• Prepare for Your Residency Interview

    Interviewing with residency programs is at once exciting and stressful. Take the time to prepare for your interviews beforehand– your hard work will benefit you during interviews and after, when you’re comparing and considering programs.

    Step 1: Review and Respond to Interview Invitations

    Most programs participating in the National Residency Match Program (NRMP®) schedule interviews from September through January. You’ll 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.

    The Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS®) has developed an interview scheduling tool that allows programs to send interview invitations to applicants in the ERAS system and gives applicants the ability to schedule, waitlist, cancel, and decline interviews in MyERAS. However, programs that participate in ERAS don’t have to use the ERAS Interview Scheduler, so be sure you find out the preferred interview scheduling method for the programs in which you’re interested.

    Step 2: Arrange Travel

    If you're able to coordinate interviews geographically, you may be able to maximize your travel time, particularly if you're traveling far from home or school to visit programs. However, be careful not to schedule so many back-to-back interviews that you are too tired to represent your best self.

    If you open a credit card to earn travel miles or hotel rewards on during the match, do your research first. Credit cards, especially those that claim a 0% interest rate, can be unforgiving if you miss a payment or only make minimum payments.

    Many family medicine programs will offer assistance and support for travel-related expenditures, for example, free lodging.

    Step 3: Get the Details

    About a week before a scheduled interview, most programs contact candidates to share information on logistics and the day-of agenda. As a candidate, if you’ve applied to a program through ERAS, you can confirm your interviews by checking the date and time again in the system. If you have questions about any details that ERAS or the program doesn’t address, a residency’s program coordinator is a great point of contact.

    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.

    Step 4: Research and Prepare

    Create a list of questions you want to ask during your interview. Develop a list of standard questions that you want to ask every program, and program-specific questions that demonstrate to interviewers that you’ve researched and considered the unique qualities of their program.

    For inspiration, look at the following sources of information:

    • Residency interview questions: With input from family medicine residency program directors, the AAFP developed a list of questions designed to help you learn about a program’s strengths, challenges, and areas of focus. Ask the right questions to find your match. [LINK]  
    • Program materials: Review any information you’ve received from the family medicine residency program. 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.
    • Literature search and CVs: If you know you’ll be meeting with a particular person, identify their areas of research and note any shared interests.
    • Patient community: Understand the program’s mission and who it serves. Residencies care deeply about their patients, and you should too.
    • Local community: Visit websites that provide information about the city’s cultural offerings, community problems, housing market, and job opportunities for your spouse or significant other. 

    Step 5: Practice

    Think about what questions you might be asked during interviews and take time to practice some answers. Consider ways to work your personal narrative throughout your responses. This is an especially useful strategy to employ if you're at an interview where you don't feel like you're being asked great questions. Keep in mind that you don't want to over-rehearse. You'll feel uncomfortable and stifled if you don't respond naturally to questions.

    Prep yourself to be asked questions from many different angles, too. One style of interviewing that is becoming more commonly used is behavioral interviewing. If you're asked behavioral questions, for example, "How would you handle a scenario where you made a mistake?" be ready to share an anecdote or example that showcases your values and decision-making process.

    Some programs are also piloting video interviews for first-round candidates. If you're invited to do a video interview, make sure that you have a quiet and clean place to join a virtual call. Don't sit in a swivel chair. Do consider what the people interviewing you can see in the background.

    The AAFP's Match guide, Strolling through the Match, has more advice to help you get ready for your interviews.


    Interview Advice That Never Fails

    • Be yourself. Be positive, confident, and enthusiastic, but don’t be insincere. Know that interviewers will likely ask tough questions, but that their goal is to find out more about you. So be open and honest about who you are, even if you feel nervous.
    • Dress professionally and comfortably. Wear something business appropriate that adds to your confidence level without competing with your personality. Also, travel can be tough on clothes, so make sure your outfit is neat and clean before you leave for your interview.
    • Be early. Allow yourself time for finding a parking space, getting to know your surroundings, and catching your breath.
    • 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.