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.

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