Residency Program Interviews

The Most Important Do’s and Don’ts on your Residency Program Interviews Day

Residency program interviews can be intimidating and many residency candidates feel the pressure to perform their best in order to increase their chances of matching into that residency program. Unfortunately, residency candidates can often make mistakes that may harm them the day of the interview due to stress, nerves, or lack of preparation.

In order to make the most of each interview, it’s important to be aware of what you should and shouldn’t be doing on the day of your residency interview.

What You Should Do:

  • Create a strong and positive impression from the start of the day until the end.
    • Show up at least 30 minutes early. Have contact information for someone in the program just in case you get lost.
    • Act confident, but not aggressive/overconfident. You want to appear professional, but comfortable in your own skin and self-assured in your own worth.
    • Shake hands and make good eye contact.
    • Be polite to EVERYONE you meet, whether it’s the Program Director, Coordinator, fellow candidate, current resident, or janitor.
  • Be active and engaged.
    • Participate in all the events. Even if it’s a hospital you know or have rotated with in the past, residency candidates should plan to participate in everything from a pre-interview dinner to post-interview drinks.
    • Pay close attention to everything from the people, to the presentations, rounds and so on.
    • Ask questions when you are asked if you have any questions. Programs want you to ask about them so have some questions ready to ask.
    • Engage with other interviewees. Don’t be shy! The program interview committee will be watching to see who gets along with others and who is standing in the corner. Remember, they want people who are team players and personable.
  • Be genuine and honest (meaning, be yourself!).
    • Remember, you are not on trial. The interview committee wants to get to know you to ensure you are a good personality fit as well as your skills.
    • Give examples to back up your what you are saying about yourself. If you say your hard worker, prove it through your past experiences.
    • Display your outgoing nature. Programs like to see an active person with hobbies and interests outside of the hospital. For example, a program might have a soccer program on the weekends so you could mention your interest in sports.
  • Take notes at the end of the day to remember details about how the day went. The more details you have, the better Thank You Letters you can write.
    • With regards to the Thank You Letter, some programs like them and some do not. If you have the chance, ask the program coordinator how the program director feels about post-interview communication.
    • If the program coordinator was particularly kind and helpful, consider sending them their own, personalized Thank You letter.

What You Should NOT Do:

  • Project negativity in any way. Some examples of negativity are:
    • Getting defensive in tone or body language. You are going to be asked some hard questions which may bring up unpleasant parts of your past. Programs want to see how you react to your challenges. Keep your tone neutral and your body language open.
    • Speaking poorly of anyone, whether they are a co-worker, fellow applicant or otherwise.
  • Be rude, ungrateful or inappropriate.
    • Do not pull out your cell phone for any reason — This is RUDE. Your phone should stay in your car or bag the whole day. You may ask for permission if there is an emergency. It may be best to turn it off during the main interview part of the day to ensure you are not distracted or so the phone will not go off accidentally.
    • Beware bragging, being too loud, interrupting, or speaking too forcefully. There is a fine line between confident and arrogant.
    • Do not ask about your pay, benefits, time off, hours, etc., this discussion is better saved for another time and will rub the programs wrong.
  • Act disinterested in the program or people you meet that day. Examples of this are:
    • Talking too much or too little. Answer questions completely, but do not take over the interview.
    • Mentioning other programs or specialties. All residency programs want to feel special.
    • Getting distracted or appearing disengaged. Do whatever it takes to remain alert and attentive the whole day. Give those speaking your full attention by leaning forward, talking with your hands and nodding your head to show you are listening. Learn more about body language.
  • Lie or answer what you think they want to hear. Programs want to get to know the real you, so if they ask you what your favorite movie is the only right answer is your favorite movie!
  • Dress inappropriately. The interview day attire should be business formal and the social events should be business casual.

Other Tips for the Interview Day:

  • Try not to overdo it on the caffeine. Drink the same amount of coffee or soda as you normally do. Too much extra caffeine will make you extra nervous and jittery. But, be sure to leave the drink outside the interview so your hands stay open.
  • Carry breath strips or mints just in case. Do not chew gum, as the chewing could become annoying and you will have to spit it out at some point.  
  • Review your ERAS Application components in the morning before leaving.
  • Ask the program coordinator if there is anything you should bring with you such as a copy of your CV.

The best interview experiences are when you turn the interview into a conversation. By the end, it should feel a little like you’ve made a new friend (or more!).

If you have obtained any interviews in the past, or as you attend interviews this season, share 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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Next ArticleAfter the Residency Interview and Writing the Thank You Letter