It’s interview season! The most exciting time of the year. After all the board exams and clinical hours you’ve put in medical school, it’s finally time to showcase your hard work to residency programs. To some graduates, interview season can be a source of anxiety. In this article, we will discuss some tips on how to alleviate some of these nerves and instead, put your best foot forward into the season.
- Know some of the common questions
- Practice your interview skills
- Research programs
- Show your interest in the specialty
- Advocate for yourself
- Be grateful!
- Keep track of the pros and cons of each program
1. Know some of the common questions
If you think you can wing it on interview day, you probably can’t! Sitting in front of your program director and peer residents can be an overwhelming experience. Especially when the stakes are high, you want to be as prepared as possible. Having a look at common interview questions and being in the program director’s shoes is key. Confident and well-structured answers will create a great impression. For example, if a director asks you about skills, don’t list them out. Instead, show how you were able to present these skills in real life. An example would be, instead of saying
“ I have great leadership and communication skills…”
A more engaging answer would be
“In my clinical years, I’ve participated in multiple events to raise funds for etc etc .. through my leadership and communication skills I was able to successfully manage my teams leaving behind a great imprint on our local community”
Providing examples of how your skills were put to challenge rather than saying simplistic answers provides a more in-depth look into you as a future physician. Looking over the commonly asked questions will give you an idea of what to expect.
2. Practice your interview skills
It is not uncommon for many candidates to have poor interview skills. A candidate can be top of his class but if he/she appears unprofessional, they probably will not get ranked very highly. Wearing a formal outfit and maintaining a good posture will go a long way. Not only that, but being mindful of your communication skills, such as:
- Never interrupt your interviewer when they are talking.
- Maintain a professional conversation.
- Be mindful of what the program director is hinting about and looking for in a candidate and use it to your advantage if it applies to you. For instance, a question like:
“A recent study made in our hospital shows that asthma is at least twice as likely to develop in autistic children, what do you think of that?”
Initially, you might be caught off guard and maybe panic a little, but if you try to read in between the lines, the director is probably trying to find out how interested you are in research. Answering accordingly would give the program director an insight into your capabilities. So a structured answer would be:
“Throughout my medical school years, I’ve learned that pediatrics research is forever evolving. I’m not surprised at the rapid breakthrough discoveries we are doing through research. Asthma has been linked to various diseases like nasal polyp, NSAIDs, and even pregnancy. A study like this could help us analyze asthma and autism from a different perspective and perhaps change our future approach in treatment guidelines.”
- Keep in mind that generally, program directors are looking for trainable applicants who will most likely not kill their patients. You’ve already passed the board exams and your application made it past the filters. You’re now fighting to prove yourself as an applicant the program can groom to be a well-equipped physician.
A program director once stated that he chose one of his applicants based on their attitude. If you come off as friendly, likable, and most importantly, passionate, you are more likely to leave a good, long-lasting impression. Be mindful not to fake it either, program directors are skillful in detecting overly-ambitious applicants. Bounce off the energy and the excitement when sitting in front of the interviewer in a professional manner and you should be good!
3. Research programs
If you have a program in mind that fits your needs as a resident, make sure you do thorough research about it. Know the history behind the program, awards, publications and research, work-life environment, and even the surrounding geographic locations. This can convince the interviewer about how serious you are in wanting to train there.
4. Show your interest in the specialty
This can be the most important tip. Programs are always filtering through candidates who seem to consider the specialty half-heartedly. If you have your mind set on a specialty, make sure your CV is curated to it. Attending workshops, conferences, volunteering at specialized hospitals, shadowing doctors, and writing a well-thought-out personal statement will make you stand out.
5. Advocate for yourself
Do not be shy! You’re competing against thousands of other doctors for a position. No one will advocate for you harder than you advocate for yourself. Show the interviewer how passionate you are about practicing medicine, and if appropriate, narrate your best qualities and why they should strongly consider you to join their family.
6. Keep track of the pros and cons of each program
A great tip that has been passed down to me from seniors is to have a spreadsheet of all the programs you interviewed at and how you would rank them. Add columns with priorities that are important to you and fill them in as the season goes.
7. Be grateful!
Being selected for an interview is a big deal. You’ve made it past filters and many other candidates. The program invited you for an interview because they see potential in you. Whether you match their or not, showing gratitude and grace to the program will reflect on your character. The journey to practicing medicine is a long one, pausing to say thank you will invite abundance into your life!
Though stressful, interview season can be a great learning experience. Staying curious about how interviews are conducted and learning about programs’ history and work environment can further nurture your communication skills. Not only that, but meeting with professionals from all over the country and keeping an open mind can be leveraged in creating lifelong connections in your career as a physician. Remember that on interview day, everything on your application is a fair game. Hence, make sure you review it well and be ready to showcase your abilities.
Finally, be sure to stay relaxed and add some personality to your interviews. A skilled, yet kind, compassionate, and curious resident will create a great physician almost 100% of the time.