Nervous About Residency Interviews? Here Are Some Tips

Residency interviews can feel intimidating, and many candidates feel the pressure to perform their best in order to increase their chances of matching into that program. Unfortunately, candidates can often make mistakes that may harm them the day of the interview due to nerves or lack of preparation. Learn about the best ways to prepare if you’re feeling nervous about interviewing.

Practice paying attention to your body language

Your body language as you talk can be more honest than the actual words you are speaking. For example, your tone might sound confident and assured, but if you’re wringing your hands and twitching your leg, you are sending a mixed message to the person interviewing you. Take some time to notice how your body might move when you speak. Match A Resident’s Interview Prep is a great tool to help you practice as it gives you feedback, and you can observe yourself through recordings!

Be careful of making sudden shifts in your body language. Interviewers watch for how you react to difficult questions to see if you still have an emotional connection to the circumstances. This can be anything from frowning to crossing your arms, jiggling your foot or tensing up.

Be Ready to Address Gaps or Weaknesses in Your Application

Many residency candidates have some aspect of their ERAS Application that may be perceived as a “gap” or “weakness” in the eyes of programs. While you are preparing, an important step is to identify what parts of your application may raise red flags, so you are better prepared to talk about them.

Some examples of red flags are:

  • Attempts
  • A gap in education or career
  • Low test scores
  • Lack of US clinical experience

During interviews, programs may ask a question. If you can assemble talking points for any weakness you’ve identified beforehand, you’ll be able to face the questions naturally.

Three Rules For Addressing Gaps:

Keep it brief.

Don’t say any more than you have to. You do not want to keep talking and adding more to your answer once you’ve covered the basic details. Answer the question quickly, then move on.

Stick to the facts.

Don’t get wrapped up in the emotion of the circumstances. Programs don’t really want to hear sad excuses, they simply want to hear the reason. You could make your red flags sound worse than they are by showing the program interview committee your negativity or frustration.

Make it positive.

Show the programs you have changed and grown from your experiences, that your struggles have made you stronger. What did you learn from the experience?

Ask yourself:

  • What did you learn from the experience?
  • Are you a better, stronger, smarter or wiser person?
  • What have you done to improve yourself?
    • For example, if you have a USMLE Attempt because you underestimated the exam, did you learn a lesson in humility and sought help to study better?

Being able to clearly address red flags in your ERAS Application is vital to making a good impression. Residency programs are not always looking for perfect candidates with the best USMLE scores. Part of residency training will be making mistakes and learning from them. How you react to challenges and how you talk about it shows you can be honest but also reflective about your past mistakes to move forward in the end. Be open and honest, and don’t feel like you have to hide anything. You’ve been picked to be interviewed for a reason!

Do everything you can to feel prepared

The more prepared you are for the interview, the better and less nervous you will feel on interview day.

Visualize success

In the days leading up to your interview, take some time to prepare mentally. Find a quiet space to sit down. Run through the main points from answering basic questions, to discussing your red flag, to making a genuine connection with the Director and beyond.

*Consider, do I feel calm and comfortable in this visualization? If you notice yourself getting worked up or nervous, just take a few breaths, smile inside, and see yourself putting your best foot forward. 

Don’t wait until the day of your interview to set up

Start right now by making a list of anything you need to participate in virtual interviews. Once you have everything, set up your space and FaceTime with a friend or host your own Zoom meeting to see how things look. Make a recording, so you can review it and listen to the sound.

Make sure to schedule time to test it about 30-60 minutes before every interview to ensure everything is working properly. Once this is out of the way, you’ll be able to relax and get into a positive mind frame before the interview begins.

Try to Relax

When the interview draws closer, take some time for yourself. A little relaxation can go a long way. Especially the night before the interview.

Some things you can try leading up to the interview:

  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

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.

Remember, 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, start that interview confident and strong. You can do it!

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