Elements of the Interview


  • 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 — generally 20 to 30 minutes — allotted for each person.
  • 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.


  • Decide beforehand which 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). On the other hand, 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.
  • Be prepared for different interviewing styles and adjust accordingly.
  • Some of the questions that you can expect to be asked 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?

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.

Discussion of 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.

Taking 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.

Strolling Through the Match

This publication was developed to help you make appropriate decisions about your professional career and to learn more about the process of getting post-graduate training.

Download the document(80 page PDF) or order a free copy through the AAFP catalog.