How to Dress for a Residency Interview

Business ProfessionalDuring the residency interview, it’s important to dress to impress. While you can act and speak professionally, wearing jeans or a mini skirt to an interview can ruin the program’s impression of you. For every interview you go to, it’s important to bring two types of outfits:

  • Business Casual – to wear to the dinner with residents the night before interview.
  • Business Professional – to wear to the actual interview

Business casual

For guys, business casual means a nice button-up collared shirt, slacks, and shoes. No tie is necessary. Although it is business casual, you are not going to a club, but to an interview dinner, and so try to choose more toned-down colors for the shirt, like blue, gray, or light brown. Either solids or stripes are OK. Tuck in your shirt. The slacks can be black or some shade of gray. From reading different sources, there is some debate about whether khakis are considered “business casual” or if they are too casual. From my experience, I think khakis are OK, as long as they are clean, ironed, and not too baggy. Make sure your belt matches the color of your shoes.

For girls, business casual can mean a nice blouse, pants, and close-toed shoes. Don’t dress like you’re going out to the club. Dress conservatively.

Business professional

For guys, business professional means a button-up collared shirt, tie, dark suit, dark pants, dark belt, dark socks, and dark shoes. For the suit and pants, it’s always safe to wear solid black, but I have seen some people wear gray as well. I wouldn’t recommend suits with lines, as these look more like you’re going to a party. For shirts, stay with neutral colors, like white or light blue. Same for ties — wear solids or stripes and neutral colors — nothing too glaring like purple or orange. Make sure your socks are black (or gray if you the rest of your outfit is gray), not white. I understand that November of interview season is Movember, but it’s better to shave, or at least have a clean, trimmed look. Remember, the conservative look is the way to go.

For girls, business professional means wearing a collard shirt, dark suit, and dark close-toed shoes. The colors can be black or gray. Most female interviewees I’ve seen wear pants, but you may wear a dressy skirt as well, as long as it matches your suit and is of appropriate length. If you choose, wear make-up that is naturally-looking (so no kabuki).

For both guys and girls, keep jewelry to a minimum. Avoid anything too bulky or gaudy. Limit your hand jewelry to just wedding/engagement rings and professional-looking watches. Avoid wearing nose rings, eyebrow rings, or any other non-traditional piercings. For guys, don’t wear ear rings. For girls, limit earrings to just one per ear.

Remember to look traditional!  That means a hairstyle not too out of the ordinary.

Other Tips

  • If you have to fly for an interview, I’d recommend either wearing your suit onto the plane or bringing your suit as your carry on. Several of my classmates have experienced airlines losing their luggage. You wouldn’t want to arrive at your interview without your formal wear.
  • Some people carry a black professional-looking portfolio during the interview, but from my experience, it is not necessary. In the beginning of the interview season, I also bought one and carried it to my first interview, but never have I been asked for a copy of my resume. It really is just a security blanket, in my opinion. After that first time, I stopped bringing it, and have been fine.
  • Make sure your clothes are nicely starched and ironed (or pressed). While most hotels come with iron, some may not, so you may consider bringing an iron from home in your luggage just to be safe. If this happens, I usually just iron on the bed. It’s not necessary to bring an ironing board.

Links for Residency Interview and Match

8 comments to How to Dress for a Residency Interview

  • C Yang

    Hi Benji,

    I know you get this all the time, but your blogs/posts have been great guidance and tips for many. Truly inspirational and motivating. Thank you! I wanted to ask you a question that is not quite related to residency.

    Would you recommend someone with low GPA (3.33) doing a 2-yr Biomedical Science Master program and then apply to U.S medical school? Or would you say don’t waste 2 years and go for Caribbean Med school? Let me know what you think on this topic, any tips will greatly be appreciated. Thanks!

    • Benji

      Hi Yang,
      I would say it’s s personal choice. If you are young, and have the money to go for a Masters and feel you are academically prepared to pull up your GPA with the Masters then I’d say go for it. If you are older and don’t want to spend an extra two years on a Masters that may or may not help get you into medical school in the US, and aren’t looking into pursuing competitive specialties such as dermatology or orthopedics, then I’d say you can consider the Caribbean.

      Benji

  • Fahd

    Hi Benji,

    Hope residency is going well. Quick question. Are AUC students required to do a Family
    Medicine rotation? I know it’s not ‘required’as in a core, but I’ve been hearing that you need a few
    weeks of Family Medicine in order to be eligible for licensure in all 50 states.

    Thanks,
    Fahd

    • Benji

      Hi Fahd,
      Residency is going well, thanks. The requirements for licensure in the different states keep changing, and at one point, completing a family medicine rotation was required for licensure in some states. However, from what I understand, this has changed and it is no longer a requirement in any state and because of this, AUC also stopped requiring it as a rotation (although they still highly recommend it as an elective). However, I would still recommend doing a family medicine rotation as it is still a required rotation in many, if not most, US medical schools. Many residency programs may also expect you to have done a family med rotation.
      Benji

  • Savan

    Hi Benji,

    First off, awesome posts! a lot of valuable information from a candid point of view and experience. Much appreciated :)

    I have a question in regards to the pre-interview dinner.
    I received an IV at Uconn and they have a pre-iv dinner the night before. The program didn’t mention any dress code, but instead all the email said was it is a casual dinner. I am assuming the dress code is just casual instead of business casual? Should I take a step on the safe side and dress one level higher than what is expected and go business casual wich slacks, solid colored shirt and blazer? or sports jacket?

    I am planning to go with light toned khaki slacks, a light blue solid shirt and either a navy blazer or a brown sports coat. (ancillary items will include: brown belt, brown watch, and dark brown shoes; not loafers). In reguards to the blazer vs. sports coat: do you have any input or recommendations?

    Or any other recommendations on the term for ‘casual dinner’ wear asides from what I’m going with?

    Thanks :)

    • Benji

      Hey Savan,

      When they say “casual,” they usually mean “business casual.” I think what you have planned to wear is fine, and it is what I’ve seen other applicants and myself where to dinners. I have never seen an applicant wear “casual” as in t-shirt-polo-jeans type of clothes. Either blazer or sports coat is fine.

      The “pre-interview” dinner with residents is actually a pretty important part of the interview. It is a time when the residents see if they can get along with you at work, hang out with you outside of work, and be someone they can rely on and enjoy being with when you’re stuck together working in the hospital on night call. And of course, this goes vice-versa as well. While you should feel pretty relaxed during the dinner with residents, still be mindful of what you say and do (i.e. don’t use profanity, vent your personal issues, complain about stuff, or say anything controversial). You are certainly evaluated and scored during the dinner with residents. Be yourself, but bring out the best of yourself.

      Best of luck,

      Benji

  • Fatima

    hey! Very informative and highly needed post. Thanks for sharing it :) Can you please help me in a little more? I’m Muslim and wear head scarf, please can you suggest business formal dressing for me. Kindly

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