The Five Steps to the Best Residency Interview Preparation

The Five Steps to the Best Residency Interview Preparation

Receiving a residency interview invitation is a very exciting and anxious time for any residency candidate. You’ve made it past the first hurdle. This is your chance to impress programs in person now that you have caught their interest on paper.

You should make the most of every opportunity by being thoroughly prepared for each interview. This will not only demonstrate your enthusiasm for the program you are interviewing with, but will also help you feel more comfortable the day of the interview.

The Five Steps to Residency Interview Preparation are:

  1. Research:

  • The program itself. Programs will often ask you what you like about the program and why you picked them. Knowing the program as well as they know you through careful research will help you feel less stressed the day of the interview. Try to ask yourself:
    • What details can you find that aren’t on the website?
    • What is it that drew you to the program? For example, do they have a unique training style or an inspiring focus?
  • The faculty. You do not have to stalk their social media, but it’s good to try and know the names and faces of those who make the program possible. Some programs even have their faculty posted on their website. If appropriate, you can choose a good time to go up to the Program Director and introduce yourself, “Hello Dr. Smith, it’s nice to meet you!”
    • Please note, there is a fine line between showing an interest and going too far. It is not recommended to try and “friend” any of the current faculty or residents in the program on Facebook or other social media platforms.
  • The region the program is located in. This is especially important is the program is located in a challenging area such as the inner city or somewhere very rural. You might want to consider:
    • Why would you want to live there?
    • Do you have any connections to the area such as friends or family?
    • Have you ever spent time in the area?
    • Would the area be a good place to settle down with your family or future family?
  • Common residency interview questions that are likely to be asked by programs. Some programs will ask medical questions, others will not. Example questions are:
    • “Tell me a little bit about yourself?”
    • “Why do you want to train in [Specialty Name].”
    • “Why did you apply to this program?”
    • “What was the last book you read?”
    • ACP’s List of Common Questions
  1. Practice:

  • Run questions and answers with a friend or colleague. Be sure to pick friends that will be honest about your performance and preferably have some knowledge about the medical residency process.
  • Have mental bullet notes for application questions. While developing your answers for interview questions, do not memorize a full answer. If you memorize a full answer, you may risk forgetting the answer or sounding stiff, unnatural and rehearsed. Instead, create mental bulleted lists of notes so you can speak more naturally.
    • Extra Tip: You can make yourself residency question and answer flashcards with your bullet points written down (just don’t bring them with you to the interview).
  • Questions to ask in return.  Programs will almost always ask you if you have any questions to ask of them. Asking thoughtful questions about the program will not only demonstrate an interest in the program but will also show you have been listening. It is important to remember, as much as you want to get into a residency program, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Use questions to better get to know the program.
    • NOTE: This is not the time to ask in-depth questions about salary or benefits
    • You can also use this question to show you were actively listening throughout the day. If something interesting stuck out to you about the program, you can ask about that.
    • Have a couple of questions prepared, but do not batter the program with too many extra questions as programs usually ask this question at the end and there will not be too much time left.  
  1. Review:

  • Your application materials. It is important for you to know yourself as well as programs know you from your ERAS Application components. Some areas of the application to review are:  
    • Personal Statement. Many questions can be derived from the content in your Personal Statement. They may ask you about a story you shared, the goals you’ve listed, or anything else. Make SURE you know what you have said in your Personal Statement to avoid the potential embarrassment of forgetting.  
    • Letters of Recommendation. This is only if you have had the chance to view your LoRs or the author shared with you an idea of what they wrote.
    • My ERAS Application. Pay attention to what you wrote about in your hobbies, accomplishments, and experiences sections. Programs may ask you for more details about a Work, Research, or Volunteer experience you have listed.
  1. Travel:

  • If you have multiple interviews, try to schedule them in consecutive order to cut down on travel costs.
  • Remember to ask friends or family you have in the area if you can stay with them. If not, Airbnb can be a great, cost-effective way to spend the night.
  • Consider taking your interview outfits as your carry on. This way, if your luggage is lost, you won’t have to go out and buy new interview clothing.  
  1. Additional Tips:

  • Record yourself answering a question or two to see how you look and correct any bad speaking or body language habits.
  • Email the Program Coordinator and ask for their best contact information just in case you need to get in touch if you get lost or are running late.
  • Check your Match A Resident Customized List to see if the program has an interview feedback for an exclusive glimpse of the program.
  • If you get to the area early, be sure to do some exploring! Interview candidates who get familiar with the area will have an easier time showing programs they would be happy and comfortable in that setting. You may also want to visit the program to make sure you know where you’re going the day of the interview.

Preparing for a residency interview can be time-consuming and tedious, but the payoff may be well worth the hard work. The more ready you are for the interview, the higher chances you have of receiving a Match.

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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