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.
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.
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.
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.