Preparing for Your Residency Interview
Getting ready to interview with residency programs is both exciting and stressful. Taking the time to prepare for your interview experience will be a tremendous help for you during your interviews and afterwards, when you are comparing and considering programs. Here are some tips on how to prepare before you set foot on campus.
Most programs participating in the National Residency Match Program (NRMP®) schedule interviews from September through January. You will hear some differences of opinion as to whether it is better to be one of the first, middle, or last candidates that a program interviews. Because no evidence demonstrates that timing makes a difference in how the program ranks a candidate and you don’t have complete control over the timing of your interview, try not to be anxious about it.
Some suggest you should schedule the interview for your most highly valued program after you have had some experience with one or two interviews in other programs.
Confirm Your Appointment
Call to confirm your appointment about a week before your scheduled interview. This will give you an opportunity to reconfirm the place and time of your meeting, who you are going to meet first, and perhaps some other details such as where you should park, etc.
Plan for Travel Needs and Personal Time
Typically, an interview will take one full day, though you may be invited to meet with one or more residents and faculty for dinner the night before. If your travel schedule permits, allow some time to tour the community outside the program and/or spend some informal time with residents or faculty.
If your spouse or significant other will be accompanying you on your interviews, you may want to schedule additional time to assess other aspects of the program and community important to him or her. In general, spouses and significant others are welcome to participate in the interview process, but you should clarify this with the program ahead of time so that the schedule can be structured to accommodate this. Some programs specifically provide for the participation of spouses and significant others with organized tours of the community, etc.
Do Your Research
Review What You Know
Just before the interview, take time again to review the information you’ve received from the family medicine residency program and any material you may have gathered from other sources. Write down the “facts” that you want to double-check as well as any initial impressions you may have formed based on the written material. Pay special attention to the names and positions of people you are likely to meet.
Check Out the Community
Learn about the local community before you arrive by visiting websites that provide information about cultural offerings, community problems, the housing market, and job opportunities for your spouse or significant other. This may include local news sites, job postings to consider career opportunities for your spouse or significant other, the local chamber of commerce, and others.
Know What Questions You Want to Ask
Remind yourself of the specific questions you had about this program and write them down in a convenient place so that you will be sure to ask them. It’s a good idea to have some thoughtful questions prepared to let your interviewers know that you’ve really given some thought to the qualities of their particular program. Interviewers get tired of answering the same questions just as you do, so try to think of a few that reflect your own special interest.
You may have already formulated a list of standard questions that you want to ask every program for comparison, or you may have developed a checklist of program characteristics to fill out in each interview.
Keep in mind your goals for the interview in order to establish the right frame of mind. Again, you want to project a positive, confident, and enthusiastic demeanor without being overbearing or insincere.
If you keep in mind that the interviewers have their own agenda to fulfill, you won’t be dismayed or intimidated by the tougher questions that try to find out more about you. In fact, if you’ve thought about what the interviewers are trying to get out of the interview, you will have already anticipated their questions and have a well-thought-out answer ready.
Try to be open and honest. It’s okay to be nervous, but don’t let your nervousness hide your personality.
Don't Forget Common Sense
These are the things that go under the heading of "common sense" but perhaps bear reiteration.
- In terms of appearance, be neat and comfortable. Use your own judgment as to whether an expensive suit would add to your confidence level or compete with your personality.
- Be on time; better yet, be early. Allow yourself time for finding a parking space, getting to know your surroundings, catching your breath and arriving in place before the appointed hour.
- Make sure you have what you need. Before you leave the house, make sure you have everything you need for the interview such as your notes, paper and pen, tablet or laptop, and an extra copy of your credentials.
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.