Send the Right Message During a Residency Interview

Your first words should be positive. If someone asks you about your school or about the town you are from, don’t say anything disparaging. It makes you look like a complainer and a “glass half-empty type of person.” The interviewer will also wonder if you might also say negative things about their program and faculty when you leave. Essentially, you will spend the rest of the interview proving you are not a negative person that will unduly burden the team with a “down” attitude. They are looking for someone that will uplift and energize the team – not bring it down.

Use verbal and non-verbal communication to your advantage

a. Speak up – it relays confidence

b. Avoid using slang or calling attendings, faculty, or residents by their first names

c. Use your hands to express yourself (sparingly, not overdone)

d. Don’t slouch, but don’t be overly stiff either

e. Lean forward a bit when the interviewer says something interesting

f. MAKE SURE YOU LOOK THE INTERVIEWER IN THE EYES. If you feel that you are appearing to glare or stare at the interviewer, try shifting your focus from one eye to the other. You can look away to think and you don’t want to have a constant contact, but the majority of eye contact is important.

g. It is ok to use your hands some while talking. Never using them to express yourself makes you look stiff.

Build confidence through rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal.

What Interviewers Look For & May Ask About 

1. Academic preparation (grades, elective choices, research topic and type)

2. Will this person be able to pass their specialty exams and make us look good?

3. Evidence of experience or interest in the field

4. Job-related personality traits (Careers in Medicine can help you with this)

5. Compatibility with the other people in the residency

a. appearance

b. personal background

c. attitude and personality

6. Is this is a good match for our program?


How to Prepare for a Residency Interview

 Make sure you answer the question asked by the interviewer. Listen to the question and perhaps even repeat it out loud so you are sure of the question.

Be prepared. You know what questions will be asked. They may sound different, but they are basically asking the same content. If there is a question you can’t predict will be asked, it is probably a question of a technical nature.

Expect questions such as:

  • Why do you want to come here?
  • Why should we select you?
  • What interests you most about this position?
  • Are you competent? (What kind of decision is most difficult for you? What is your strongest asset? What is your weakest point? )
  • How well did you do in school?)
  • What kind of a problem solver are you?
  • Are you socially adept or inept?
  • How do you feel about your progress to date?
  • Have you done the best work of which you are capable?
  • What would you like to be doing five years from now?
  • Expect questions about leadership roles, hobbies, interests, community involvement, etc.

Think before you speak. It is even ok to pause before speaking to get your answer together.

 Have an open body language. The opposite would be a closed body language. Open body language would consist of both feet on the ground, hands and arms in your lap or at your sides. Closed body language looks defensive so don’t cross your arms and try not to cross your legs. Crossing your arms actually can make you look cross and angry. The higher up on the chest, the more defensive and angrier the person will appear. When shaking hands, greet with your palm slightly up and with your thumb up rather than the palm down. Palm up is a subconscious welcome to the other person. Palm down is protective.

Never find yourself in an argument while visiting a program. If someone is pushing your buttons, stay calm. They may just be testing to see how you handle stress.

Avoid the name drop. If a person of good reputation is relevant to the conversation and you have worked with and learned from this person, it is appropriate to mention. Avoid name dropping political figures or others who are not relevant to the position or have not contributed to your professional development. If the interviewer brings it up, then it is ok, but don’t overstate your relationship with the person.

Avoid gum and smoking (if you have to get a patch, do so). Most hospitals will be smoke free campuses, so you will not be allowed to “light up” anyway, but if you are going out with the residents or feel the need to take break, just know that this behavior may not be viewed in a positive light and may be seen as a weakness or addictive personality. Try using nicotine gum or a nicotine patch during interviewing situations.



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