Tips for Residency Interviews

August 8, 2011

In a recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr Strand and colleagues found that behavioral interviewing techniques may be useful in predicting success of a candidate in residency. Here, Dr Strand shares some tips for graduating medical students who are preparing for residency interviews.

Make a Lasting Impression by Following These Dos and Don’ts

In a recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr Strand and colleagues found that behavioral interviewing techniques may be useful in predicting success of a candidate in residency. Here, Dr Strand shares some tips for graduating medical students who are preparing for residency interviews.

DO plan ahead. Many programs will start inviting applicants for interviews shortly after ERAS opens. Most will also have several interview days, so you may have a few options. The interview process can be long-try to arrange interviews regionally to save on travel expenses, minimize time away from rotations, etc.

DON’T make last minute cancelations. Program directors know, and understand, that you may schedule more interviews than you intend to keep, and that cancelations will occur. However, canceling at the last minute is very inconsiderate to the program who has invested significant time to review your application and to your fellow medical students on the interview waiting list who would have loved to have your interview slot. Cancel as soon as you decide you will not be visiting a program.

DO dress appropriately for the interview. Remember, this is a job interview and you will be meeting with potential future colleagues. Suits are appropriate for both men and women (pants or skirts for women).

DON’T forget that you are always interviewing. Many programs have social dinners the night before, often with only the residents. While more causal affairs, applicants should still act appropriately! Again, these are the people with whom you may be working over the next several years. Do not use foul language or overindulge in alcohol-the number of applicants who make a bad impression at these dinners, while generally few, always surprises us!

DO come prepared for behavioral interviewing. Instead of asking general questions like “Why are you interested in ob/gyn?” or “Tell me a little bit about yourself,” many programs are looking to make the interview a better means of assessing their applicants. Behavioral interviewing, or asking questions that require an applicant to describe his or her actions in specific circumstances, is one popular way of doing this. We know that much of the available data (USMLE scores, transcripts, etc) carry little predictive value in determining your performance as a resident (or future physician). Questions such as “Tell me about a time you had to stand up for something, even though it was an unpopular position” give us much greater insight into traits that may be important to successful residency training.

DON’T run out of questions. Asking questions about a program shows your level of interest, and confirms you’ve thought a bit about how you may fit into a particular program. It is perfectly acceptable to ask the same questions of several interviewers, and sometimes even quite informative-if a program director, a faculty, and a resident all have very different responses to the same question, that may tell you something!

DO come prepared to discuss anything you included in your application. If you considered something important enough to include, you should expect to be asked about it.

DON’T try to hide deficiencies-be prepared to discuss them instead. If you took a leave of absence, failed a course, repeated the USMLE’s, etc, understand that we will ask about that. Oftentimes, individual failures can be turned into a positive if the event became an opportunity for significant personal insight or growth.

DO appreciate the experience, and be grateful for the time and effort people have put into meeting with you. Programs would not invite you unless they had a significant interest in matching you (trust me, we don’t want to waste your time or ours!). Programs set aside significant time and resources for the interview day-a simple “thank you” is always appropriate.

DON’T be rude to the program coordinators. They will often be your first contact with a program, as they work to arrange interview dates, housing, schedules, etc. If you are difficult to work with, that feedback will be shared with program directors. You never get a second chance to make your first impression!