Medical Residency Interview

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Medical Residency Interview - Preparation

Getting a medical residency interview call is a great feeling. All the hard work you had put in towards the residency application process and the ERAS / NRMP system has finally paid off. However, this is not the time to relax. Much work needs to be done for the Residency interview.

  • When you get a residency interview call, you should plan to schedule your interview so that you can complete all residency interviews in a specific geographic area within a 5 to 10 day period. This saves you time, energy and money. However, if you are looking at a specific residency program, visit it ASAP.
  • You should plan to attend your medical residency interviews during the months of October, November and December. If a particular residency program interests you, schedule a second visit for a closer look. This indicates your interest in the program to the residency program director.

  • Research about the residency program you are going to. Visit the residency program’s website, read their brochure and take down notes for talking points later. This helps you prepare to ask appropriate and intelligent questions at the medical residency interview.
  • We recommend dressing professionally and conservatively. You should wear clothes that fit you well and make you feel comfortable. This will help you endure the long day and project an image of confidence. Wear a dark jacket. Tie is mandatory for men...and please shave..
  • Once you receive the schedule for your medical interview day, read about the areas of interest of each residency interviewer and look up some medical research papers published by them. This will impress them and keep an intelligent conversation going. You can search for research papers by entering author names at PubMed - a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  • Practice pronunciation of difficult names of interviewers. Get it right at the residency interview.
  • If you have any unexplained gaps in your work experience or it has been a few years since you finished your medical school, be prepared to give an explanation. The program directors want to be assured that you werent in a drug rehab program...
  • If you had to take any qualifying USMLE exam more than once or if your USMLE scores are low, be prepared to explain.
  • Most residency programs invite candidates to dinner, the day before the residency interview. Even though it is optional, it is in your interest to attend this social event. This is the time for you to show your social skills and score points with the residents, fellows and other candidates. Dont worry, everyone expects you to be nervous.

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  • Make a list of interview questions to ask and carry a folder to give yourself the professional look.
  • Network with your friends and other residency applicants to find out details about specific medical residency programs, their interview questions, patterns, and their impressions.
  • Even though asking medical questions at residency interviews has fallen out of vogue, you should nevertheless, be prepared for it. For example how will you handle a patient with hyperkalemia..
  • Expect to be asked in detail about your medical research project.
  • Residency interviews can be very expensive trips. Try to plan ahead by calling the medical residency programs and arranging for interview dates. Airfare is usually cheaper midweek and if booked 3-4 weeks in advance. Some good online discount travel sites include Kayak, Orbitz, Expedia, and Sidestep. For hotel rooms, you cannot beat the prices you get by bidding on Priceline...be brave and bid low.

During the residency interview

Plan to arrive early at the medical residency interview center. Greet and introduce yourself to the residency program’s secretary and make some polite conversation.

Introduce yourself and chat with other residency applicants. This will help you relax and make you look like a team player.

Use mouth fresheners after coffee and lunch to clear bad odor.

During the residency interview, the residency program directors are assessing you on three main areas. Personality, communication skills and if you will fit in the residency program and be a good team player.

1) Your personality is given away by your body language and actions. During the residency interview, sit with your back straight. Avoid slouching. Maintain eye contact. Do not cross your arms or legs. Do not play with your tie or twiddle your fingers. Present a confident image. Remind yourself that this residency interview is to hire physicians, not medical students. So act professionally and show maturity. During the course of the day, your demeanor, and facial expressions will influence their perception of your personality. Keep smiling and crack a couple of jokes if you can. Nothing beats humor.

2) Your communication skills are assessed by the way you answer the residency interview questions. Be precise in what you are trying to convey. Talk slowly and clearly, especially if you are an International medical graduate (IMG) or have an accent. A common mistake is speaking softly. While it is polite to do so in several foreign countries, it may project an image of lack of self-confidence and timidity, besides requiring the use of hearing aids by the residency program director.

3) Being a good team player requires flexibility, camaraderie, and the ability to be a part of the “chain of command”. Your ability to socialize and fit into the medical residency program is assessed here.

Sell yourself. Find ways of conveying your good qualities and skills to the residency program’s interviewer. Answer questions in short sentences and to the point. You can lead the medical interview into a specific direction if that is to your advantage.

Say positive things about their residency program. All residency program directors like to hear good things about themselves. However, keep it sincere. Safe areas to comment include…

The residency program’s website and how informative it was
Electives, conferences and teaching
Ongoing medical research 
How happy the residents and fellows looked
This specific residency or fellowship program was recommended by your friend 

Show interest in their residency program by asking questions. If you don’t, they may think that you are not interested.

Don’t ask questions about information already on the residency program’s website. Instead start by talking about the website and ask a related question. This will impress the residency program director and show him that you have done your homework.

During the residency interview process, indicate your interest by letting them know that you would be very happy to join their residency program.

Lunch is your opportunity to ask and get all the nitty gritty details from the residents and fellows. However, remember that whatever you say may be conveyed to the residency program director.

Most residency programs get input from residents and fellows when deciding on the candidates. So be friendly to the house staff and play it safe.

After the residency interview

When you are done with your residency interview, meet the residency program’s secretary and express your appreciation for her help in arranging the interview day and thank her.

Once you get home, write down all the positive and negative points about the residency program. Put down your thoughts about the residency program and community. Give each residency program a score, based on your personal criteria. This will refresh your memory at the time of preparing your rank order list for the ERAS / NRMP match. Once again, please put down your thoughts on paper.

Don’t forget to write individual “thank you letters” to all interviewers and the residency program’s secretary. Letters to the residents / fellows is optional.

If you were impressed with the residency program and are giving it serious consideration, we would recommend that you visit the residency program again for a second look. Plan to spend a full day following the residents, as they go about doing their daily hospital routine. This helps you decide on the ranking of the residency program, besides improving your chances of getting a position there

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