Return to Blog Homepage

MST Mailbag: Residency Interview Edition (Part 2)

Looking for that extra edge to ace your residency interview? Hopefully you’ve already scoped out the first edition of our interview mailbag where we answered common questions that have come in from students. As the questions just keep coming, so do the answers. Be ready for anything that might come your way on interview day!

Q: What’s my goal? What should I accomplish by the end of the interview?

A: Believe it or not, the purpose of your interview is not to solely convince the program that you belong there. You shouldn’t bend over backwards to show off how amazing you are, nor should you try to exploit every opportunity to bleed wonderfulness.

In interviewing, you want to find out if Program X is the right program for you. Most of what you do during your interview, from the questions you ask attendings to the conversations you have with residents, should help you arrive at the conclusion of how well you gel with the program, and how well the program fits your needs. You are looking for the ineffable feeling that says, “Ah yes, this place feels like home.”

I don’t mean to suggest that you should sell yourself short or denigrate your myriad accomplishments. But don’t turn the interview into the “PICK ME I’M FANTASTIC” show. Utilize opportunities to display your accomplishments, interests, fortitude, and dedication to the field. But all the way through, focus on the underlying feeling that you are getting from the program.

 Q: Will I be doing most of the talking? Or will they?

A: Few things are tougher than the interview that starts, “So, what questions can I answer for you?”

All we want is for our interviewers to serve up some softballs so we can talk about our research and clubs and why we love medicine. Yet some interviewers out there will not ask you a single question besides this one. It’s not unheard of to have a completely one-sided interview where you do all of the talking. Don’t let this shake you. Use it as an opportunity to talk about the things you are most proud of from your past, and how you the program can help you weave them into your future. Hopefully your experience turns into a balanced conversation. Just be prepared to have both many questions and answers ready to go.

Q: What about the other students? Any advice on how to handle the competition?

A: Don’t view them as your competition. Other interviewees are your peers and possible future colleagues. You should be nothing less than your cordial self. (If your true self isn’t cordial, work to make it so.) You never know who you will end up working alongside, whether at this program or another. You will run into prospective residents time and time again along the interview trail, so don’t burn any bridges by being off-putting or ultra-competitive. Keep the head games inside your head.

Q: Is there anything I shouldn’t ask?

A: It is generally frowned upon to ask interviewers about salary, vacation, call schedules, or anything else that might be construed as being lazy or greedy. Yet, the answers to these questions are important. Get basic information like this from the program’s website. For things that are more intimate (“How’s the program director’s interaction with residents?” and “How does call here work?”), residents can be a valuable source of information.

Q: What’s the single most important piece of advice you can give me?

Be yourself. It’s worked in life for you for a couple decades now, and put you in a wonderful position. Be proud, but not too proud. Be honest. Be whatever you have been being all along the way, and you will find your happiest home as a resident. Use the opportunity to find out how well you fit, and have a good time along the way.