What to Expect During Residency Interviews

The hours you spend on-campus with a family medicine residency program for an interview is an important time of mutual discernment, for you and for those who will give final consideration to your application. Knowing what to anticipate from the experience can help you to be more attentive and confident when the day arrives.

While each program visit will be unique, here are some general points reflective of how many programs conduct residency interviews.

The Interview Structure

Often, the residency program will have prepared your itinerary, listing the names of the people you’re going to meet, and the amount of time allotted for each person (generally 20-30 minutes).

In addition to the program director, you should talk to other faculty members, residents from different levels of training, and any other individual with whom you would have significant contact as a resident in that program.

Remember that all members of the faculty and staff may be critiquing you as soon as you start an interview.

In terms of location, you should see the hospital and clinic facilities during your interview. If there is free time, spend it in places where there are residents to get a better feel for the actual working environment.

The Content of the Interview

Be prepared for different interviewing styles and adjust accordingly. While you don't want to repeat your personal statement word for word, some questions may give you an opportunitiy to reference it and expound upon what you've already shared with the program.

Questions that you might be asked during an interview could include:

  • Why did you choose this specialty?
  • Why did you choose to apply to this residency?
  • What are your strong points?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What are your overall career goals?
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • What do you like to do in your free time?
  • Describe a particularly satisfying or meaningful experience during your medical training. Why was it meaningful?

Need a pep talk? Review these 10 Interview Tips to help you focus »

Ask Your Own Questions

Decide beforehand what questions you want to ask of which type of person (e.g., a question about the details of the call schedule might be reserved for the chief resident). There may be some questions you will want to ask of everyone to determine whether there is any discrepancy, such as a question about the attending and resident interactions.

Avoid dominating the conversation, but try to be an active participant in the interviewing process so your interviewer will have a sense of your interest in the program and your ability to formulate good questions.

TIP: Questions to ask faculty members and residents during your interview »

Take Notes

Usually, you will find that you don’t have enough time to ask all the questions you would like to during the interview. It’s a good idea to take some notes throughout the day to jog your memory about significant comments, concerns, particularly good points, or particularly bad points. Don’t concentrate on your notes so much that you interfere with effective interchange during the interview. Instead, note your impressions right after the interview. Using standard questions from all interviews will help you compare responses across the multiple residency programs you interview.

Be Aware of Prohibited Questions

According to federal law, you do not have to answer certain questions. It is illegal to make employment decisions on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, or disability. To avoid charges of discrimination based on any of these protected classes, many employers do not ask questions that would elicit this type of information during an employment interview.

Parental Leave, Pregnancy and Child-Rearing Plans

A typical concern during the interview process is questions related to pregnancy and child-rearing plans. The prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and child-rearing plans. You do not have to answer questions related to marital status, number of children, or plans to have children, but you may want to prompt a discussion of the provisions for maternity/paternity leave and/or child care responsibilities in the residency program. Federal regulation provides for 12 weeks of maternity/paternity leave; state regulations may provide for more than 12 weeks of leave (check your state regulations for this information). The law does state, however, that the amount of time allowed for maternity/paternity leave must be the same as that which is provided for sick or disability leave.

Strolling Through the Match residency guide


Strolling Through the Match

For a comprehensive guide of the Match process from start to finish -- including the timeline, process, and tips on ranking programs -- download this all-in-one resource from the AAFP.

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