Six Ways to Ace Your Residency Interviews
Interviewing with residency programs is one of the final bridges you’ll cross before Matching. It is the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and, well, blood, sweat, and tears. With so much at stake, it’s no wonder many applicants feel nervous, anxious, and even some trepidation when facing interviews. Keep reading for six strategies to make the most out of your residency interviews!
1. Impress with your answers
Practice…and then practice some more. While you may have to field some unexpected questions, there are many common questions you can be well-prepared to answer on interview day. These include:
– Tell me about yourself
– What are your strengths/weaknesses?
– Why did you choose this specialty?
– Why are you interested in our program?
– What do you want to do after residency?
– What is most important to you during residency?
For tips on answering common questions during your residency interviews, visit our Interview Prep Series on YouTube!
Take the time to research commonly asked residency interview questions and build a list of those you feel are most important. Then, craft answers to those questions that touch on the key points you want to make during your interview. Practicing begins after you’ve prepared your responses.
You’ll want to practice delivering your responses (out loud) as many times as possible and in different situations: in the mirror, on the phone, on Facetime, at the dinner table, while driving – basically whenever and wherever you can.
The purpose of this is twofold: repetition helps you remember your key points, and it enables you to deliver them in a conversational way. When you first start practicing, you’ll likely sound like you’re reading from a script; the more times you repeat the answer, you’ll find your personality, quirks, and mannerisms slowly becoming part of the response. This is what leads to having a conversational tone during the interview, which is exactly what you should aim for.
2. Do your homework
One surefire way to have a good interview is being knowledgeable about the program, the people in it, and the location.
The program: Spend time researching the program’s history and make note of anything unique and interesting. When it’s your turn to ask questions, they should be based on the foundation of knowledge you already have to demonstrate your genuine interest.
Program Director, Chief Resident, and Residents: Learn what you can about the people in the program. You can do this by reviewing the program’s website and social media accounts. You can also check LinkedIn to see if anyone has an active account. Pay special attention to any hobbies or interests you may have in common.
Location: It’s important to become familiar with the area where the program is located. Read up on any important landmarks, what the weather is like, and lifestyle. This can also help you think of questions to ask your interviewers and shows that you’ve thought about what it would be like to make your home in the area.
3. Don’t be on the wrong end of a technical glitch or background mistake
There is a lot to think about when it comes to your virtual interview set up. The priorities are:
– WiFi speed/reliability
– Lighting (consistent source, flattering)
– Audio/Camera (high quality, flattering angle)
– Visual Background (clean, appropriately interesting)
– Background noise (eliminating it)
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. Next, you can make any adjustments needed to your lighting, camera, sound, or space.
After you feel confident about your set up, 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.
4. Choose clothing that conveys a message
Are you familiar with the word “rhetoric”? Rhetoric is the art of persuading your audience. Often used to describe methods of writing and advertising, this concept applies to your appearance as well. If you look polished and sophisticated, you’ll communicate that you are taking the opportunity seriously and that you understand professional norms. On the other hand, if you look like you just got back from a run or just finished your morning coffee, your appearance sends the message that the interview isn’t a top priority and wasn’t worthy of taking time to prepare for.
Whether we like it or not, how we look makes a first impression on those we meet, and first impressions are notoriously difficult to change. This means you absolutely want to ensure you make a positive and professional first impression during your residency interviews. Take the time to think about the message you want to send with your “interview look.” Consider different options, and choose clothing, accessories, and a hairstyle that convey the message you want to send.
5. Smile and relax during your residency interviews
Countless studies indicate there are tremendous benefits of smiling.
For you: Smiling can help lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and release serotonin. Because interviewing is often a stressful endeavor, these calming effects alone give you every reason to smile.
For your interviewers: Your smile indicates that you’re friendly, confident, and excited about the interview—exactly the message you want to send.
With all this in mind, there are only two smiles you should “plan” for: in the beginning (during introductions), and at the end (as you thank your interviewer for their time and say good-bye). Any other smiles/laughter should be those that are spontaneous and natural. This may happen frequently in some interviews and not at all in others. It depends on the tone of the conversation, the rapport you develop with your interviewers, and their personality.
Tip: Check your teeth prior to your residency interviews. A piece of food caught in your teeth or a smear of lipstick can be very distracting, not to mention embarrassing!
6. Cut yourself off
Interview season is busy for all parties, so keep tabs on how long you spend answering any given question. You should aim to offer answers that are robust yet concise (this is where practicing comes into play!). If you find yourself over-explaining or going off on a tangent, quickly reel yourself back in by wrapping up your point or saying, “I may have gotten off track there, but [reiterate 1 main point].
After you’ve aced your residency interviews, send Thank You Letters to reinforce your interest in the program. You can read our tips for sending Thank You Letters here!
Keep these 6 strategies in mind as you prepare for your residency interviews, and spread good vibes by sharing them with other applicants so they can succeed too.