Dos and Don’ts for Residency Application and Interview

It’s that time of the year again… interview season. It didn’t seem that long ago that I was interviewing here and meeting my current colleagues for the first time. Today, I find myself on the other side of the dinner table, interviewing candidates who I will potentially work with next year. I’ve gotten to read many applications, and I’ve seen many mistakes and bad ideas. Seeing the interview process from this side of the match gave me a lot of insight to how it works.

  • Those “pre-interview” dinner with residents isn’t just a casual get together before the interview… it IS the interview. It definitely counts. And given how much input residents get in putting together the rank list, it probably counts just as much, if not more than the faculty interviews, depending on the program. So while you may have an enjoyable night with the residents, still make sure that you are on your best behavior. If you are bringing your spouse or significant other along to dinner, make sure they are on their best behavior too and don’t let them do all the talking and steal the show. Remember, it’s your interview.
  • The residency interview season is a lot like rushing for a fraternity or sorority. Everyone who is invited for an interview should already be academically or credentially qualified to come to the program. What makes the difference between candidates is how well they fit with the team. Would the candidate be someone who would not only get along with you but also be someone you would enjoy being around on a call night? Would he or she be someone who can be more than just a coworker but also a buddy who would be willing to help you out? A lot of the interview is looking for personality compatibility.
  • When you meet with the residents, don’t just talk about yourself all night. Ask a lot of questions about the area, and ask about the program. When you ask good, intelligent questions, we know you have done your research and are enthusiastic and interested in coming here. Most of us came to this program because it was our number one choice (at least everyone in my year). We want to recruit people who are also excited to be here.
  • Remember, if you talk too much about yourself, you’ll come off as being self-centered. If you talk (or ask) too much about the person you are talking to, you’ll come off as being nosy. If you talk too much about other people, you’ll come off as being gossipy. Have a balance between all three, and you’ll come off as a good conversationalist.
  • It does not look good if you write in your personal statement that you are applying to both family medicine and surgery (or some other specialty). If you are applying to two separate specialties, then write two separate personal statements, one for each specialty, and don’t mention that you are applying to multiple specialties anywhere in your application. Residency programs like to see commitment to that specialty. They don’t want to choose a candidate who isn’t sure what specialty they want to do or who only chose a certain specialty as a “back-up.” Along the same lines, make sure you make it clear to your letter of recommendation writer which specialty you want them to write for. I’ve seen otherwise great applicants who may not have been selected for an interview simply because one of their LORs states the applicant is committed to another specialty. And since most candidates waive the right to see the LOR, they may likely go through the application process without knowing something’s wrong.
  • Pictures need to be professional. I’ve seen some photos where it was clear the applicant did not read or adhere to the ERAS photo requirements. Who’s to say what other directions they may not follow if hired for residency. Per ERAS requirements, have both head and shoulders visible… not just a head shot, and certainly not a full body shot either. Your face should be in the middle of the photo. The photo needs to be in color, in JPEG format, 100 KB max, and no larger than 2.5″ x 3.5″. Dress business professional (interview attire), smile naturally, and face forward (not to the side). Take the picture in front of a white or light-colored blank background. It may be obvious that you shouldn’t upload a selfie, but you’d be surprised…
  • The hobbies and interests section may seem like a pretty non-important section, and it probably should be. However, a lot of residents do look at this section before we go out to dinner with you, so that we know what topics to talk about and connect with you. Be specific when listing your hobbies and interests. “Being an advocate for health” or “giving back to the community” sounds like admirable endeavors but it also sounds like fluff in my opinion. First, what exactly do you do to give back to the community or advocate for health? Second, as medical professionals, aren’t we all advocates of health?

Links for Residency Interview and Match

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