The Residency Interview: What to do In Advance

Well, here you go again. You most likely haven’t had the opportunity to practice interviewing since you applied to medical school four years ago so you are a little rusty. Don’t panic. You talk to patients, faculty, and staff each and every day. You have conversations where listening and questioning occurs each day and this is exactly that.

Remember: while the process of the interview is important it also just a conversation between two people. It may seem unbalanced to you, but the residency program is looking for students to fill their positions, just as you are trying to find a program to take you. Both the Program and You are trying to see if you are good match - to see if you meet each others needs. To do so, you exchange information. You tell each other what you think you want, what you are interested in accomplishing, what your current skill level is, what knowledge, techniques, and skills you can bring to their team, and what kind of a team member you will be. This is an exchange to see if you and the program are compatible.

If you keep this in the front of your mind, then it will be an easier exercise. This is a search to find the right program for you. When you find a program you are excited about, you then need to let the excitement show and you need to let the program know you are excited and why.


Everyone is afraid of ‘THE QUESTIONS’ that will come up in an interview and that they will be caught off guard and not know how to answer them. There may be some unusually phrased questions at times, but when you sit down and think about it, you probably know most of the question ahead of time. Basically, you know they will ask you what are your strengths and weaknesses, but they will be phrased differently. Or they will give you an open-ended question “tell me something about yourself” and see what you do about it. It is up to you then to sell yourself. Therefore, before you begin on any interview, the first thing to do is:

1. Conduct a self-appraisalList ten things you like about yourself. List ten things others have said they like about you. This puts you in a positive frame of mind for your interview and talking about yourself. Most of us can tell others tons of things that are negative or we’d like to change about ourselves, but not what we think we are good at.

2. Continue your self-appraisal. List five weaknesses that you need to improve. These need to be sincere things that you are working on that are insightful but also have ways that you are working on improving. They might be specific to working with individuals with certain personalities that ‘push your buttons’ (example: people who don’t have the same work ethic). Make sure they do not place you in such a bad light that they are deal breakers.

 These questions will show up undercover at times and look like:

“How would your best friend describe you?”

“What would you want written on your tombstone?”

“How would your mentor describe you?”

“What would your mother say your weaknesses were?”

“Why should we choose you for our program over the other candidate?”

3. Read about the programs and schools/hospitals. Also check to see who will be interviewing you if possible and go to the school webpage to see what their research is or go to pubmed and check to see what publications they have and what their research interests might be. Does the program have faculty that meet your needs? If you are interested in pedi urology but they don’t have any faculty that specialize in this area, then they might not think you are a good match simply because they can’t meet your needs. Make sure you are talking about things that make sense for that institution.

4. Look at the accomplishments of those in the departmentfor which you plan to apply. Do this not so much to impress the interviewers, but to find out what the program really has to offer you. Is there someone on the faculty with which you would really like to work? If so, bring it up and ask if those opportunities would be available and if it would be possible to arrange a meeting with that faculty member while you are visiting the campus.

5. Determine the cost of living, weather, crime rate, etc., of where the program is located.

6. Learn what you can about a program from another student who has visited that location.

7. List of questions to ask during the interview. Even if you ask each interviewer the same questions, ask questions. Take a list with you. It is ok to do so, you will look organized and professional.


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