What to Expect During Residency Interviews

Knowing what to anticipate from the residency interview 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 are critiquing you as soon as you start an interview.

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

Come to the interview with your own list of questions that you'd like to ask, and know which person in which role you need to address them to. Ask follow-up questions when you have them. Programs will expect you to have good questions. It can be helpful to have a few questions that you ask to everyone you meet with, to get an idea about how perspectives on certain elements of the program might vary.

Be prepared for different interviewing styles and adjust accordingly. Stay engaged and active during conversions. While you don't want to repeat your personal statement word for word, some questions may give you an opportunity 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?

 Questions to ask faculty members and residents during your interview »

Take Notes

Usually, you'll 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.

Programs are also prohibited from asking applicants to reveal the names, geographic locations, or other identifying information of programs to which they have or may apply to. Programs may not ask applicants whether they have applied to other specialties.

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.


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