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Residency Interview 101: Waiting on Your World to Change

Ah, the joys of fourth year. I remember it well: every moment anxiously waiting to check my phone at the faintest buzz. Every email another chance to cross my fingers and hope that my dream program has finally offered a chance to come interview. To all fourth years reading this, I’m sure you can relate.

I’m sure many of you are also wondering why some programs haven’t contacted you yet. So in this post, let’s look at the common reasons why you haven’t been offered a residency interview yet and discuss where to go from here.

Why haven’t they contacted me?

There are a lot of reasons why a program might not have reached out just yet. These can include:

  1. Geographical reasons  even for the best applicants, it can be very difficult to obtain interviews at programs located in geographical regions to which you’re not tied. As a Kentuckian, I received my fair share of rejection emails from programs on the west coast.
  2. Institutional reasons  for better or worse, some programs prioritize candidates from certain medical schools over others. Some might also avoid applicants from DO programs or international medical schools. You can generally get a feel for this by looking at the resident profiles on a given program’s website.
  3. Competitive Disadvantage  your application might have a harder time standing out from the crowd depending on the specialty you’re applying to and the strength of the program. Take a look at Charting Outcomes in the Match to see how you compare to the average applicant that matched in a particular specialty. If your board scores, publications, etc. are significantly lower, this could be an explanation.
  4. They Haven’t Contacted Anyone some programs and specialties typically send out interview offers later than others. Additionally, many programs send out two separate rounds of interview invitations. Before jumping to any conclusions, talk to your peers or check out forums like Student Doctor Network to see where things stand with any given program.

What should you do next?

Most importantly: relax. Just because a certain program hasn’t contacted you yet doesn’t mean you’re any less qualified of an applicant. It’s never a good feeling to be rejected, but sometimes the best course of action is to move on. That way, you can concentrate on all the other great opportunities you have. Worrying over the interview you’re not going on won’t help you ace the ones you do have lined up.

Still, one of the most common questions that I hear is: should I reach out to the program with a phone call or email?

Personally, my answer is no. I’ve heard of very few instances where this has been helpful. More than anything, I think it keeps you in a frame of mind where you’re focusing on a rejection instead of getting excited about other opportunities. That being said, I understand wanting to reach out and it potentially can be helpful. However, I would advise considering the following first:

  1. Make sure the program has actually sent out interview invitations (and for that matter, their second round of invites). If they haven’t, reaching out comes off as desperate and inpatient.
  2. If possible, highlight something new. This can serve as an effective guise for reaching out and can strengthen your application, assuming it’s something like a great score on Step 2 CK or a strong letter of recommendation.
  3. Emphasize geographical ties. Stressing why you’re interested in being at a certain program and what might keep you living there long-term is always in your favor. When I interviewed at places far from home, I always made a point to mention the great friends I had living in that particular city.
  4. Phone a friend! If someone you know has a connection to the program, then I having them call or email on your behalf is always much more productive than reaching out on your own. Never be scared to make use of connections.

For more interview-related tips, stay tuned for the next post in our “Interview 101” series. In the meantime, sound off in our comments section with topics you’d like us to cover!