Residency Interview Preparation Tips and Advice
Entering the realm of residency interviews is a huge step in your medical career, offering a unique opportunity to showcase your qualifications and align yourself with programs that resonate with your aspirations.
At our recent Match Summit, Dr. John McPherson, Professor of Medicine and Director of Internal Medicine Residency at Vanderbilt University, shared valuable residency interview tips. From pre-interview to post-interview, we’ve got all the insights you need to shine during your residency interview!
Goals of the Interview
The program you are interviewing at is looking for a candidate that is aligned with their mission, which could involve serving underserved populations, promoting careers in research, or even creating a diverse workforce. To gain a better idea of what this looks like, research the program’s website to see if they are looking for someone with your unique characteristics.
Your goal of the interview is to identify programs that will get you where you want to be in your future career. Some things to consider include mentorship opportunities, research opportunities, clinical exposure relevant to your specialty, and fellowship opportunities. It is also important to find a program where you feel the directors will really support and advocate for you. Be sure to consider the program’s culture, personality, and location. For the best source of information, consider having discussions with the residents currently enrolled in the program or people in your medical school that attended that program.
Preparing for Your Residency Interview
People often inquire about when in the interview season (beginning, middle, or end) is the most optimal time to interview, but the data indicates no correlation between the timing of the interview and the likelihood of being chosen for residency. Before your interview, consider logistics like travel time and arrangements. Stay on top of your emails and complete all paperwork in a timely manner. If you have any questions, reach out to the program coordinators.
Remember, the most important pre-interview tip is to research the program. Look at every page of the program’s website. If you happen to know who will be interviewing you, look them up as well and familiarize yourself with their work. This shows the program you are interested and motivated and it really does pay off. Prepare your questions ahead of time. While general questions are acceptable, you will want to have specific questions ready.
Do at least one mock interview before interview season starts. This is especially important if you are doing virtual interviews. Mock interviews help ease anxieties by providing practice in answering common questions..
Everything on your application is fair game for the program to ask you about, so remember to take the time to review every word of your CV. They may ask you questions about something on your CV from years ago, so be thorough in your review.
Common Residency Interview Questions
- “Tell me about yourself.” What they are really looking for with this question is what you’re passionate about, why did you choose a career in medicine, why did you choose your specialty, something interesting or unique about yourself, etc.
- “What are you most proud of?”
- “What do you think your biggest challenge during residency will be?” Your answer should be authentic, upbeat, and realistic.
- “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” Think about your answer in terms of where you see yourself practicing. That could be a community practice, large academic medical center, as a physician scientist, a clinical educator, etc.
Not all programs will ask these types of questions, but it is important to be prepared to answer them.Tell me about:
- A stressful situation and how you handled it.
- A time you made a mistake and what you learned from it.
- A time when you had conflict with someone and how you handled it.
- A time you were disappointed in your performance.
- A time when you failed at something.
- An experience with a difficult patient.
- A time you were upset with someone’s behavior and how you handled it.
Virtual Residency Interview Advice
Be sure to prepare for the questions above. Interact with as many residents as you can and see how the residents treat one another. Use the checklist below to make sure you are fully prepared for virtual interviews.
- Prep and practice – do mock interviews.
- Test your internet connection.
- Lighting – make sure the lighting looks good and there aren’t shadows on your face.
- Your background – keep it distraction free.
- Test your camera and sound.
- Clothing – dress the same as you would for an in-person interview.
- Limit background noise.
- Pets and children – have a plan for keeping them out of the interview area.
- Write Formal ‘Thank You’ Notes: If you decide to write thank you notes, be sure when writing to multiple people that they are individually prepared. DO NOT cut and paste your thank you notes.
- Post-Interview Outreach: Post-interview communication policies will be given to you or can be found on the program’s website. Unless told otherwise, some programs do not allow direct communication after the interview. Programs are not allowed to compel you to tell them where they rank from your choices, but you may tell a program they are your first choice if you’d like.
- Keep Track of Your Interviews: After the interview, keep a document going with your first impressions on each interview. It may be hard to remember details of each program if you wait until after all the interviews are over. Having your thoughts all in one place will help you when it’s time to rank the programs.
- Don’t Read Too Into It: Programs are not supposed to be vague when they communicate with you. If they say you are ranked to match, they can only say that if you are in their top 10. Take any other vague communications with a grain of salt.
If you have questions, reach out to the program coordinator, they are always happy to answer any questions!
With preparation, sincerity, and a proactive mindset, you’re well on your way to securing a residency position. Watch the webinar with Dr. McPherson for even more insights on interviewing. Be sure to stick around till the end of the video for a valuable Q&A session. Best of luck on your journey to finding the perfect match for your future endeavors!