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How to Own Interview Day

posted Jun 4, 2015, 9:20 AM by Explore More   [ updated Jun 4, 2015, 9:33 AM ]
The prospect of interviewing for a residency program is both exciting and scary…but mostly scary.  Fortunately, there are ways for you to take control of your interview experience and ensure you find your best match.  One thing is guaranteed, you will get better with each interview so attempt to schedule your top programs after you’ve completed a few other interviews.  

Be Honest: Right from the start remember that honesty is paramount.  I don’t mean honesty in terms of not lying. I mean honesty in terms of speaking freely about what interests you in a program and what concerns you.

Specifically, I mean don’t attempt to tailor your answers or your questions in terms of what you think the interviewer wants to hear. 

Be Prepared: By the same token, be brutally honest with yourself about your CV.  Only list items that you are ready to discuss and discuss passionately and honestly because it will show in your responses.  

For instance, if you volunteered for a great cause, but the extent of your involvement was working at a sign-in table for two hours, consider dropping that item from your CV. 
Likewise, if you choose to list hobbies or extracurricular activities, be sure you can hold a conversation about these because they will come up. 

 An interviewer may ask, “What was the last book you read for pleasure?” or “What type of bike do you ride or “Where is your favorite spot to ride?” If you have listed that you like to cook, an interviewer may ask “What’s your signature dish?”  

Just be sure you have an answer for all these types of questions, and you’ll find that the conversation comes naturally.   The best interview is a conversation, not an inquisition.

Arrive Early: When planning your travel to and from interviews, be sure to arrive early enough to allow yourself time to freshen up and change before attending the residents’ dinner (usually the night before the interview and, yes, you need to attend these dinners). 

Explore: Also, whenever possible, allow enough time either before or after your interview to explore what might be your future home. 
Arriving early and roaming around town allows you time to be able to speak about what you’ve seen on your exploration and show a genuine interest in the area.   Leaving a little later will leave you open for the occasional invite for a casual night on the town with residents.  Both of these are invaluable experiences and if your schedule allows you should make it happen. 

These sorts of activities offer you the intangibles.  This is your chance to find out whether you want to live and work with these people and in this community for the next three years.  What if your schedule is too tight?  Take the time to read about your prospective program the evening before the interview or even on the plane ride so you’re well versed before the social event. 

Bring Questions: That brings me to asking questions.  You’ve been told to always have a question at the ready because you will be asked exhaustively, “Do you have any questions?”

Please make your questions sincere and relevant.  Ask about the different aspects of training you want to be sure you receive while at their program.  Not all programs are created equal.  One program may be heavy in obstetrics but…does that mean delivery numbers, or does that just mean months on rotation.

Other questions to ask are: 

  • How about continuity?
  • Are those deliveries random deliveries you catch on the floor, or will you have ample opportunity to be a part of that
    patient’s antenatal care too? 
  • Can I get trained in vasectomy? 
  • Do you offer training in endoscopy?
  • How about addiction medicine and high risk OB? 
  • How is your patient mix? 
  • Will I get ample exposure to pediatric patients in my continuity clinic or will I only see kids on my pediatric rotations?  

You’ll be surprised at how much varies from program to program.  You will find that some that look great on paper aren’t always what they seem while other programs you were ready to cross off your list, suddenly become a top choice simply by asking questions with substance.

Questions to Avoid: Never ever, ever, ask questions just to fill the air with sound.  Program directors and attendings can tell when you do this and it only serves to annoy them and your fellow interviewees.  (Another hint: Your fellow interviewees are not the enemy.  In fact, they may be your future fellow interns and you may even run into one another at more than one interview so be sure to make new friends!)

Interview Them
: Just remember you are interviewing them just as much as they are you.  This is your chance to choose what suits your needs.  You should ask yourself, “Will this program train you to be the doctor you envisioned?”  Remember, you are not a beggar at the door, you are their future peer and this is a chance for you both to get to know one another better. 

When you walk in the door know exactly what it is that makes you a valuable asset and what it is that interests you most about their program.  Know exactly what message you want to convey before the interview concludes and answer their questions in a manner that allows you to convey that message.  That way you won’t beat yourself up later for not saying what you intended. 

Be Confident: Finally, walk in the door with the attitude that you already have the job and this is simply a formality.  The job is yours and this just your first of many meetings.  They want to get to know who you are and what you’re all about.  This isn’t to say you should act cocky or arrogant. 

I am simply suggesting you remove the component of desire.  When we want something very badly we begin to remind ourselves of all the reasons we aren’t worthy.  Our insecurities tend to rise to the surface and we overcompensate in an attempt to mask them.  Just replace that desire with confidence and remember, you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t have what they were looking for.

- Jeremy Jie Casey