’s not everything. When posed the question on my FB wall as to what midwives would offer as “advice” or words of encouragement to those applying to midwifery school, the responses included things like this:
I think if you truly have a passion or calling to midwifery, it will resonate in your words and actions…Be clear about your goals as a midwife, and aim high!
Stay on message: your passion for midwifery led you here, let it continue to lead you through your applications/interviews (and beyond).
All of which I think can be summed up as: You’re being is important as your doing.
So, as much as you can, be gentle with yourself. Rest well. Take care of yourself. Surround yourself with positive people who are supportive and encouraging and who remind you of why you love midwifery. And then take another deep breath.
You’ve got this.