Residency interview season: One of the most fun, yet stressful times in medical school. Here are a few suggestions to make the experience enjoyable and excel in interviews. This is a short series of posts hoping to help from the scheduling process all the way through the match.
Start by making a large calendar of some sort you can quickly reference when scheduling your interviews. Personally, I printed off blank Microsoft Word calendars for the months of Nov-Dec-Jan and then wrote in interviews as they came. This helped me get a “big picture” view at how my interview season was shaping up. I was interviewing in anesthesia, which also means for many programs I would have to find my own intern year – so that means additional transitional year interviews and even a few backup preliminary medicine years (prelim surgery is an option too, but… no thanks personally). Between all of those, I think I scheduled over 20 different interview locations. If you have a highly competitive specialty or are couples matching, you may even double that number! This can get hard to keep track of, fast! Using some sort of method to be able to visualize all your interviews at once allows you to quickly find free days and you can trend toward certain geographical locations of the country at certain times. I often would try to road trip my way around so that I could hit back to back interviews in nearby areas.
Respond to interview offers fast – preferably the same day, even within hours if you can. The spots fill up very, very quick, and often you may have but a few days on your calendar that will work (why you need to have an organized calendar). Don’t wait on scheduling an interview thinking you might have better options later, or will have enough other interviews down the road. When the interviews come, schedule them!
If you can, schedule your favorite programs in the middle of your interview season. In the beginning you are getting used to the whole experience and how to answer questions. You will definitely get more comfortable and relaxed as the process goes on and your interview answers will become smoother. But then by the end of the season, the whole process becomes repetitive and exhausting. You may start losing interest and the programs themselves may get fatigued from the process. By my last few interviews I had to make sure my answers still sounded “real” because I’d said so many of them multiple times before. I felt my interviews in December were my best, followed by January, then my least impressive were my first ones. There is no evidence/studies that show it matters one bit when you schedule, but common sense to me says follow the above advice.
Also, when it comes to scheduling – don’t be afraid to ask! They sent you an interview, they want you to come. Program coordinators will often go out of their way to make things smooth for you. For example, if you have to travel across the country for an interview in Florida set on a Monday, and another Florida program has an interview day that week that’s already full – ask if they can squeeze you in since you are already in the area. Most likely, they’ll make room for you, or at worst let you know when someone cancels, which people do all the time. Which brings me to my next point…
Don’t no-show. Just please don’t do it. Give ample – preferably weeks – notice if you won’t make an interview. Some other resident may be waiting on that opening. If an emergency happens, make sure it’s a true emergency and be fourth coming and apologetic about your absence, and prepare to be very flexible if they will reschedule you at all. Program coordinators talk to the directors, and program directors talk among themselves. Don’t think just because you decide you aren’t interested in Program X – that a no show or rudeness there can’t hurt you at Program Y. Be as courteous and polite as you can be throughout the scheduling process, and you’ll find the programs will do all they can to give you a pleasant experience. And towards the end of the season if you do feel you’ve interviewed at enough places, be gracious in your cancellation of less desirable interviews.
Likewise, if it get’s later in the process and you haven’t gotten an interview invite at a program you loved, I don’t think it hurts to send an email and ask. If you were an “on the bubble” candidate or wait-listed but show interest and polite persistence, I’ve heard stories of this working out for residents – even eventually matching. Residency programs want residents that want to be there. Towards the end of the season as many applicants start cancelling, be the med student that they remember to ask in their place!
Remember that the program coordinators that you interact with, interact with hundreds of medical students during this time. Be polite and understanding. They may not a formal say in the program evaluation of you, but certainly have the ability to have a lot of informal input, either positive or negatively on your behalf.
Lastly, I’d strongly recommend taking one interview and making it into a “mini-vacation” if you have the time. Pick a Friday or Monday interview in a location you’ve wanted to spend more time at and stay the weekend. You can usually talk to the hotel directly and get the residency program rate for multiple nights if you ask. I did this for an interview in Charleston, South Carolina. I had a Monday interview but got in town with the wife (then girlfriend) on Friday. The hotel was happy to accommodate us the extra days at the residency price but then even upgraded our room since we asked! We stayed in a top floor full suite with balcony of an amazing view facing the harbor/water for like $60/night. During the weekend we did a little sight-seeing, ate some great food, then the wife spent the Monday shopping while I interviewed. It was an amazing low-cost trip for a long weekend. We planned this in the middle of my interview season, and it helped break up what can be a boring pattern of driving, dinner, interview, driving.
What other tips should interviewing medical students know about? Any thoughts or questions on the process? Give your input in the comments section below!
Read more Residency Tips and Tricks here:
- Residency Interview Tricks and Tips: The Dinner
- Residency Interview Tips and Tricks: The Best Restaurant I was invited to!
- Residency Interview Tips and Tricks: The Interview Day
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