If you a nervous interview taker, do not worry. You are not alone. It’s completely normal to have a little anxiety before such important days. The key is to be confident. The more friendly and likable you are, the better the experience will be. Remember they have already qualified you based on your credentials. They have seen your USMLE scores, transcripts, MSPE (medical student performance evaluation, if after November  1st), and learned a little about you from your personal statement and LORs. Now they are inviting you to get to know you a little better. They want to put a face and personality to your application. This is your chance to make you shine above the rest. If you not very sociable, highlight whatever else you have to offer. Make them like you, without trying to look desperate! For some this is very easy, while others may struggle. Whatever it may be, be yourself and don’t try to act as someone you aren’t. They interview candidates daily. The PD is a professional job hirer and you are simply a novice. They have seen it all, heard it all, done it all. You may not be the most unique person in the world or have fascinating hobbies as the person next to you, but you definitely have something to offer what others don’t. Remember, they need residents. Its your job to show them how you are a good fit for their program.

Scheduling and Travel

It’s always nice to have interviews organized so that you can complete them in one or two trips of traveling. Though sometimes it is impossible to plan it perfectly, try to schedule 2 to 3 interviews in one week, preferably in the same city or nearby. Once those are complete, fly out to the next city and finish those. You can imagine flight and hotel costs will add up quite a bit, but just look at your first year salary and you will stop complaining (hopefully). When scheduling interviews early, space them out so that if more come, you have time to attend them without traveling back and forth. Here is an example:

October 10th: New York
October 17th: Chicago
October 20th: Phoenix

Your first 3 interviews, all from different cities, are all spaced apart by a few days. If more interviews are received, try to fit them in before or after the scheduled days. If you can do 2 in New York in one week, 2 in Chicago in the next week, and one in Phoenix on your way back, 5 in one month is great. Try to avoid back to back interview dates as you’ll realize it gets very exhausting and you want to rest the day after an interview to rest. Traveling out after an interview, reaching a hotel late at night, and having to wake up early for the next day interview is not pleasant. You will most likely look tired and not perform 100% at the interview, which is not good! 3 interviews in one week should be max. Enjoy weekends in these cities as you never know if you’ll be back there again. Traveling for interviews, though not a vacation, is still fun, so make the best of it! These interviews are quite rewarding as finally after so many years of studying someone wants to offer you a job. If you have friends or family to stay with, go there while waiting for more interviews during the season.  Travel light, try to take a garment bag carry-on instead of in a suitcase (can always get lost), and be as well-groomed as possible. You will definitely meet people who are very similar to you; IMGs from around the world looking for residency spots. Some may be nice, while others rude and unfriendly. Make some friends, go explore the city, and have some fun! There is a lot of work lying ahead in your career, enjoy your time now in these new cities.

Southwest is a great airline due to the fact that they do not charge anything to change your flight dates. This is perfect for us because we may need to move flight dates back and forth in case new interviews are scheduled. One way flights are very cheap if booked in advance (one month) and you can easily fly from one city to the next as long as they go to that airport. Make use of subways, trains, and buses, particularly in cities which have very developed transportation systems (New York, Chicago, Washington D.C.). Taking a bus from D.C. to New York costs anywhere from $2 to $30. Don’t fly between cities along the east coast; buses are the easiest and cheapest way to travel there. Flying back and forth from east coast to west coast is not only expensive, but also tiring. Plan early and accordingly to save some time, money, and gas.

As for hotels, I found Priceline to be the cheapest way to book hotels. Though it is sometimes risky using their name-a-price feature, sites like betterbidding.com can give a history of what hotel was given at what bid. Be cautious of ending up in a hotel which is very far away from the hospital, especially if you are not renting a car and relying on taxi costs. It may end up costing you more to get to and from the hotel rather than just getting a hotel closer to the hospital. Remember these are also non-refundable fares. Use Google maps to help locate distances from the hospital. I say don’t cheap out on a hotel since you cannot afford to miss an interview or arrive late. Be wary of cheap hotels, especially in cities where bed bugs are endemic. Read the reviews if you care, and book in advance if possible. Hotels.com is also a decent site, and some hotels do not charge cancellation fees as long as a day’s notice is given. Enjoy your time traveling and stay at decent hotels. You only get to do this once (hopefully).

Sample Questions

Before your interview, prepare yourself. Mock interviews are great with colleagues. Just having a sample list of questions and practicing them with someone will help you feel more comfortable answering them, and will get you some constructive criticism (hopefully). Practice these questions, but make sure you are not just stating them during an interview. Make them flow as you are having a normal conversation or discussion. It does not have to be word for word, it’s the ideas that you are practicing and verbalizing. Here is a good list of questions I found to be commonly asked:

Tell me about yourself.
Why did you choose this specialty?
Why are you interested in this program?
What are your goals?
Why should we pick you?
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
Where else have you applied? (tricky, just keep it vague and mention a city or region and a reason why)
Are you interested in academic or clinical medicine?
Do you want to do research?
Where will you rank us? (if #1, let them know; if not, don’t lie, but say top 3 if it really is)
What is the most interesting case you have been involved with? (prepare this in advance)
Present a case you handled during medical school. (prepare this in advance)
Do you plan to do a fellowship?
What could you offer this program?
How did you rank in your class?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years / 10 years?
What are your hobbies? (do not lie, you may get caught if asked in detail)
Why did you choose to do medical school abroad? (if you left the states)
What differences do you see between the health care system in the U.S. and your country? (VERY important, can make or break an interview if not answered properly)
What do you like most / least about this specialty?
What made you join medicine?

Preparation

The day before the interview, make sure you know where you have to be and at what time. Flying in a day or two early will be safer then coming the night before your interview. Flight, weather, or traffic delays can really mess up your schedule so plan carefully. You truly cannot afford to miss an interview, or even be late. Arriving 30 minutes early is always a good thing. This is a professional interview so take it seriously. The night before your interview, make sure you have your clothes, documents, and directions ready. Make sure you know where in the hospital you have to be, as sometimes you have to meet at the administration building across the street. It’s never nice to walk 10 minutes in sub-zero temperature from a hospital to an office 2 blocks away. Some documents you want to bring to interviews include: Resume (CV), ERAS application, USMLE scores, publications, personal statement, copy of Degree, ECFMG certificate, transcripts, and passport/visa, and any certificates or awards. It’s good to bring these as there will always be one interviewer who does not have your file and it will be impressed you have everything prepared in hand. Keep these documents in a padfolio or portfolio.

Attire is very important. Not to generalize all IMGs, but some really do not know how to dress appropriately for interviews in the states. You want to blend in with the other candidates, not stick out as the one wearing a yellow tie with a green suit. Here are some tips:

Men: 2 or 3 button suit (single or double vented), navy blue or charcoal preferred, black OK (more for weddings and funerals than job interviews), silk tie – subtle not flashy, polished dress shoes with matching belt, watch, socks, hair and facial hair clean look, nails cut, deodorant absolutely necessary.

Women: Suit or long skirt with jacket, navy blue, charcoal or black, nothing too revealing or tight (looks unprofessional), close toed shoes, makeup not excessive, deodorant necessary.

The morning of the interview, try eating a light breakfast. Some programs provide refreshments, but don’t expect anything great. Some only provide coffee, and you don’t want your stomach growling during an interview. Bring some mints, keep your phone off, and don’t be the kiss ass of the group!

The average interview day can last between four to eight hours. The schedule of an interview day is pretty standard. Here is an example:

8am: Welcome lecture with Program Director
9am: Morning Report
10am: Half group interview, Half group goes for rounds
11am: Groups switch
12pm: Noon conference / Lunch
1pm:  Tour of Hospital
2pm: Exit interview / Meet residents

Some places like interviews early in the morning (9-11am) while others prefer them after lunch (1pm onward). Some interview days end at 1pm, while others can go on till after 4pm. It all depends on the program, how many interviews are taken, how many applicants there are each day, and how big the hospital and facilities are. Be prepared for anything! As for how many interviews, on average most IM programs have 2-3 interviews. One would be either with the Program Director, or an assistant PD, and the second would be an attending/staff member. Sometimes a third interview would be with a chief resident.

The Interview

The most important thing is to stay relaxed, confident, and collected. Answer clearly and honestly. A good firm hand shake with a smile is always a good first impression. Have a list of things you want to mention during the interview (accomplishments, research/publications, interests). You will always have a chance to discuss these when they ask: Tell me about yourself, or tell me what you do outside of medicine. Do not say “nothing,” or “honestly I’m quite a boring person.” That is a red flag as either you do nothing outside of medicine, or you are just too shy to talk about them. They are looking for social, easy to get along with, fun people to work with for the next few years. Every interviewer will have a different set of questions to ask, and each will be looking for pretty much the same things: English proficiency, ability to communicate clearly, confidence in what you are saying, and the context of your answers. Are you just rambling on about how you love this institute or are you actually proving what you can bring to the program.

When they ask “Do you have any questions for us?” be prepared with some. You do not always have to ask something, but if something is unclear, now is the time to ask. This will help you make your decision in making your rank list. Here are some sample questions to ask:

Do you foresee any changes in the next three years?
What makes this program so unique?
What do you look for in a candidate?
How do you evaluate residents?
If you could change one thing about this program, what would it be and how?
What percentage of graduates enter fellowships? Where are the graduates of the program now? (if already given earlier, do not ask as it would look incompetent on your part)
What are the research / teaching opportunities?
If you were going to give one piece of advice to a new resident, what would it be?
Have you recently implemented any changes?

When the interview is over, thank the interviewer and leave with a smile. They will be finishing their evaluation right after you leave. It’s either now they will remember you for something, or forget you like the rest. Make them remember you for the good things.

After the interview day commences, make sure you write something about the program. After a few interviews, you will start forgetting what happened that day, which program that was, etc. If you make some notes about your likes/dislikes of each program, this will help after you finish all your interviews to compare and contrast. I have attached an evaluation form I made for residency programs.

Residency Evaluation

Improving Your Interview Skills for Residency

Interview Tips Blog

 

Step 8: The Match