The Residency Interview
Loyola University Chicago
Stritch School of Medicine
Teaching & Learning Center
"Success is having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be"
~ George Sheehan
Getting Started - Before You Interview
- Most programs interview by invitation only.
- Respond quickly to ensure your interview slot.
- If you are interested in a specific program, consider doing a visiting elective there early in your fourth year.
- Most program directors want to be finished with their interviews before February.
- It might be a good idea to set up your interviews between October and January.
- Get a few interviews under your belt before you go to the ones you consider your most important. Don't save the best for last.
- Do your research ahead of time. Are there any Loyola Alumni at the site that you could contact?
- Most Residency Directors say it doesn't make any difference if you interview early or late as to the outcome.
- Treat the departmental secretary as if he/she is going to make the final decision.
Know where you are going, where to park, how long it will take to get to the interview from the parking lot.
What to wear
- A residency interview is like a job interview - your dress reflects a sense of being in touch with the world.
- Business attire in conservative colors are serious clothes and are appropriate for interviews.
- If you don't wear professional looking clothes it might not cost you a placement, but it can distract the interviewer.
Make the first minute count
- Be on time
- If caffeine makes you jittery, only consume a small amount prior to your interview
- Turn your pager and cell phone to silent
- Get full names (including spellings) of the interviewers from the departmental secretary so that you know who you are seeing and can send thank you letters later.
- Check to make sure there isn't food between your teeth
- Look the interviewer(s) in the eye
- Greet them by name and offer your hand for a firm handshake
- Let everyone else sit down first before you take a seat
- Take a deep breath and RELAX
You only have one chance to make a first impression: make it positive and professional
Types of Interviews
Try to find out what kind of interview you should expect
Open File - The most common type of interview
- The interviewer has access to all of your information, including all written documents,letters of reference and test scores.
- Just because the Interviewer has your file, don't assume all of the material has been read.
- Go into the interview like the interviewer knows nothing about you.
- Don't be offended if the interviewer looks at your file while you are speaking. This may the first time he/she has had time to look at your personal statement, application and letters of reference.
- Be prepared to answer questions on everything in your file
Closed File Interviews
- In this type of interview the interviewer has no or limited access to your materials.
- You therefore have the opportunity to control the interview and guide what is discussed.
- The interviewer may only have your CV.
- Most interviews should be considered closed since many interviewers don't have time to review applications in advance.
- Be prepared to answer questions on everything in your file
- Even though something may in your file an interviewer may want to hear it in your own words
- Applicants tend to find a panel interview more intimidating
- Usually there are 3 interviewers.
- May be conversational and easier to engage
- This type of interview usually involves several interviewers and several applicants at the same time.
- Pay attention to everyone's answers - be a team player
- Don't interupt - Be polite to other candidates
Expect the unexpected
Be prepared to interact with anyone from the residency
Every interaction with anyone from the residency site is part of the interview
Make eye contact with everyone - be interested.
Try to stay focused on their questions and your own personal agenda.
During the Interview
- Keep track of your feelings about the interview to assess how suitable the fit is between you and the program
- Consider which questions are appropriate for the interview , and which are for a less formal setting.
- Order your priorities - the beginning of the interview may not be the right time to ask about compensation, benefits and call schedules. Although these are legitimate questions, bad timing or asking the wrong people could make your interviewers uncomfortable about your values. You can ask some of the current residents these questions.
- Questions that challenge or confront interviewers can be alienating, be careful of tone and word choice.
"What is wrong with your program?" is more difficult to answer than "What are some of the challenges faced by this program in caring for patients and training residents?"
- Investigate each year of the residency. Many people often direct their interviews to the first year only.
Top Ten Interview Tips
- Warm up questions - How you answer these may set the tone for the rest of the interview.
- Put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer and ask yourself - What does the interviewer want from his/her candidate?
- The interview is NOT about stressing you out but be prepared for anything.
Commonly asked questions
Ranked among the most difficult to answer were vague, open-ended or very general questions.
- Tell me about yourself - Don't come across as arrogant - tell real strengths.
- What are your greatest strengths? - Think in terms of what value you will bring to the program
- Tell me about your weaknesses? - Tell about something that doesn't expose some horrible shortcoming, such as "I"m a perfectionist, I trust people too much." Don't respond with I"m insensitive and lazy.
- Why are you applying for this specialty?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 - 10 years? - Will you be an ambassador for the program when you leave?
The Do's and Don'ts of an Interview
Watch this 10 minute video of SSOM grads giving examples of the right and wrong way to answer interview questions.
If you practice answering the following list of questions, you should be ready for many of the questions you will face. Practice with someone you trust (a mentor, advisor or attending physiciain). Rehearse using a tape recorder to avoid sounding like you are rambling.
- Why did you choose this specialty?
- Why are you interested in this program
- What are your goals?
- Tell me about yourself?
- What did you do before medicine? (to an older student)
- Why should we pick you?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Are you interested in academic or clinical medicine?
- Do you want to do research?
- What was the most interesting case you have been involved in?
- Briefly tell me about a case that you handled during medical school.
- Do you plan to do a fellowship?
- What could you offer this program?
- How do you rank in your class?
- Do you see any problems managing a professional and a personal life?
- Are you prepared for the rigors of residency?
- Are you prepared to move to this area?
Inappropriate Interview Questions
- Where else have you applied?
- Where will you rank us? (This question violates match regulations, however they could still ask you to size you up. Proceed with caution.You could say "I really like what I have experienced so far but I am not sure of my ranking as of today."
Facial expression, gestures, eye contact, posture and even tone of voice can be considered non-verbal communication.
- Non-verbal communication is a vital form of communication - when we interact with others countless wordless signal are given and received.
- The non-verbal signals you send either produce a sense of interest, trust, and desire for connection or they generate disinterest, distrust, and confusion.
Evaluating your nonverbal commucation skills
Questions You Should Consider Asking Faculty
- Where are most of your graduates located and what type of practices are they going into from residency?
- What kind of feedback are you hearing from your graduates?
- Are some rotations done at other hospitlas?
- How often is feedback provided to residents?
- How would you describe the patient demographics?
- What community service programs does yoru residency participate in?
- What are your board certification rates?
- What klind of didactic learning is there?
- Do residents have the opportunity to teach?
Questions You Should Consider Asking Residents
- What was the most important factor that made you decide to come to this program?
- What are your plans after graduation?
- What's a typical week, month, year like for a first year, second year, and third year?
- What is call like? What kind of backup is provided?
- When leave of absence becomes necessary what happens?
- How do you deal with the stress of residency and how does the program support you to stay balanced?
- What do you/other residents do outside the hospital for community service and for fun?
- Where do you feel most of your learning is coming from?
- What are the program's areas of strength?
- What are the program's areas where improvements could be made?
Ask the appropriate question to the right person
- As soon as possible write down your impressions and update your checklist
- Send a written thank you note to everyone you interviewed with.
- If you discover you have a few more questions it is perfectly acceptable to call back for more information.
The Residency Interview "made ridiculously simply"