Your Post-Residency Interview Follow-Up Plan

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • You’ve recently interviewed at a program you loved. The residents were friendly and helpful, the program director was motivating, the facilities are beautiful, and the program seems to offer nearly everything you could want. The question many students find themselves asking at this point is whether or not to send a thank you note, email, or engage in follow-up communication after leaving the interview. Here are a few rules of thumb for following up with programs after interviewing:

    Find out what the program wants.

    Some programs will be explicit about their communication status following the interview. If a program states that they would not like to receive thank you cards or emails, then do not send them one. Other programs may state that you are welcome to send this but that you should not expect to hear anything from them in return. On the other hand, other programs will provide a specific address or email for sending thank yous or post email communications.

    The bottom line: if a program provides specific instructions for post-interview communication make sure to follow them. In most cases, I found that the majority of programs did not comment on this subject. In that case, use your best discretion about communicating after the interview.

    Listen to your dean/medical school.

    Opinions tend to vary when it comes to post-interview communication. If your medical school does not provide recommendations about post-interview communications then you should contact your dean or other advisor with any questions about communicating with a particular program.

    My particular medical school recommended sending a handwritten thank you note to the program director and/or coordinator or a follow up email if this didn’t seem appropriate. With the exception of a few programs that were explicit about not sending thank yous after interviewing, I sent a personal handwritten note or email after almost all of my interviews.

    Timing counts.

    Many students question the appropriate time to send thank you notes and emails. For example, some of my classmates were concerned that if they sent a thank you note to a program they interviewed at early in the season, and really liked, that they could be “forgotten” come time for the program to make the rank list. However, in my opinion, it is best to send an email or card a few days after the interview. This way, you will still have vivid details about your experience that you can specifically reference.

    Consider who to thank.

    Most schools will agree that it is appropriate to send thank you communications to the program director and possibly the program coordinator. Generally, I limited my thank you communications to these individuals. However, if you meet someone else on the interview day who is particularly helpful, such as a resident or an interviewer, then it is probably acceptable to send a thank you email to them as well, if you deem this to be appropriate.

    Make it personal.

    Try to comment on specific elements of the interview day that you enjoyed. Perhaps comment on the helpfulness of the residents or aspects of the program that you think would make you a particularly good fit.

    Be honest.

    This is essential. It’s certainly appropriate to comment on aspects of the program you enjoyed and “sell yourself” as a good candidate for that program. However, do not tell a program that you are planning to rank them highly if you truly are not. I remember during interview season, I heard stories about students emailing their top 2 or 3 programs and telling them all that they were planning to rank them first. Not only is this inappropriate, but it may reflect negatively on you in the future when programs, coordinators, and residents interact. The medical community is smaller than you might think.

    Final communications.

    My medical school recommended sending follow up emails to our top three programs towards the end of interview season stating that we would be ranking them as such. Opinions also differ on how explicit to be; such as saying “I’m ranking you in my top three” vs. “I’m ranking you in the top of my list” vs. “I’m ranking you first,” etc.

    I preferred to email my top program and state that I was ranking them first. I then also emailed my second and third ranked programs and stated that I was ranking them at the top of my list. However, I have classmates who preferred only to email their top program whereas others emailed the top 3-5 simply stating they were ranking them highly. Ultimately, the choice is yours. However, as previously mentioned, it is crucial to be honest.