• The Residency Interview Process

    The residency interview is a critical stage in the process of residency selection. Know what to anticipate from the residency interview experience, so you can be more attentive and confident when the day arrives.

    Your Goals During the Interview

    After months of paperwork preparation, you finally have the chance to find out how the programs on your list compare with one another. Unlike the earlier stages in the residency selection process, which are focused on background research, the interview gives you the opportunity to visit and observe the program and meet your potential colleagues and mentors. Aim to:

    1. Assess how compatible you are with the program and how well the program meets your stated goals.
    2. Convey your sense of compatibility with the program to the faculty members, residents, and staff who interview you. This goes beyond making a good impression. In a sense, you are “trying the program on,” or demonstrating to the faculty and residents of the program that you would be a welcome addition to their ranks. Indeed, you may want to think of your interview as an exercise in role-playing, with you in the role of a recently matched resident in that program.  Role-playing is not the same as acting. In your eagerness to charm and impress your interviewers, avoid insincerity. Your interviewers want to find out who you really are. It doesn’t serve anyone’s purpose for you to give a false impression.
    3. Assess the program’s relative strengths and weaknesses so that you will be able to structure a justifiable rank order list.

    The Residency Program’s Goals During the Interview

    The goals of the interviewers are similar to yours. They seek to confirm and expand upon the information that you provided in your application. They are also trying to determine how compatible you would be with the residents and faculty in the program. Just as you are trying to put your best foot forward, the representatives of the residency program want to show their program in the best possible light. However, it is ultimately not in the best interest of the program to paint a misleading picture. Like you, your interviewers are attempting to shape their rank order list of their candidates for the Match.

    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.

    Tips for a Successful Interview

    Practice Your Responses

    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?

    You will likely be asked a number of other questions, in addition to those listed above. Prepare for a variety of interviewing styles. Stay engaged and active during conversions.

    Know Which Questions You Don’t Have to Answer

    According to federal law, you do not have to answer certain questions. Examples include questions about:

    • 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.
    • Other programs or specialties you are considering.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. 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.

    Be Ready to Ask Questions

    Develop both 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. Know which person in which role you need to address your questions to. Ask follow-up questions when you have them.

    Ask the Right Questions to Find Your Match

    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.

    Take Notes

    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.

    AAFP app


    AAFP App: Find and Rank Residency Programs

    The AAFP app makes it easy to organize your residency search. Use the tool to research programs, create a customized scorecard to rank residencies on what matters most to you, track your application process, and more. Just download the app and visit the "For Students" section.

    Get the app »