How To Prepare For Residency Interviews

It’s that time of year again, time to prepare for the MATCH season. Within the next few weeks medical students will be submitting their applications for the 2022 match and getting ready to go to residency interviews for programs across the nation. Residency interviews can be the make or break moment for whether or not a program determines you to be the right fit. It’s vitally important to show up well prepared with as much knowledge as you can to put your best foot forward and ACE your interview! 


How to Prepare 


The good news is, you’ve already taken the first steps in preparing for this interview by reading up on others’ experiences right now! The even better news is that researching interview skills and interview preparedness will be a piece of cake in comparison to the countless medical exams you’ve already passed to make it here! Let’s highlight a few important things you may be asking yourself about how best to prepare:

  • What should I expect the interview to be like?  
  • What should I wear?
  • How do I stay calm and confident during the process?
  • How do I answer when asked to tell my interviewer about myself? 
  • What kind of questions should I expect to be asked?
  • What questions should I ask the interviewer?
  • Where can I find assistance on how to answer tough questions?


What To Expect 


As the pandemic continues to unfold, the decision to conduct your interview in person or via a virtual platform is still evolving. In general, there is no definitive format for a residency interview. Prior to the pandemic, applicants would be asked to travel to the program center and interview in person. These interviews were often day-long experiences that could include tours, rounds and even lunch with several interviewers and staff members. As of right now, the majority of the residency programs appear to be conducting virtual interviews for the 2021-2022 recruitment season. Naturally this can be a bit more of a challenging experience to showcase your endearing “hire-able” qualities via a zoom call. Thus, here’s a few important things to keep in mind for a virtual interview. 

  • Maintain a consistent and reliable internet network as best as you can to avoid cutting out or pausing 
  • Ensure the background of your displayed video is tidy and professional, it is preferred for the background to be a simple white wall to minimize distractions 
  • Do not face away from any lights, as it may cast you in a shadow 
  • Avoid windows nearby to prevent screen glare 
  • Avoid loud areas with a lot of distractions and noises 
  • Conduct a few practice runs connecting to a virtual platform with a friend the morning of your interview to ensure these environment suggestions are met 


Attire and Presentation


The most important thing to keep in mind regarding your physical appearance is showcasing your professionalism with an appropriate outfit and proper grooming. If you feel unsure of exactly how dressed-up you should be, it’s always a good idea to lean towards a business-professional attire rather than business casual. Some suggestions to keep in mind include:

  • No low cut tops or overly tight clothing 
  • Dress pants, a blouse, and a blazer are acceptable for women 
  • Dress pants, a button up, tie, and suit jacket are acceptable for men 
  • Avoid loud and bulky jewelry 
  • Hair should be styled and tidy or pulled back to avoid fidgeting 


Staying Calm and Confident 


A good interview isn’t just about what you say, but also HOW you say it. Maintaining a calm yet confident demeanour helps to show the interviewer how prepared and capable you are for their program. A great way to get an idea of how you present and interact during an interview is by taking a video of yourself practicing your responses. This will help you visually see changes you could make in your wording and your posture. For example, if you notice yourself slouching a lot, you will become more aware of this tendency and can actively correct the habit. You can also practice introducing yourself in the mirror to help feel more comfortable with your pronunciation and expressions. Here’s a few tips to present yourself with confidence:

  • Avoid using “um” or other filler words while collecting your thoughts to answer a question
  • It is okay to pause before answering a question in order to formulate your best response 
  • Maintain good posture with your back straight, and feet on the ground 
  • To avoid fidgeting with your hands, try placing them in a folded position on your lap
  • Avoid speaking too quickly or too quietly 


Opening Introduction 


A common opening phrase you almost certainly will hear at the start of your interview is “Tell me a little bit about yourself”. This can throw off some applicants initially if they didn’t prepare for the answer. A great way to structure your opening introduction is as follows:

  • Choose 3 main talking points that are important to who you are and where you came from in your life and career 
  • Some examples of speaking points could be your past education or career, a few hobbies and interests you enjoy, and an important life event that led you to this career 
  • Speak about each 1 of these important qualities or experiences briefly
  • These main three topics should be put in an order that naturally leads to where you are in the present 
  • To finalize your self-description you can talk about your current and future career goals 
  • Ensure you do not exceed 3 minutes to avoid losing your audience’s interest 


10 Commonly Asked Questions 


In the past, students have described a wide variety of expected and unexpected questions that they have been asked in their residency interviews. It’s impossible to know and prepare for every single question. However, it is possible to prepare how to formulate your answers to the more common or challenging questions you may receive. When preparing your answers, jot down a few things you would say and keep these talking points in mind for your interview day. Avoid memorizing answers to any question to prevent yourself from coming off as disingenuous or robotic. You might be asked to answer the following:

  • Tell me about a stressful experience you’ve encountered and how you handled it
  • Tell me about a time you’ve experienced a failure and how it has affected you
  • Why did you decide to become a doctor?
  • Where do you see yourself practicing in 5 years?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you do in your free time?
  • Tell me about a case that you found interesting/challenging 
  • What was your most difficult patient and why?
  • Why did you choose to apply to our program?
  • What are some of the positive and negative aspects of this specialty?


Pitfalls to Avoid 


Some things are better left unsaid…

  • Don’t get TOO personal! Although it is acceptable to share some personal aspects about yourself to help gain rapport with your interviewer, it’s best not to share too many intimate life details
  • Avoid lengthy stories as they can become confusing and miss the point of the question
  • Try to avoid overly emotional stories and cliches for why you chose this career 
  • Avoid negative self talk regarding exam scores that may be on the lower side, instead frame your response in a way that shows you have learned from the experience and overcame it 


Questions You Should Ask 


As you near the end of your interview experience, you will likely be asked if there are any questions that you have for them. It is very important that you do ask well thought out questions to show your interviewer that you are interested and invested in their program. Familiarize yourself with the program’s website to avoid asking any questions that you could have otherwise found the answers to. A few questions you might want to ask include:

  • Does this residency program place emphasis on research?
  • What do you think are this program’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • Where are the graduates from this program practicing now?
  • What are your plans for the future of this program? 


Now that you have a good idea of what to expect , check out the American Medical Student Association page to view a more extensive list of frequently asked questions and start preparing! If you’d like to receive additional assistance in building your interview skills check out our Residency Application Advising page and practice one-on-one interview skills with an experienced physician! We wish you ALL the best with your upcoming interviews! We know you’ll do GREAT! 


related topics


Leave a Reply