How to Ace Your Residency Interview

How to Ace Your Residency Interview

Jan 06, 2023 Published by Kathrin O'Neill

Table of Contents

Residency programs are somehow meant to be as strenuous as they currently are due to the immense need to provide high-quality patient care. In hindsight, most people do not realize that the extreme weight and pressure that various institutions impart on their residents are mainly rooted in the betterment of their capabilities in practice – preparing them for the reality of clinical practice wherein they will be handling actual patients’ lives. Sure, there might be certain boundaries that education systems should note, especially when a core aspect of the residency program is the education of professionals-to-be. Still, the difficulty and the sheer intensity of the work allocated for this part of a physician’s journey are justifiable.

In line with this, one should likewise not only focus on the outcome and end goal. The entire residency program has an implied difficulty, but the process towards obtaining that precious slot in a residency training program is not a walk in the park either. With interviews and document processing required before you could even be considered above other applicants, the eligibility process is nothing that one should scoff at.

Interview Requirement while Switching Between Programs

In the aspect of switching between residency programs due to particular reasons that may have affected your perceived compatibility with the slot that you have previously availed, you would have to note that you would still undergo the same process that you had performed when you were first applying for a residency slot. Sure, there might be some differences like the lack of personal statements and the limitation of the Match process, especially when you are planning to switch during the off-season. However, the core process remains relatively the same: you will still have to participate in an interview if you want to be considered for a slot.

What does a Residency Interview Essential Entail?

Residency interviews are, in essence, similar to job interviews in such a way that they would likewise examine your eligibility and compatibility with the goals, requirements, and expectations of the institution from a resident that they will be accepting in their program. This would allow them to assess your performance in practice, evaluate whether your personality is an excellent fit for the slot, and identify whether your presence in the institution will improve their practice. This process would likewise identify whether you are, in a sense, “better” than other applicants – meaning that this would be your chance to show them that they should pick you over others, without, of course, trying to pull down the reputation of the rest.

The Format of a Residency Interview

The format of a residency interview would essentially follow the generic outline of a regular job interview, albeit without the specifications of such a highly technical medical field. There is no one outline or format for such discussions due to the variety of the approach of many in assessing the applicants that would like to consider for the slot. However, the fact remains that the dos and don’ts of residency interviews still stand – giving you a rough idea of what you should do and how you should perform when you have been interviewed for the slot you wanted to apply for.

The Dos for Your Interview

Considering that the primary considerations of a residency interview are not that far off from the standard conventions of a generic job interview, the nuances that you should be wary of should be, in theory, essentially the same, with a few tweaks to fit the medical context of this conversation better. To excel in this part of your application process, the following tips will help refine what you should perform during the interview process.

Be engaged with the conversation

Interviewers automatically notice the tone of your voice in the conversation – simultaneously assessing your composure, knowledge, and interest in the conversation itself. The funny thing about tone is that it can connote many things: interest, fear, anxiety, excitement – all of these are factors that can be identified even from the slight nuances of your voice and tone. In such a professional conversation and eligibility assessment, the interviewer is always interested in initially assessing your perception and attitude towards this entire conversation at all – entailing that your engagement to the conversation is a critical part in ensuring that they are aware that you are interested, presented, and otherwise eager for the slot that they are offering.

Highlight yourself – never be anyone you are not

One major mistake that interviewees make during such conversations is trying to align themselves with the company’s expectations and values – making themselves shine under particular lights that are not even installed in their showcased selection, to begin with. We are speaking metaphorically, of course, but the general thought of this statement is that you should never try to be someone you are not during such an interview. Believe us, they can tell. They want to know who you are as a professional and as a person, not what you can be given the requirements. If you're going to be considered and appreciated for who you are and what you can provide, be yourself.

Be completely honest

Another major mistake that many applicants make even outside of the medical field is twisting their facts and information to better fit what the interviewers would probably like to hear. Sure, this could theoretically further your cause at some level, but once again, this type of manipulation is glaringly obvious for expert interviewers. Slight changes in your posture and expression could highlight the inconsistencies with your details – making any attempt to lie moot. Anyway, even if you somehow were able to circumvent the sharp senses of your interviewer, inconsistencies would, one way or another, resurface sooner rather than later.

Familiarize yourself with the contents of your CV

During the interview, your facilitator would often try to recall specific points from your CV submitted for your application. To be able to correctly answer whatever questions that they might have regarding some of the information presented in your CV, you must familiarize yourself with the achievements, responsibilities, and other details that you have highlighted – resulting in a more conducive and smooth-flowing conversation whenever they raise specific points about the things that you have accomplished in the past. For another, this would likewise connote that you are indeed wary of this information – establishing the truth of your information even more.

Ask appropriate questions to the appropriate personnel

During the interview process, there will always be a section wherein your interviewer will encourage you to ask questions about anything that you can think of regarding the institution's position. Asking questions is, in fact, encouraged in certain situations, provided, of course, that the questions make sense, and it does correlate with the things that they were either able to discuss or those that are provided in their website or position brief. When asking questions, interviewers are provided with the idea that you are indeed aware and engaged with conversation – further highlighting your qualification for the position. Do note, however, that the questions you would ask are appropriate and directed to the right individual.

Practice slight nuances and mannerisms

Conversations, mainly interviews, are not wholly based on the exchange itself and the verbal iteration of various information between the two parties. Although it might seem like interviews are essentially just that (and by that, we mean just a casual conversation), interviewers often look at the mannerisms and body language of the applicant as well. You would usually be surprised by how much you could tell about a person based on their movements alone, but the one thing interviews are critical with is the professionalism of an individual. This may include handshakes, eye contact, posture, various mannerisms, and even slight nuances as to how you approach a specific question. You may practice these things beforehand, either with a friend or through an imaginary shadow rehearsal, to be better prepared for the actual interaction itself.

Be professional

Despite being an ACGME core competency in the first place, perhaps it is still important to highlight that being professional is one thing that you should always employ when you are in an important meeting or the workplace setting. Professionalism is not defined by particular parameters as various factors could contribute to this abstract entity. Still, the one thing that remains the same in all situations is that it essentially entails that you should act appropriately. Suppose you want to be taken seriously for such a demanding and essential task. In that case, you should likewise show that you are capable of performing correctly, even when your acceptance is not even guaranteed in the slightest.

Answer the questions, but do not guide the conversation

In such a conversation where there is perhaps an endless barrage of questions that could probably even tire out a baby hippo, it is easy to forget that the conversation is designed to assess your capabilities as a professional instead of a casual exchange between friends. Considering likewise that it is the institution that would like to obtain information regarding your qualifications, you must, and always must be wary that your purpose in the conversation is to answer questions, respond accordingly, and be engaged with the conversation itself. Never lead the questions in a particular direction that you would want to take. Always answer truthfully, and let the interviewer guide the flow of the exchange.

Show appreciation

At the end of the day, no matter how difficult the interview and the process were, you, as a professional, should still consider the efforts that they have put into even considering you in the first place. To relay your appreciation for their efforts, you may send a thank you note (either digital or actual mail) to give thanks for their time and consideration of your application. After all, you are simply an applicant asking an institution to consider your skills as a vital part of their team.

Be prepared for curveballs

While it is widely unheard of due to the preconceptions of many that residency interviews are highly systematic and “about the job,” there might also be curveball questions that could hit you out of nowhere, especially when you are not expecting them to be asked. Curveball or “odd” questions are often asked to determine an applicant's personality, but this should never deter you from following the previous “dos” that we have highlighted beforehand. If you do not know whether they will ask such questions or not, just expect that they will and construct your questions as you normally would.

The Don’ts for Your Interview

If we have a few particular pieces of advice for what you should do during your residency interview, there are also a few things that you should never do in such a professional and high-level conversation.

Being tardy

Although this might already be a given, considering that we have emphasized time and time again that you should be professional in such a conversation where they are trying to assess how you will perform and hold up to the conventions of such an extremely sophisticated setting, we should still want to remind you that being is a big no for your residency interview. Time sensitivity is a considerable aspect in medicine to the point where it could even draw the line between life and death. If you are serious about being considered for such an important position, then you should likewise take their schedule seriously. To be safe, you could arrive around 15 to 20 minutes before your scheduled session. Better yet, and if you can, an hour will go a long way in ensuring timeliness.

Being distracted

As we have previously highlighted, you have to show that you can pay attention to what the interviewer is trying to relay to you. Interviewers would often likewise assess your focus during the interview – highlighting certain aspects of your interest with the job itself in the first place. To have this aspect be highlighted during your discussion, you should ensure that you are not distracted by anything or anyone, and you should show that your complete attention is dedicated to nothing but the interview itself.

Being unprepared and unaware of the program’s basic information

One essential requirement in any job interview is researching the company’s basic information – which is commonly available online through their online page or social media accounts. To show that you are aware of the company’s ins and outs, you should perform a little research about the institution and position you are trying to apply for. Although it is not necessarily performed for every interview that you may partake in, certain interviewers automatically assume that you are already aware of the context that their information is based on. To avoid dead air and an awkward inquiry of what the interviewer is referring to, preparing for such questions and situations should likewise be a priority.

Being unkempt

Although professionalism is an aspect that is not only seen through how you dress and how you speak to the interviewer, being unkempt is a telltale sign that you did not even consider preparing for the interview itself – leading interviewers to assume that your interest and seriousness with this entire endeavor is wavering. Being unkempt or even arriving dirty or unclean is considered by many as a sign of disrespect – a sign of inconsideration, even. Despite your good intentions, most people would only see how you presented yourself – highlighting nothing else but the presumed “carelessness” and “unprofessionalism” that you would seemingly exude off during the conversation.

Asking inappropriate questions

Although there might be a fine line that somehow defines the appropriateness of the questions you could ask during the interview, just be wary and sensitive to how your question will be perceived by receiving ears. If in your head, the question sounds offensive and possibly inappropriate for such a high-class setting, then it might be wise to think again about asking such questions in the first place.

Referring to other applicants

Understandably, the pressure to be better than your competitors for the available slots is intense, and just up there, you should likewise be wary that trying to “one-up” other applicants or trying to make yourself look good while pulling down others is not the most professional way to go about this setting. In such cases, avoid referring to other applicants and focus instead on highlighting the skills you have to offer, what you could contribute to the institution, and what credentials you have that would make you a suitable fit for the program’s goals and values.