Dealing with Residency Interview Anxiety

The residency interview holds so much importance and can be a large deciding factor for your chances of Matching with a program. All of the years spent in undergraduate and medical school and the months of application preparation lead up to the residency interviews you attend. It is entirely understandable for you to feel nervous in the weeks, days, hours, and minutes leading up to your interview.

The good news is some amount of stress is a positive influence on your performance. It keeps you sharp and focused on the goal.

The bad news is too much stress and interview anxiety can impact how you act during the interview. Therefore, it is important for you to learn how to cut down and manage your nerves to leave you with the right amount of stress to get you through the day.

Be Prepared

Stress management begins with interview preparation. The more prepared you are for the interview, the better you will feel on interview day. You want to know the program as well as they know you on paper, and you want to know yourself. For more information about interview preparation, see:

Interview preparation isn’t just about how knowledgeable you are. There are other actions you can take to be prepared for the interview.

For example, use your connections for some insider tips. If you know anyone involved in the medical residency process from those who are residents now to someone in a program faculty, ask them for advice. If you don’t have anyone directly in the medical field, talk to someone who has interviewed others.

Another form of preparation is a trial run. Schedule out how the whole day is going to go from when you wake up until you leave the interview. If possible, arrive a few days early so you can make the journey to the program before interview day to make sure you have the transportation sorted out. Even if you live in the area, it’s worth driving to the program at least once before to interview so you can properly gauge the traffic and amount of time needed. Nothing is more stressful than being late for an interview!

Try to Relax

When the interview draws closer, you will want to take some time for yourself. After all of the work you’ve put in and your busy schedule, it may be hard to get into the mindset of treating yourself, but a little relaxation can go a long way. Especially the night before the interview.

There are many relaxation techniques you can do whether it’s the night before or in the days leading up to the interview.

Some examples are:

  1. Get some light exercise
    • Go for a walk
    • Do some yoga
    • Workout (but don’t exhaust yourself!)
  2. Take a warm bath
  3. Listen to your favorite music
  4. Laugh
    • Watch a funny movie or Youtube videos
    • Call a friend who always makes you laugh
  5. Meditate or practice controlled breathing
  6. Get a professional massage
  7. Get a good night’s sleep

Just be sure to find something that makes you happy, but doesn’t drain you. NOTE: It’s probably best to skip the alcohol or anything physically taxing.

Go for the Goal

To get the interview day started off right, make sure to prepare and lay out your interview outfit from your shoes to your accessories. Wake up with plenty of time to shower, take care of personal hygiene, and eat a good breakfast to ensure you have fuel for the day.

Don’t overdo the caffeine! You may be tempted to drink more coffee or soda than usual but extra caffeine might make you even more nervous and jittery as it raises your heart rate.

When you get to the program, take a moment to shake yourself out, collect yourself, and smile. Remember that this interview is not the end of the world, even if that is what it feels like. Accept that you will be nervous no matter what, but move beyond it. Let the stress motivate you to succeed rather than consuming you.

When you’re ready, walk into that interview confident and strong. You can do it!

Also, if you have obtained any interviews in the past, or as you attend interviews this season, please consider sharing your unique interview experience with the residency community. All of your anonymous contributions will also help grow the InterviewLink (I-Link) feature.

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(Content Updated: September 25, 2017)

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