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.
The Interview Day:
This is the big one! You’ve spent years crafting your resume, getting through medical school, and the last few months getting everything polished. You applied and received an invite – now the big day is here. Below are a few tips to make sure to succeed on interview day!
- Prep: Take the time before the interview to know a little about specific aspects of the program. I would at least make sure I knew basically everything on each programs website beforehand. Typically things programs are proud of end up in one way or another on their website, and these are areas that interviewers will get excited to talk about. Practice answering common questions (see below) so that you have an idea of what you will say. Know EVERYTHING on your CV and be ready to talk in some detail about each aspect. If you put a research paper/experience from 8 years ago on it, be ready to talk about many aspects of that experience (this happened to me, in one interview I was asked about a very minor research experience from FRESHMAN YEAR OF COLLEGE, because the interviewer knew a friend of a friend type connection).
- Dress: Professional. Don’t try to stand out. Blacks, greys, and blues, with an accent of color. This isn’t the day to show off your robust fashion sense or how in tune you are to the latest style. The people interviewing you almost certainly have conservative and often out of style taste. Go for classic looks. I always wore either a black or grey suite, with a variation of a blue dress shirt, and a red tie that had matching blue accents. Classic colors, well put together, that looked sharp without standing out. And I think that’s the key – sharp without standing out – that should guide what you choose for yourself.
- Arrival: Never be late, rarely be on time, consistently try to be early. I frequently would plan to arrive at the interview location 30 minutes early (in case I was lost/traffic/etc.) and then would just relax in the car and get my mind set until then heading in 15 minutes early. I almost always then had to wait, but it’s immensely better than being late.
- Make an impression: Be excited, enthusiastic, happy to be there. SMILE. These people are trying to decide if they want to work with you for the next 3-5 years. No matter how nervous you are, show that happiness in not just the program, but in who YOU are. Be confident but humble. Be gracious for the opportunity, but know YOU were asked to interview and show YOU believe in yourself, not just in the specialty or the program, but in your ability to become a great doctor. Look interviewers in the eye, answer directly, and shake hands with all.
- Questions you will be asked throughout the interview season:
- Why this specialty?
- Why this program? Big or small program? Big city or community program?
- What kind of learner are you? How do you learn best?
- Where do you see yourself post residency? Academic or private practice?
- How do you deal with adversity? How do you relieve stress?
- What do you do in your free time?
- Tell me about this on your CV (again, be prepared to talk about ANY of it)?
- Blemishes: If you have any negatives on your record, – academic, professional, or legal trouble – be even more prepared to discuss them. Of course, if possible, put a positive “what did I learn” twist in the end – but always own it and take full responsibility for it.
- Asking Questions:
- It’s important to ask questions, but ask specific things to the program or specific aspects about you IN the program. My strategy was to pick topics from the website or from the orientation speeches and ask in those areas – this would show I knew about the program specifically and was interested enough to ask more. Then I would also ask questions about my fit with program in one way or another; my favorite was “I am often a fast learner and learn best when I am pushed, how do you tailor responsibility and education to fit your residents progress?” They almost all give an answer about freedom and increased responsibility with less supervision, but the point was to show your confidence and your interest to push yourself.
- Do not ask BAD questions just for the sake of asking questions. Do not ask “lifestyle” or call schedule questions in the interview. Those are for the dinner with residents. At the interview, you don’t care how much you’ll have to work, only that you will receive a good education (Of course in your actual rankings, resident happiness/lifestyle/call are all very important, but can come off as lazy in the actual interview).
- Do not be in any way negative toward the program. Even if the program has a major flaw and everyone knows about it, do not be critical directly. If you feel it absolutely needs addressed, phrase questions in a positive light “What positive changes are being implanted… etc.”
- Take notes: During the interview day I recommend taking occasional notes but especially soon after. As soon as I was done with an interview I would spend 15 minutes in the car writing my thoughts down in my binder. Looking back after 20 interviews, that was often all I had to go back on! They really start blurring together by the end.
- Lastly: Much like during the dinner the night before – relax and try to enjoy yourself! The more prepared you are, the more calm and confident you’ll seem and the more fun it can be. This one of the best ways to impress interviewers and also enjoy the experience!
Have any other tips for #LifeofaMedStudent readers? Disagree with any of the above? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below!
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!
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