• Residency Interview Guide

    After months of paperwork and preparation, residency interviews finally give you the chance to find out how the programs on your list compare. Knowing what to anticipate from the residency interview experience and how to prepare will help you be confident during each meeting.

    What are residency interviews like?

    Residency programs and candidates share similar goals. Just like you, program representatives want to gauge compatibility, get a sense of who you are, and assess your strengths and weaknesses. You and your interviewers are attempting to shape your rank order list of for the Match.

    Residency interviews usually include informal time for candidates to interact with residents, faculty, and staff as well as time for individual question-and-answer periods. It may include a group dinner or team-building activity. You will also likely meet with various residency faculty, staff, and the program director for at least 30 minutes each. Overall, an interview might take several hours or occur over a couple of days. 

    Most programs will aim to give you a clear sense of their training facilities during an interview, too, so that you have a strong feel for the work environment.

    Do's and Don'ts of Residency Interviewing

    How can I prepare for my residency interview?

    First, as you review and respond to invitations, try not to be anxious about the timing of your interview and whether it occurs early or late in the cycle. Timing is not a factor in how programs rank candidates.

    Each interview takes some logistics planning and content planning.

    Logistics prep:

    • Arrange travel – Coordinate geographically, if possible, and decide how much time to leave yourself to explore the area or to regroup after returning home. Check to see if programs offer housing or other travel assistance
    • Get the details – Programs may need you to complete some paperwork before your interview. They should also provide agenda details in advance, either through ERAS or direct email. A residency’s program coordinator is a great point of contact any time you have questions.

    Content prep:

    • Research the program and faculty – Read anything a program sends you about their program ahead of time, and review a program’s website for answers to basic questions. Study up on faculty interests to learn where you share common interests.  
    • Build a strong list of questions – With input from family medicine residency program directors, the AAFP developed a list of questions designed to help you learn about a residency program’s strengths, challenges, and areas of focus.
    • Practice – Ask a friend or mentor to do a mock interview with you. At the very least, consider the different questions and question styles you might encounter, and how you’ll respond. 


    What should I do during and after my Interview?

    The best way to help yourself make decisions about how to rank programs is to have a good notetaking and reflection strategy during and immediately after interviews. Everyone has a different system — without one, whether you’re judging programs on 30 characteristics or just five, it’s easy to have mixed up your interview impressions by the time your rank order list is due.

    Otherwise, during your interview, be prepared to ask a lot of questions, and remember that everyone you interact with, from the time you arrive, to the time you leave, will potentially be evaluating you.

    Once you leave the interview, consider if you want to follow up with a thank you note, or if you have any remaining questions. Programs are cautious about following the rules outlined by the National Resident Matching Program, and therefore, some may request that you do not follow up at all, or may tell you they don’t want or don’t respond to thank you notes. You can always ask a program representative about post-interview communication protocols, but it’s also safe to assume that if someone gives you their contact information, they are OK with you using it.

    Thank You Notes: What Residents had to Say

    “I am #TeamSend. I sent thank you notes to the program director everywhere I interviewed, and sometimes also to faculty/residents/other interviewers if I felt I particularly connected with them. If you do take the time to send them, do it as soon as possible while the memory of your visit is fresh.”

    “Now that I am on the other end of the [Match] process, I find them to have very little impact. […] I did contact my top program or two at the end of interview season to thank them and let them know my final thoughts, but I was well connected with them before this period.”

    See what residents and program directors think about interviews, ranking programs, maintaing wellness, and more. Read the AAFP's free Match guidebook Strolling Through the Match.