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Residency Interview

What to Wear to Your Residency Interview 

Residency Interviews Blog

What to Wear to Your Residency Interview 

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I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want my team to help you with your Interview Preparation, click here.
In the realm of medical residency interviews, first impressions are of paramount importance. Before you even introduce yourself or answer a question, your attire speaks volumes about your professionalism and attention to detail. Dressing appropriately not only conveys respect for the institution and the medical profession, but it also sets the tone for the rest of the interview. In this guide, we’ll delve into the essentials of dressing to impress, ensuring you project confidence, competence, and commitment from the moment you walk through the door. We will go over the following points:

Suits

Men’s suits generally consist of a suit jacket and trousers, while women’s suits generally consist of a suit jacket and either trousers or a skirt that’s at least knee-length. Skirts that are above the knee should be avoided. Additionally, women who choose to wear a knee-length skirt may also choose to wear pantyhose for a more conservative look. 

A traditional suit color (e.g., black, charcoal/dark gray, or navy blue) is the safest option for most candidates. It is possible to deviate from the norm with non-traditional colors (e.g., tan, dark green, or brown) or patterns (e.g., pinstripe or plaid); however, this choice is much riskier and can backfire if not done perfectly. If you choose a non-traditional color, you should avoid loud, bright colors. Your suit jacket and trousers (or skirt) should be from the same set and should match perfectly. Pairing a black suit jacket with black trousers that are a slightly different shade or different fabric will look unprofessional.

Simply wearing a suit is not enough. It’s also important that the suit fits your body type. Suits generally come in one of three different fits – classic, modern and slim fit. Each one of these has its own unique characteristics and can flatter different body types. 

  • Classic fit is cut loose to the shoulders, chest and waist and is relaxed through the hips and thighs with a straight leg opening. This style is best suited for those with a larger frame who want a suit that accommodates their build. If you have a slimmer body type, this style may not be the most flattering choice. 
  • Modern fit, sometimes referred to as “contemporary fit”, strikes a balance between classic and slim fits in terms of tightness. This style is trimmed through the hips and thighs with a slightly tapered leg opening. It gives some extra room while also providing a tailored and polished look. 
  • Slim fit, as the name entails, is the slimmest of all the options. These suits are cut narrower through the chest, waist and hips and have a tapered leg opening. This style is best suited for those who are in good shape and have a relatively lean build. If you have a larger frame, this style may not be the most flattering choice. 

Lastly, while having one well tailored suit will suffice in most situations, it can be worthwhile to have a second in case you’re invited to a dinner or other networking event in conjunction with the interview.

Our Recommended Men’s Suits

Our Recommended Women’s Suits

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Dress Shirt or Blouse

A solid-colored dress shirt for men and blouse for women is the best choice. White is the most traditional choice, but light blue or other shades can work depending on the color of the suit. Again, avoid loud, bright colors. 

Similar to the suit, it’s important that the shirt fits your body type. Men’s dress shirts come in classic and slim fits. Please see the section above for a discussion on the difference between these fits. Additionally, men’s dress shirts will also be sold with different neck sizes and sleeve lengths. Your shirt should align with your body’s measurements. Avoid buying dress shirts that come in predefined sizes (e.g., small, medium, large) as it’s very unlikely the neck size and sleeve length will fit your body appropriately. 

For women’s blouses, you should avoid velvet and shimmery fabrics. Cotton, silk, and blends are the best fabric choices. It’s recommended to check it in different lighting to make sure it’s not overly sheer. Additionally, make sure the blouse is not too tight and has an appropriate neckline (showing cleavage is not appropriate).

It’s important that your suit jacket, shirt (or blouse) and trousers (or skirt) be clean and well kept. This means no wrinkles, stains, or defects in the fabric such as loose threads or moth-eaten holes. For this reason, it may be worthwhile to invest in a garment bag (to protect your suit and reduce wrinkles) and a small handheld steamer. The latter may be particularly useful as hotel irons can be unpredictable and potentially damage your suit.

Our Recommended Men’s Dress Shirts

Our Recommended Women’s Dress Shirts and Blouses

Get access to our compendium of residency interview questions and answers!

Shoes

Freshly polished, lace-up, leather shoes are the standard for men. The traditional color choice is either black or a shade of brown. The appropriate shoe color is dependent on the color of the suit you’re wearing. Black suits should only be paired with black shoes, gray suits can be paired with either black or brown shoes and navy suits should only be paired with brown shoes. Importantly, your shoes should be the same color as your belt. Due to the numerous shades of brown that exist, it’s recommended to buy a pair of shoes and a belt from the same collection to ensure the colors match. 

For women, your shoes should be leather, fabric or microfiber. Appropriate colors are black, navy, brown, tan and taupe and should coordinate with your other attire and accessories. For the most conservative look, toes should be covered. Excessive straps, stilettos, chunky heels and platforms are not appropriate. 

Your shoes should not have any notable scuffs or marks. Make certain your shoes are broken in and that you can walk comfortably (remember, you’re going to be wearing them for the entirety of your interview day). Your choices reflect your judgment.

Our Recommended Men’s Dress Shoes

Our Recommended Men’s Belts

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Ties

While simple solid colors are often the best choices for suits and dress shirts, your tie provides an opportunity to introduce some color and pattern into the mix. A bow tie might seem like a unique style choice, but these are generally considered less professional and should be avoided. The best color choices for ties are black, blue, burgundy, gray, white, and yellow or a combination of these colors.

Solid color ties (excluding white and yellow) are always a safe bet! Striped ties are quintessential business style and can add a lot of personality to your outfit. That said, you should limit it to a two tone striped tie so that your interview, and not your tie, does the talking. On that same note, foulard ties have become a lot more trendy recently. Their unique geometric prints allow you to really differentiate yourself from other interviewees; however, if you’re less familiar with professional styling these can be harder to appropriately select. You should stay away from floral and paisley patterns for interviews.  

There are also many different knots that can be tied. A four-in-hand knot is generally considered too casual and should be avoided. Your best choices are either the Full Windsor or Half Windsor knot. The Full Windsor knot is a large, well-balanced, symmetrical knot and is generally considered to be the most formal type of knot. The Half Windsor is a medium-sized knot that is more formal than the four-in-hand and less formal than the Full Windsor. Since this knot is smaller than the Full Windsor, it requires less fabric and may be preferred by tall men. 

The length of your tie is very important. It should end right on the belt line, not slightly above or below. It will likely take numerous tries to get the right length, and it is imperative that the tying be repeated until the correct length is achieved. Lastly, ties come in many different fabrics, but there is no doubt that silk is the best choice for an interview. 

Our Recommended Men’s Ties

Solid Print

Geometric Print

Striped Print

Stacy Adam’s Men’s Satin Solid Tie Set

Calvin Klein Men’s Steel Micro Solid Tie

Tommy Hilfiger Men’s Core and Exotic Stripe TIe

Don’t let subpar interview performance prevent you from matching. Ace your residency interviews with our experts’ advice! Each session is half real-time mock interview and half as feedback.

Socks

You should wear dress socks and not your day-to-day crew socks to an interview. The main difference between the two is the fabric used. Crew socks are made from thicker, rougher fabric, while dress socks are made from thinner, smoother fabric. The main purpose of dress socks is to look good, while crew socks seek to provide better support and sweat absorption. Additionally, crew socks cut off around 6 inches above the ankle whereas dress socks typically extend 9-12 inches above the ankle. 

Traditionally, dress socks were just meant to compliment your suit, with muted and darker colors; however, in recent years, more vibrant and patterned dress socks have been growing in popularity. When choosing a sock, don’t go overboard. Your socks should not distract from the rest of your outfit. If you’re going for a more traditional look, your socks should be the same color as your trousers and at least one shade darker. When in doubt, black or navy blue socks are never wrong! Whatever you choose, do not wear white crew socks.

Our Recommended Men’s Dress Socks

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Hair, Makeup, and Jewelry

Make sure that all of your hair, including facial hair if applicable, is well-groomed, neat, and professional. For women, the same goes for nails, which, if polished, should be done in a neutral color and should be cut to a reasonable length so as not to impair function (i.e., the ability to hold your resume or other objects). A light, day-time makeup look with neutral-light lipstick is preferable. Make sure that you confirm your makeup also looks good via your webcam feed as things can appear different sometimes. Avoid heavy or bold makeup looks. It’s also important to keep jewelry at a minimum. Wedding bands/engagement rings are perfectly acceptable to wear. A small necklace and earrings are also acceptable as long as it does not distract from the overall picture. A nice, formal watch can be fine (Apple and Fitbit are also acceptable) but is not necessary. Women may also consider a small-medium purse/handbag to carry with you on interview day to carry with you on interview day in case of touch ups or to hold other small items such as writing utensils and breath mints. For men, cufflinks are acceptable (if the dress shirt permits), but again these should be subtle and professional.

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Other Considerations

While the main components of your attire, such as the suit and dress shirt or blouse, are crucial, it’s the subtle details that can make or break your overall presentation. If you’re fond of wearing perfume or cologne, apply it lightly or consider skipping it altogether. Some individuals are sensitive to strong scents, and you wouldn’t want to cause discomfort to your interviewers. Tattoos, piercings, and other personal expressions, may need some consideration during interviews. It’s generally recommended to cover visible tattoos and limit piercings to conventional ones, like simple ear studs. This doesn’t mean compromising who you are, but rather showing adaptability and respect for diverse professional environments.

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Attire for the Welcome Reception, Pre-Interview Dinner, or Cocktail Hour

The evening before many medical residency interviews often features a welcome reception or cocktail hour, an informal prelude to the formalities of the next day. While this event provides a more relaxed environment to interact with potential colleagues and learn about the institution, it’s vital to remember that you’re still making an impression. Men might consider wearing a smart-casual blazer or sport coat with a dress shirt (tie is not required) and a pair of well-fitted chinos. Women can opt for a dress (around knee length) or a blouse with dress pants. Your outfit should be along the lines of business-casual, appropriate but not as formal as your actual interview day outfit. Closed-toe, comfortable shoes are a must, as you might be standing or walking for an extended period. While this is a more relaxed event, it’s still within the professional realm, so avoid overly casual attire like jeans, sneakers, or T-shirts. Think of this reception as a bridge between your casual self and your professional self; it’s an opportunity to show adaptability while maintaining a polished appearance. That said, some programs will want this to be more casual and, if this is the case, they will explicitly tell you to dress casually in the invite email. 

Get Sample Answers to Residency Interview Questions

For those gearing up for their first interview, don’t miss our interview preparation packages! There are different tiers of interview preparation that include real-time mock interview and feedback about your performance! 100% satisfaction guaranteed! All by expert physician advisors! Learn more Here!

And don’t forget to grab your Free Residency Interview Questions and Answers Guide Here.

Good Luck with your residency interview and don’t hesitate to reach out to us for any questions.

Michael Trisler; James Fisher; Shriya Tanti

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Residency Interview Insights from an Associate Program Director

Residency Interviews Blog

Residency Interview Insights from
an Associate Program Director

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I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want my team to help you with your Interview Preparation, click here.

Interviews are, perhaps, the most important aspect of the residency application process. The interview is what really shows a program who an applicant is as a person: how they interact with others, what drives them, and what has shaped their career path. In this blog, we will discuss insights on the residency interview process from a former associate program director.

What Are the Commonly Asked Residency Interview Questions?

Some of the most common questions asked in a residency interview include the following:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why did you choose this specialty?
  • Why did you choose our program?
  • Tell me about a time when you experienced a conflict; how did you resolve it?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What will you bring to our program?
  • Questions about application red flags
  • Questions about their CV
  • Where do you see yourself in ten years?

These are the commonly asked residency interview questions. However, there are endless possibilities of questions and scenarios you might get during your residency interview. That is why we prepared a full blog about 200+ residency interview questions.

200+ Residency Interview Questions

Tell Me About Yourself

This is one of the most important questions to be prepared to answer, as it is often the first one posed to the interviewee. It can mean the difference between being ranked high or being at the bottom of the rank list. Thus, it’s important to avoid some common mistakes.

In general, there are three points an applicant should hit when answering this question:

  1. Who you are, where you graduated from college/medical school, and any notable accomplishments or accolades you’ve received in your academic career.
  2. Why are you a competitive candidate? This section should touch on your research publications, clinical exposure, and any other relevant experiences that contributed to your desire and ability to be a resident in your chosen specialty.
  3. Why are you here today? Why did you apply to this program?

The interviewee should make sure that their response is no longer than a minute or a minute and a half. It’s important to be concise, so as not to risk losing your interviewer’s interest.

The applicant should avoid answering this question by solely talking about where they were born, where they lived, and what their hobbies are. Instead, they should answer the question in a way that convinces the interviewer why they should hire you/admit you to their program.

Please note: one can NEVER safely assume that their interviewer has had significant time to review your CV. That’s why when answering this question, it is okay to touch upon aspects of your CV, but it is necessary to narrativize them as opposed to just listing off the CV line by line. For example, while it’s okay to talk about one’s accomplishments, singling out every individual publication or every award is not an effective approach. Instead, one should highlight a couple of major accomplishments and weave them into a narrative that reinforces their interests in their chosen specialty and the program to which they are applying.

For sample answers to residency interview questions, get our Interview Preparation Sample Guide.

Why This Specialty?

In answering this question, there are two important facets to consider:

1) What are your values, and how did they align with the specialty you chose?

    a. For example, if applying to internal medicine, your answer should be more profound than saying that you like “puzzles”.

2) What evidence do you have to prove you would be well suited to this specialty?

    a. In citing evidence, you can discuss clinical experience, including core clerkships/rotations and electives, as well as research, and any other formative experiences that tie into the specialty.
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Why The Program?

This question assesses the level of FIT for a particular candidate. Fit is a two-way street. Programs want to know if a candidate will be a good fit for them and applicants want to know whether the program will be a good fit for them.

For example, if an MD/PhD graduate interested in a career as a basic scientist and practicing clinician applies to a program with limited research opportunities and that is primarily clinical, the program will rightfully question why they are interested in training there. Conversely, if someone has no interest in research, but extensive scholarly activity is practically a prerequisite for the program to which they are applying, this will raise similar questions. If the reasons for applying to the program are genuine, an applicant can still explain why they would be a good fit.

Furthermore, applicants should use this question to explain their connection to the program, whether it be their understanding of its clinical strengths, or a personal connection such as a previous clinical experience, location in a particular geographic region, etc.

Interviewers like to see applicants go beyond general statements and word fillers (i.e., “your program provides excellent clinical training and patient care”). These kinds of answers can signify that the applicant has limited specific knowledge of the program to which they are applying. Instead, answers should be personalized based on research that the applicant has conducted, whether by talking to current residents, alumni, or by reading the program’s website to understand what kinds of people the program currently trains and what their professional outcomes are (i.e., do most of them end up in academic or private practice? Do they pursue fellowship, and if so, what kind?).

Don’t let subpar interview performance prevent you from matching. Ace your residency interviews with our experts’ advice! Each session is half real-time mock interview and half as feedback.

What are your weaknesses?

One of the greatest pitfalls in answering this question is that instead of answering with a real weakness, applicants will answer with something that is really a strength in disguise. For example, many applicants say that “they are too detail oriented”; this is not a weakness, but rather a quality that many programs want in their candidates.

Therefore, the best strategy for answering this question is to mention something that will not exclude you from residency but still presents an opportunity to show that you are learning from it, overcame that weakness, and describe how you did so. For example, an applicant might offer that one of their weaknesses is that they have a hard time saying “no” to requests, which means that they overcommit themselves to activities without sufficient time to address all of them. The applicant can then state that, to improve upon this weakness, they have had to limit themselves to a few, high-impact tasks at any time in order to produce higher quality work and to occasionally deny additional projects or requests, no matter how tempting they might be.

Behavioral Questions

Behavioral questions are a way for interviewers to gauge an applicant’s personality and their response to ethical conundrums and other problems that they are likely to face in their clinical training and careers. In asking these questions, the interviewer is really testing how the applicant responds to uncertainty and how they would hypothetically act when faced with a challenge.

In answering these questions, it is important that the applicant remains positive and demonstrates thoughtfulness (i.e., answer with both regular and emotional intelligence, including expressing empathy when the situation calls for it). The so-called sandwich method (i.e., starting with a positive statement, making a critical statement, and then ending with another positive statement) can be a good rule of thumb for tackling tricky behavioral questions/scenarios.

Tell me about a time when you experienced a conflict; how did you resolve it?

In answering this question, there is one caveat to mention. Often, interviewers will ask you to describe a time you experienced a conflict. It is important that you NOT answer this question by describing a scenario in which you had a different opinion on a medical case from your colleagues. Differences in opinion or perspective, especially in medicine, are not necessarily conflicts but rather an opportunity for personal and professional growth.

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Do you have any questions for me (the interviewer)?

All applicants should have at least one question prepared for their interviewer, though it is essential that they don’t ask the same question of each of their interviewers. This can come off as scripted or disingenuous when the interviewers come together to confer on particular candidates.

Also, it’s important that the applicant ask questions that will actually help them in choosing a program, not just “filler” questions posed for the sake of asking a question.

There are also some important questions to avoid asking your interviewer, including:

1. Questions on how you performed in your interview or how you stack up against the applicants.

2. Questions that you can easily find the answers to on the program website or official program materials.

3. Questions that solely focus on wellness and work-life balance.

    a. While wellness is crucial, focusing on that during your residency interview might give the impression that you do not want to work hard during residency.
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Are Residency Interviews Important?

Yes, residency interviews are extremely important. The interview can make or break a candidate, pushing them ahead of the other applicants such that the program ranks them highly or, conversely, diminishing their chances of matching.

How Are Residency Interviews Conducted?

Most interviews vet between 10 and 30 candidates on a single day, cycling them between multiple administrators and faculty members involved in the residency program. Candidates may only have 15-30 minutes with each interviewer, so it’s important to make this time count.

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How Are Residency Interviews Scored?

Every residency program has a ranking/vetting system. Many use a scoring sheet or formalized criteria to assess applicants for a wide array of qualities including their penchant for teamwork, their honesty, professional integrity, and ability to think on their feet, as well as their fit with the program and whether their interest in the program is genuine. In some programs, different interviewers focus on different key points.

While practicing for an interview is essential, one should also try to avoid giving scripted answers.

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What Happens After Each Residency Interview?

Each program is different. Commonly, there will be a debrief meeting for an hour or more, and each interviewer will discuss their notes on each applicant and score them accordingly. Typically, applicants are scored on metrics for behavior, professionalism, program fit, personality, and academic achievements. Each program has its own approach, but most have a well-defined internal process for evaluating and subsequently ranking candidates. At the end of the interview season, some programs meet again to discuss the final rank list while others use the scores from their prior meetings and rank applicants fully based on these scores.

Get Sample Answers to Residency Interview Questions

Submitting an Incomplete Application vs. Applying Late?

Submitting a late application could greatly hinder your chances, as interview slots may already be filled, reducing the likelihood of Program Directors reviewing additional applications. Therefore, it is better to submit an incomplete application rather than submit your application late.

I hope this helps you master your residency interview! For those gearing up for their first interview, don’t miss our interview preparation packages! There are different tiers of interview preparation that include real-time mock interview and feedback about your performance! 100% satisfaction guaranteed! All by expert physician advisors! Learn more Here!

And don’t forget to grab your Free Residency Interview Questions and Answers Guide Here.

At the end of the day, the best way to succeed in your interview is to be yourself, be sincere, be confident, and show that you are interested in the program to which you have applied. Good Luck with your residency interview and don’t hesitate to reach out to us for any questions.

Residency Interview Coaching for Match® 2024
Mock sessions and real-time feedback with our Expert Interviewers!
Latest Articles
Need Help?
For more examples of answers to residency interview questions, get our Interview Preparation Sample Guide.
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Unlimited access to your interview prep advisor and 4 hours of real-time interview preparation! All in one package!

Research Course

The research course will teach you how to take a research project from idea to publication and in which I will share my 3-year experience of clinical research in which I had over 100 publications and 80 presentations.
Interview Preparation
The best way to learn something is to do it. That’s why we divide our one-hour interview preparation sessions into two parts. The first half of the session would be a mock interview as if you are interviewing with a program while the second half would provide you with feedback on your performance.
Practice interviewing with our experts who trained at top-notch residency programs! If you’re not satisfied, get your money back!

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Mock sessions and real-time feedback with our Expert Interviewers!

Do you want our experienced team to edit your Personal Statement?

For more examples of answers to residency interview questions, get our Interview Preparation Sample Guide.

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Residency Interview Insights from an Associate Program Director Read More »

Residency Interview Day and Travel Strategies + Tips

Residency Interviews Blog

Residency Interview Day and
Travel Strategies + Tips

Author picture

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want my team to help you with your Interview Preparation, click here.

Navigating the complexities of the residency interview process can feel like uncharted territory. This guide delves deep into the intricacies of both in-person and virtual interviews, providing valuable insights on how to excel on the interview day. From what to anticipate at pre-interview dinners and on the day itself, to essential travel hacks for smooth journeys, this comprehensive overview is your roadmap to success. Whether you’re stepping into a physical room or logging into a virtual platform, these tried-and-true tips from seasoned professionals will ensure you present your best self.

What is the General Layout of IN-PERSON INTERVIEWS? What Should I Expect on my Residency Interview Day?

Pre-Interview Dinner

The pre-interview dinner is usually held in a restaurant the night before your interview with residents and program staff in attendance. It is best advised to dress in business casual clothes and remain professional as if it were another part of your interview day.

Be sure to socialize with other interviewees as well as conversing with residents and faculty.

Residency Interview Day

On the actual residency interview day, you will have an introductory session with the program director where they will go over everything their program has to offer. During this session, you will be with all the other interviewees.

Make sure to pay close attention to this introductory presentation as this might have answers to some of your questions that you were planning on asking later. Do not make the mistake of asking these questions if they have been answered earlier during the interview day.

After this, you will go into breakout rooms with your interviewer for your one-on-one sessions. There are typically 3-5 one-on-one sessions, one of them usually with the program director but that is not always the case.

For virtual interviews, you will join the meeting with the other applicants and the program coordinator and director. The interview day usually starts with a brief introduction from the program director after which you will be sent into different breakout rooms with your interviewers.

Practice interviewing with our experts who trained at top-notch residency programs! If you’re not satisfied, get your money back!

Tips for your Residency Interview Day

  • Arrive 30 minutes prior to the start of your interview! You do not have to go directly into the facility where the interview is being held but stay in an area close by within good walking distance to the actual interview site. If your interview starts at 8:30 a.m., the earliest you should arrive at the actual interview site is 8:20 a.m.

  • Be presentable. Iron your clothes, make sure there are no stains, and your shoes are polished. Make sure to take all the necessary steps to ensure proper hygiene.

  • Introduce yourself to the interviewees and others present in the room and have light conversations with everyone before the interviews start.

  • Make sure to smile, and be respectful and courteous to EVERYONE you meet on your interview day.

  • Overall be enthusiastic and excited for the opportunity to interview with the program, talk about why you are passionate about this career and how the program will help you achieve that goal.

  • WORD OF CAUTION: Do not discuss controversial topics and never say anything negative about another specialty, program, or person.

  • When going in for your interview, smile, and have a welcoming posture (avoid crossing your arms when sitting across from your interviewer, and avoid a defensive posture), shake their hand at the start and end of your interview (avoid doing a soft, half-hand shake).
Don’t let subpar interview performance prevent you from matching. Ace your residency interviews with our experts’ advice! Each session is half real-time mock interview and half as feedback.

Residency Interview Travel Tips

Residency Interview Flights: Using Google Flights or Expedia will allow you to compare prices for multiple travel sites and get rates on flexible dates. Before you book any travel, take a look at Skiplagged or Hopper, which will allow you to get the best deals on flights!

Flights on Southwest Airlines might not show on some flight search engines and you need to check the Southwest Website separately for that.

Book your flights with a reliable airline that will not cause any delays in your travel time!

Residency Interview Hotels: Hotels can also be booked through Google; however, sites such as Booking.com, Expedia, Priceline, and Trivago may have better deals. “RotatingRoom” and Airbnb are also good options for non-hotel stays.

Points: Opening a credit card specifically geared towards travel (my favorite is Capital One Venture X), can also be useful to get additional travel bonuses. By booking through their portal, you can accumulate significant points which can be redeemed to finance your future flights. You can sign up for this card HERE.

Try to use the same flight or hotel chain when booking travel to get points that can be used for future trips and expenses.

Transportation: Transportation will depend on the setting of the program. For big metropolitan cities, there are many public transportation options (subways, buses, taxis like Uber or Lyft). For suburban and rural areas, Uber or Lyft may still be useful but you might have to book a rental car through Zipcar, Hertz, or Enterprise

For public transportation, you can simply put your destination into Google Maps and select the public transport option to navigate different cities.

Get access to our compendium of residency interview questions and answers!

How do I Prepare for a Virtual Residency Interview?

Minimize distractions: You want to minimize distractions during your interview day. If your home isn’t conducive to a distraction-free environment, consider renting a room at your medical school library for a quiet setting. For pet owners, entrusting a friend with your pet’s care or secluding them in a separate room ensures you remain undistracted and can focus fully on the interview at hand.

Background: Your background can have a picture/painting/plant (anything you are passionate about) and that will often be a conversation point during the interview. Make sure if it is in your background, you are prepared to discuss it.

Lighting: Make sure lighting is coming from the front and not the back. Also, do not rely on natural lighting as sometimes fluctuations will change how you appear on the camera.

Eye contact: Make sure to look directly into the camera, not the screen. That gives your interviewer the impression that you are looking at them. This is sometimes difficult to do as it does not seem natural to not look at the person you are talking to, so it is best to practice this skill before your actual interview day.

Name and photo: Make sure to have your full name on the display as well as your ERAS headshot that will show whenever the camera is off. Do not make the mistake of having an unprofessional photo as your display photo.

Outfit: Be thoughtful about choosing your interview day outfit. There is a balance between standing out and being unprofessional. Most students will typically wear black, navy, or gray blazers. It is perfectly okay to show your individuality and deviate from that slightly by choosing a dark green or plaid patterned blazer, however, avoid wearing any neon colors or loud patterns that will distract from the overall interview day.

Many applicants will only dress professionally waist up for virtual interviews but do not make that mistake. There have been various scenarios where applicants have been asked to reach for the painting in the back or show their plant to the interviewer which requires them to get up.

Do a quick mirror check before your interview to make sure your hair is kept properly, there is nothing stuck in your teeth or nose!

Practice on Zoom: Before your interview day, make sure to practice on Zoom/Microsoft Teams (whatever format the residency program is using) to test your camera, lighting, and sound quality. It is best to do this with a friend and practice answering some questions.

WORD OF CAUTION: Please do not have a document on your screen that you are reading off of. Interviewers can always tell when the applicant is reading from a document and it is a major red flag. Be confident, natural, and authentic in your answers!

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Residency Interview Tips

Research the Program and Interviewers

  • Before your interview, browse the program’s website regarding its overall mission, educational format (didactics, rotations, etc.), fellowship placements, and current residents.

  • Many times, programs will tell you who is going to be interviewing you so you should try to get to know your interviewer before your interview day. Where did they go to school? Where did they do their residency? What are their hobbies? Do they have any research studies that can be of any interest to you? This will help to facilitate your conversations with your interviewer and allow you to be more personal when asking them questions. This can also sometimes help you find similarities (same city, same school, etc.)

Practice Common Interview and Behavioral Questions

Check out our resources that will help you prepare for the commonly asked questions:
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Prepare Specific Questions to Ask Programs

  • Researching your program will help in formulating the questions you will ask the leadership during your interview day.

  • PRO TIP: For example, you do not want to ask what unique rotations they offer if it can be found on the website by a quick Google search. This could lead to a bad impression. Therefore, it is highly recommended to take the time to curate your questions for each program, even for each interviewer.

  • Regardless, there are some general interview questions that you should ask all programs some of which include, how they give feedback, their goals for their residents after residency, upcoming changes to the program, etc.

  • If you are interviewing at a community program or a program that does not have good fellowship placement, focusing on research and fellowship opportunities might not be ideal!

Know your Application Well!

  • This is obvious but many times applicants are not able to clearly describe a certain research project or volunteering activity they listed on their ERAS.

  • Practice talking about each activity that is listed making sure to highlight what you learned from that as well as any lessons or skills you picked up during that project that will help you in residency.

Answer questions with complete responses and be organized in your thought process

  • You want to be confident in your answers without sounding rehearsed. It is natural to be nervous during your interview day but the above-mentioned steps should help calm your nerves and help you feel more prepared. Be concise and organized in your thoughts and try not to ramble on.

  • PRO TIP: If the question is to describe a difficult scenario you encountered during your training, describe the issue clearly and complete the thought process with how you solved the situation and more importantly, what you learned from it and how you will navigate similar situations in the future.

  • Use clinical and non-clinical scenarios that you have experienced during your training to answer your questions, always tying it back to what you took away from that experience and how it helped your growth as a learner.

  • ALWAYS GO BACK TO “FIT”. You want to emphasize why you are a good fit for the program and why they are a good fit for you!

  • If there is a question that you are unable to answer at the moment, it is okay to take a quick pause to formulate your response or even ask your interviewer if it is okay to circle back to that question later in the interview. It is always better to have a thought-out response than saying the first, incomplete thought that may come to your mind.

  • Practice saying your response out loud before the interview!

  • Be prepared to answer difficult questions related to any gaps or shortcomings in your application. Be honest and sincere with your responses and mention what you learned from them.

  • If you are ever asked an “illegal question” during interviews, you can simply respond by saying you are not comfortable discussing that question.
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ASKING QUESTIONS

  • At this stage, you should already have a list of questions ready to ask your interviewers, some personal and some general as mentioned above. There can be many times when the interviewer will ask you one or two questions and the rest of the time will be you asking them questions.

Have A Discussion

  • Avoid jumping from one question to the next like you are going down a list and instead use the interviewer’s answer to create a discussion or follow/up question related to the first one. This shows critical thinking skills and allows for smooth transitions and conversations.

Who to ask What?

  • Remember that certain questions should only be asked to certain people. For example, if you want to know about the overall goals of the program or any upcoming changes to the program, that question is best reserved for the program director or the assistant program director rather than residents or faculty.

  • Many times, you will interview with a senior or chief resident and that can sometimes feel less formal than your other interviews. Be sure to remain professional and ask appropriate questions. It is acceptable to ask about resident lounges, if residents hang out together outside of work, or resident wellness activities. However, you should avoid being casual as residents have sometimes as much of a say as any other faculty during the interview day.

  • PRO TIP: One of my favorite questions to ask is “What is something about the program that has changed based on resident feedback?”. This is a great question to ask both program leadership and residents.

  • Overall, AVOID asking overly personal questions to anyone on the interview day!

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Thank You Emails

  • Many programs will tell you that they do not want thank-you emails sent to them. In that case, follow their lead and do not send any emails. In my experience, thank-you emails do not hold much meaning and only add to the overall work of the program.

  • If you wish to send a thank you email afterward, it is best to do it within 1-2 days business days after your interviews. Keep it short and simple.

  • PRO TIP: You SHOULD email a program post-interview if any of your questions were left unanswered during the interview day or if you had any technical difficulties that caused your interview to be cut short.

Letters of Intent

  • Of course, outside of thank you emails, it is beneficial to send a letter of intent to your top choice and that should be sent mid-end of February. Remember to only send this to ONE program!!!

  • Your letter of intent should be clear and concise, list the reasons why you are choosing them as your number one choice, and be addressed to the program director and admissions committee.

  • You will not always get a response after sending your letter of intent so do not expect one. If a program does reach out and tell you their intent of ranking you highly, always take that with a grain of salt when making your rank list!

As you embark on the significant journey of residency interviews, remember that preparation is key. With the insights and strategies provided in this guide, you’re now better equipped to present your best self, whether in-person or virtually. Take each step with confidence, knowing that every interaction, every choice, brings you closer to your desired residency program.

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Best of luck, and may your dedication and passion shine through in every interview.

Shriya Tanti, MD; Malke Asaad, MD

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