Residency Interview Tips and Tricks: The Dinner
Most programs will have some sort of residency interview dinner, usually the night before. This should be a high priority for you to attend in my mind. This is your best opportunity to get to know the residents and what the program is “really” like. In my mind, the residency interview dinner is for you to interview the program, while the interview day is for the program to interview you. Residents tend to tell it like it is at these dinners, and my experience was even the residents who volunteer for these things have a hard time hiding dissatisfaction if the program structure or culture is malignant.
A couple thoughts/tips for the residency interview dinner:
- Dress: “Business casual” and lean towards business. I always wore khakis, a button up long sleeve shirt, and a sport jacket. I felt jeans were completely out of place. You will have a hard time crossing into “over-dressed” but I saw plenty of people clearly under-dressed. And if I noticed, I’m guessing the program residents might have as well.
- Significant others: This one is a toss up to me. They are almost always invited and genuinely welcomed, but it’s up to you and your significant other whether they should attend. Pros: It’s ultimately a joint decision and you want them to get an idea of the program/area too. They often can ask great lifestyle questions and do well interacting with other significant others. Are great as an extra set of eyes/ears towards how residents feel. Also can help give you a positive family based image. Cons: Can be a distraction and some of the more nuanced educational questions won’t be of interest. Can direct your focus to them, instead of to the residents/program. Gun to my head, I’d say I’d stick solo for the dinner if unmarried to give 100% focus on the residents/program. I tended to see couples “pair up” more with other couples at dinner for conversations while solo applicants tended to do a better job of mingling to multiple residents. But it’s a personal decision and quite honestly it doesn’t likely matter either way.
- Food/Drink: No one remembers what you ordered – get what you want. Don’t worry about $. Just don’t eat like a pig. Have 1-2 alcoholic drinks, if you want and others are. Know your limit, and when you go from extra outgoing to extra annoying.
- Questions: Focus most of your questions about the “lifestyle” of the residency…
- Work hours, call frequency, if people are friends outside work, if it’s a good single vs. married location, etc. Get to know how you as a person would fit with the culture of the program and if you are ok with the work/life balance.
- Find out if the residents are happy. Almost all residents everywhere are over-worked and underpaid. But would they want to go there again? What are their hobbies, and when did they last do them? (I love to golf… but the last time I went was medical school = either they don’t actually love golf, or they have zero free time)
- What do they like most about the program? The least? My favorite way to ask those questions was by asking if there were any major changes in the program they wish would occur.
- Save most of the more detailed “education” based questions for the interview day – they are better answered there in my opinion.
- Making an impression: For the most part you want to learn as much as you can about the program, be pleasant, but not much more. If you manage to make an impression – make sure it is a good one. Most residency dinners are informal and very little that happens there makes it back to the program leadership. This means that if something does get back, it’s either really good or really bad. Generally don’t break the 1-2 EtOH rule and definitely don’t get sloppy or be rude – to anyone (restaurant staff included). Avoid political, religious, or other potentially divisive conversations. But if you really hit it off with a resident and are having great conversation, keep it up. Though generally very little evaluating is done at the dinners, never hurts to have a resident that may speak out on your behalf.
- The After Party? It’s not uncommon for a few med students to meet up AFTER the dinner if there is an easy place. This can be great to interact with people from all over and get their less refrained views on various programs. My eventually second ranked program got that position in a large part because of great things I heard from a local med student as a few of us had drinks in a hotel lobby following a separate interview – and that was even before I had interviewed at the place that became my #2. But as should go without saying, keep it professional and make sure you are well rested/not hung-over in the morning.
- Lastly: Relax and enjoy yourself! Despite the long list of comments above, the dinner is simply for you to ask questions, eat some food, and get an idea of the program. You are doing 99% of the evaluating that night.
Read other Residency Tips and Tricks here:
- Residency Interview Tips and Tricks: Scheduling
- Residency Interview Tips and Tricks: The Best Restaurant I was invited to!
- Residency Interview Tips and Tricks: The Interview Day
- Thank you notes after an interview: Are they a waste of time?
- Submitting your Rank List & Post interview communication – a few tips for peace of mind!
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